What to do in the garden in November

Red hawthorn berries on a rain drenched branch

It's time to prepare your garden for the colder and wetter weather
Image: MLReed/Shutterstock

It’s getting colder and wetter as we draw into November. Trees are putting on their autumn displays and winter stems start to come into their own. 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 sowing and growing to do this month to keep the garden ticking over. Here is a list of the top jobs to do in the garden during the month:

Timely Tips

Kingfisher Bronze Effect Plastic Bird Bath

Invest in bird feeders and bird baths for the winter months
Image: Kingfisher Bronze Effect Plastic Bird Bath from Thompson & Morgan

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

  1. Insulate your outdoor containers from frosts. Use hessian or bubble wrap held in place with garden twine.
  2. Prevent containers becoming waterlogged by raising them off the ground for the winter using bricks or 'pot feet'.
  3. Encourage hungry birds into your garden by investing in bird baths and bird feeders. Our feathered friends will keep garden pest numbers down and bring joy on a bleak winter’s day.
  4. Protect roses from wind-rock 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, gladiolus corms and begonias tubers to store dry over the winter months. Remove the dead foliage before storing.
  • Cut back the yellowing foliage of herbaceous perennial plants, 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

Parsnip 'Panorama F1 Hybrid' from Thompson & Morgan

Harvest parsnips now that their flavour has sweetened
Image: Parsnip 'Panorama F1 Hybrid' from Thompson & Morgan

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 to plant up with rhubarb plants and asparagus crowns.
  • Keep planting onion, shallot, and garlic sets. Dig over heavy soils adding organic matter before planting.
  • Place a scaffold plank on the ground along the main access route into your plot. This allows access but prevent the soil compacting as you walk across it.
  • Spread well rotted farm manure across the surface of your vegetable beds to rot down over winter.
  • Build a metal raised bed while the garden is clear to take the back-breaking bending out of vegetable growing.
  • Stake top-heavy brassica and leafy green plants. Draw up some soil around the base of their stem to prevent wind from rocking the plant and causing damage to the roots.
  • Check over your summer harvest of onions and garlic, removing any rotting bulbs immediately. The neck of the bulb is usually the first area to rot. Try using onion bags to improve air flow around the bulbs.
  • Check stored potatoes and remove any that are rotting. Use hessian sacks to store your potatoes to 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 out currant plants as bare roots this month, while they’re in their dormant state.
  • Plant bare root raspberry plants now for a delicious home-grown crop.
  • Tidy up your strawberry plants, cutting off any dead leaves and removing runners.
  • Prune apple and pear 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.
  • Plant bare root edible hedging while they're in their dormant state.
  • 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 before winter sets in. 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 using a light rake.
  • 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/Shutterstock

  • 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 from frost by insulating with sheets of bubble wrap attached to the inside of the frame. Remember to keep ventilating, 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/Shutterstock

  • Reuse spent compost from annual container displays as a mulch on your garden beds and borders.
  • Build a cold frame to protect young plants from extreme winter weather.
  • Sweep up debris and fallen leaves from paths and beds to prevent fungal spores, slugs and snails from overwintering.
  • Keep an eye on your potted conifers. Tall varieties may need staking for added security in exposed, windy gardens.
  • Lift and relocate plants if you need to when they are dormant.
  • Create bins for composting fallen leaves and dead plant material. 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 mow through leaves on the lawn using a rotary mower with a collection box.
  • Start a bonfire heap with twigs and prunings. 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.
  • Use the last of the dry weather to paint sheds and fences with preservatives before the winter arrives.
  • Give evergreen hedging 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/Shutterstock

  • 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. Alternatively, mark their positions with stakes, covering the sharp tops with bottles.
  • Place your orders online for fruit trees, fruit bushes and perennial plants. These can be planted between now and springtime.

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