Although the days are getting shorter and temperatures are dropping, there is still time to prepare for a beautiful bulb display in your garden next spring.
Garden centres continue to have a wide range of bulbs available especially daffodils, tulips and crocuses. Look for bulbs that are firm and have no obvious growth or indications of mould appearing.
Until the frosts arrive, the soil remains easy to dig and planting is easy. Dig a hole that is two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall. Tulips or daffodils need a hole that is about six inches deep while smaller bulbs like crocuses only need about three inches.
While it is too late to plant hyacinths for an indoor Christmas display, they can be placed in planters to be used outdoors. Place close to the house or beside a path to enjoy the beautiful scent next spring.
Elsewhere in the garden, dahlia tubers, begonias and gladioli should be lifted and left to dry in a shed over winter. Don’t forget to remove the dead foliage before storing.
Cut back dying foliage on herbaceous perennials, and lift and divide any overcrowded clumps. If you have more than you need for replanting, why not place them in pots and offer to your neighbours? Bare root roses and trees are becoming available now and should be planted as quickly as possible on arrival, as long as there is no frost in the soil.
Lawns continue to grow but much slower than before. Cut only when necessary. Sweep up leaves, but take care when removing any large leaf mounds or preparing a bonfire. There may be hedgehogs underneath, beginning their winter hibernation. Don’t disturb them, just replace the leaves and let them sleep. Come spring, they will be a useful aid in your garden as they eat nasty pests and insects.
Continue tidying in the vegetable garden, removing dying foliage on perennial crops and mulching around them to improve moisture retention and fertility for the coming year. Always add the foliage to the compost heap – it will rot down nicely to provide useable compost within a few months.
November is a month when everything changes in the garden. Temperatures drop, the first ground frosts appear. Trees and shrubs reveal their skeletons as leaves disappear from branches, covering the ground below in a wonderful mass of gold and red.
For gardeners, it is a call to action. Although a beautiful sight, those leaves can prove hazardous once they start to decay. Slips and falls can result. Another factor is that those same leaves can make very nutritious compost. Rake up the leaves into piles. Watch out for hedgehogs that may have made a winter nest among any deep drifts. Do not disturb them as they will help deal with pests in your garden next year.
Create a compost net to hold the leaves by forming wire netting into a square held securely at each corner by canes. Placed inside the netting and covered with an old carpet, the leaves will rot down quickly. By next spring they will be ready to be used on the garden as fertiliser. Smaller quantities of leaves can be added to a normal compost bin.
Place rooted cuttings and seedlings into a cold frame or greenhouse where they can be protected from the weather. Keep doors and windows closed during cold spells. Ensure that you have fleeces and cloches ready to place on tender crops or cherished bushes and trees such as Almonds as temperatures fall.
In the vegetable plot, remove any decayed vegetation as this can harbour diseases. Place the material in the compost bin. Clear the ground and give it a thorough dig over to remove any perennial weeds. Add manure or any other fertiliser and dig into the soil. During the winter it will have time to break down and improve the condition of your vegetable plot ready for planting again next spring.
Regularly weed any over wintering crops. Harvest root crops such as carrots and parsnips as required.
On warm days, it is still possible to plant winter flowering pansies or the last few bulbs to cheer up the garden over winter and early spring. The last Michaelmas daisies will continue to bloom and the first flowers of winter flowering shrubs such as winter jasmine and winter honeysuckle will begin to emerge.
With nights getting steadily longer, there is less time to work in or enjoy your garden, which is why it is important to make every minute count. Days can often be misty and damp, or you can wake up to a layer of frost.
Beautiful red, gold and brown leaves cover the ground in a new carpet. It looks stunning, but it also means that gardeners need to take action quickly. Leaves need to be cleared from pathways immediately. Wet leaves are a major cause of accidents due to slipping.
On flowerbeds and lawns, leaves should be raked up into piles and either added to the compost bin, or if you have a large quantity used to make really nutritious leaf compost. Choose a sheltered area of the garden, and form a wire netting square held securely at each corner by a cane. Place the leaves inside the netting and cover with an old carpet. The leaves will rot down quickly over winter. Come spring, you will be able to use them as a fertilizer.
Take care when raking large drifts of leaves just in case any hedgehogs have created some winter nests. If found, cover up carefully and leave alone. Let them sleep in the warmth of the leaves. Next year they will reward you by eating lots of garden pests.
Root crops such as carrots and parsnips can be left in the ground for harvesting when required. If heavy frosts are forecast, it is worth thinking ahead and digging up all that you need for several days or placing a temporary warm cover on top to keep the ground malleable.
Dig over the empty sections of the vegetable plot and add plenty of manure. The winter frosts will help break it down, providing nutrients for the soil during the next growing season. Remove any dead vegetation and place in the compost bin. As you dig, look carefully at the soil – if you have been growing root crops and potatoes you may find edible crops that have been missed during the main harvesting period.
Greenhouses and cold frames need to be checked over for any broken glass or damaged seals, especially if you are planning to use them for over wintering plants. Rooted cuttings should be placed inside and all windows and doors kept fastened during cold spells. Take a look at your fleeces and cloches to make sure they are in good condition, ready for use at the first hint of frost to cover any remaining tender crops, or special trees and bushes such as the pretty almond trees.