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What to do in the garden in November

Red hawthorn berries on a rain drenched bath
It's time to prepare your garden for the colder and wetter weather
Image: MLReed

November is here - the leaves are falling and it’s getting colder and wetter.

As autumn turns to winter, your main jobs in the garden are mostly about protecting plants and structures from the wilder weather to come.

There’s still some planting to do if you want to keep growing - you’ll find all those November sowing and growing jobs here.

Timely Tips

Ornamental Bird Fountain Bath from Thompson & Morgan
Invest in bird feeders and bird baths for the winter months
Image: Ornamental Bird Fountain Bath from Thompson & Morgan

As the weather starts to get more wintry, your garden needs some protection:

  1. Insulate your outdoor containers from frosts, using hessian or bubble wrap held in place with garden twine.

  2. Raise pots off the ground for the winter by using bricks or 'pot feet', to prevent waterlogging.

  3. Encourage hungry birds into your garden by investing in bird baths and bird feeders. Our feathered friends will keep pest numbers down and bring joy on a bleak winter’s day.

  4. Protect roses from windrock by pruning them by one-third to half their height. This will stop them swaying in strong wind and prevent roots coming loose in the soil.

In the flower garden

Holly (Hedging) from Thompson & Morgan
Cut some holly stems for festive garlands - but remember that birds love to eat these, too!
Image: Holly (Hedging) from Thompson & Morgan

Here are your main jobs to do in the flower garden this November:

  • Remove fallen leaves from around the base of any rose bushes which suffered from blackspot or rust this summer, to reduce the chance of reinfection next year.

  • Continue to lift dahlia tubers, begonias and gladiolus corms to store dry over the winter months. Remove the dead foliage before storing.

  • Cut back the yellowing foliage of herbaceous perennials, and lift and divide overcrowded clumps to maintain their vigour.

  • Cut a few stems of holly with berries for making Christmas garlands. It’s early, but now’s the time to do it, before the birds eat all the berries. Stand them in a bucket of water in a sheltered spot where birds can't take them.

In the vegetable garden

closeup of peeled parsnips
Harvest parsnips now that their flavour has sweetened
Image: sarsmis

Here’s what to do in the vegetable garden this month:

  • Lift parsnips after the first frosts, when their flavour will have sweetened.

  • Prepare a perennial vegetable bed which can be planted up with rhubarb crowns and asparagus crowns.

  • Prepare a bed for planting autumn garlic. Improve heavy soils with organic matter before planting.

  • Place a scaffold plank on the ground along the main access route into your plot to allow access without compacting the soil as you walk across it.

  • Spread fresh manure across the surface of your vegetable beds to rot down over winter.

  • Build a raised bed to take the bending out of vegetable growing.

  • Stake top-heavy brassicas and draw up some soil around the base of stems to prevent wind from rocking the plant and causing damage to the roots.

  • Check stored onions and garlic and remove any rotting bulbs immediately. The neck of the bulb is usually the first area to rot. Try using onion bags to improve air flow.

  • Check stored potatoes and remove any that are rotting. Use hessian sacks to store your potatoes as this will allow the crop to breathe.

In the fruit garden

Whitecurrant 'Blanka' from Thompson & Morgan
Get ahead and plant dormant currant bushes for overwintering
Image: Whitecurrant 'Blanka' from Thompson & Morgan
  • Divide mature clumps of rhubarb once they’re dormant.

  • Plant currant bushes while they’re dormant.

  • Plant raspberry canes now for a delicious home-grown crop.

  • Tidy up strawberry plants - cut off any dead leaves and remove runners.

  • Prune pear and apple trees anytime between now and February.

  • Don't prune your plum trees now as they will be susceptible to the silver leaf fungus - wait until midsummer.

  • Apply grease bands to the trunks of fruit trees to prevent wingless female winter moths climbing the trunks and laying their eggs in the branches.

  • Remove the top netting from fruit cages as heavy snow in winter will make it sag.

  • Check fruits in storage and promptly remove any showing signs of disease or rotting.

Looking after your lawn

  • Aerate your lawn now - there's still time to do it before winter sets in. You can either use a lawn aerator or simply insert a garden fork at regular intervals and lean it back slightly to let air in.

  • Continue to clear fallen leaves off the lawn to keep it healthy.

  • Set your lawn mower to a higher cut-height for winter.

  • Edge your lawn. This is easy to do in the winter months once beds are clear. Lawn edging creates a neat and tidy appearance and makes maintenance easier throughout the year.

In the greenhouse

illuminated greenhouse with lights on at night
Light your greenhouse so you can still work when winter nights draw in
Image: Guy J. Sagi
  • Clean and maintain your greenhouse. Replace damaged glass and clean it thoroughly, washing the glass, floor and staging with horticultural disinfectant to kill any overwintering pests and diseases.

  • Protect greenhouse plants by insulating with sheets of bubble wrap attached to the inside of the frame, to reduce heat loss. Remember to ventilate, particularly after watering.

  • Install solar lights in the greenhouse so you can still get out there on dark winter evenings to check your plants.

  • • Be careful not to overwater plants as the winter approaches. Little and often is the key.

Other jobs about the garden

bonfire next to a wheelbarrow
Light a safe bonfire to dispose of garden debris
Image: Stefan Holm
  • Protect greenhouse plants by insulating with sheets of bubble wrap attached to the inside of the frame, to reduce heat loss. Remember to ventilate, particularly after watering.

  • Reuse spent compost from annual container displays as a mulch on the garden.

  • Build a cold frame to protect young plants from extreme winter weather.

  • Sweep up debris and fallen leaves that harbour overwintering fungal spores and create hiding places for slugs and snails.

  • Lift and relocate plants when they are dormant

  • Create compost bins for collecting fallen leaves and dead plant material.

  • Collect leaves up for making leaf mould as a soil conditioner. Oak, alder and hornbeam will rot down in a year but beech, sycamore, horse chestnut and sweet chestnut will take a couple of years to compost.

  • Shred fallen leaves to help them rot down even more quickly. A quick way to do this is to gather leaves on to the lawn and mow them with a rotary mower that has a collection box.

  • Start preparing a bonfire with twigs and prunings - cover them with plastic so they remain dry for better burning later. Make sure you check for hedgehogs before lighting your bonfire.

  • Net ponds to prevent leaves falling into them. If you need to clear pond weed, lay it next to the pond for a day after removal, to allow wildlife to escape back to the water.

  • Clean out water butts and let the autumn rains refill them. Install a new waterbutt ready for next year.

  • Give dry soil one last good watering before the ground freezes.

  • Use the last of the dry weather to paint sheds and fences with preservative before the winter arrives.

  • Give evergreen hedges a final trim before the bad weather sets in, so they look neat and tidy for the winter.

From your armchair

person's hand writing notes down in a garden
Start a diary to reflect on the highs and lows of your garden over the year
Image: Lamyai
  • Take stock of this year’s garden and make a few notes or sketches for next spring. Reflect on what grew well, what failed miserably, and what changes you will make next year. You will be surprised at how useful these notes can be when you start ordering seeds and plants for next year!

  • Take photos of where herbaceous plants are located before they die back so you don't damage their roots during a winter dig.

  • Place your orders online for fruit trees, fruit bushes and perennial plants. These can be planted between now and springtime.

RedEye