top of page

These days it seems that a year whizzes by at an astonishing rate! I clearly remember writing for November last year; surely that was only a little while ago! Ho-Hum! November is a time to finish clearing and tidying beds, cleaning greenhouses and cold frames and washing down the glass, painting or treating fences and wooden buildings, benches, etc. so they’re fresh and ready for next spring.

There are still some plants in flower this month such as michaelmas daisy, Japanese anenome and some sedum varieties, but on the whole, all is beginning to look somewhat bereft. Having evergreen shrubs and plants here and there helps to keep your garden alive and, of course, winter pansies and violas bring colour to containers.

As dahlia foliage starts to rot down, nutrients are sent back to the tubers storing them ready for next year’s growth, but there’s always a risk they won’t survive a harsh winter. Lifting and storing may be the best option. Once lifted, cut off the foliage, rinse thoroughly to remove soil and stand upside down for them to dry off. Wrap in newspaper and keep in boxes in a dry place, such as a shed or greenhouse.  If this is too much of a faff and you leave them in the border, ensure the plant is covered in a thick layer of mulch as protection from the cold.

Cut back to the ground varieties of clematis that belong to the group requiring it. Clematis pruning is a bit of a nightmare, so make sure to keep the label when planting so it can be referred to when necessary. I have a distaste for nursery/garden centre labels staying on a plant, so keep a record of what and where are planted. Black labels in the ground at the base won't detract from the scene and taking photographs of herbaceous beds in particular when in full bloom help as a reminder.

This is the best month for planting tulips, whether in a border or containers. Some tulips flower earlier than others so you can prolong your displays by growing a mix of different types and most garden centres will have packs ready mixed for this.

Plant border tulip bulbs in moist but well-drained soil in a sunny spot at least three times the depth of the bulb, pointed end up, around 5cm apart. For the best displays, plant fresh bulbs each autumn. Fresh bulbs for container planting is essential, but they can be planted closer together in a refreshed mix of soil, compost, bulb fibre. I’ve planted some tulips in some large pots with crocus above, then topped with a very pretty viola – orange and purple – and also some daffs topped with cyclamen that should make the terrace a pleasant place to be.

Continue to rake off fallen leaves from the lawn and pile into heaps in dark corners of the garden to rot down. There are various ways leaf mould can be achieved.  Leaf mould is an invaluable asset, containing much more goodness than peat and can be added to your favourite compost mix, used in trenches for seeds, as well as a crumbly mulch around plants. Remember, also, to leave a couple of smallish heaps somewhere out of the way for wee beasties to live.

The best method I still find is to push four tallish canes into the ground where you have space and running some wire netting around and simply keep filling with all the fallen leaves pushing them down with a broom as you go.  Like compost, it usually takes about a year to rot down.  Unlike compost, it doesn’t use bacteria for decomposition, but fungi that needs no extra heat, additives or complicated containers to do their magic.  Mixing some grass cuttings will quicken the process.

November is a good month for making changes as most plants are dormant, so if you want to move something now is the time to do it. If the weather is kind, the ground should be easy to dig to make new beds whether floral or vegative.  If you’re making new beds, make sure you dig in as much composted material that you can as this feeds the soil with nutrients over the winter, making a strong structure for the plants that will occupy the bed in the following spring. Once the compost is incorporated, leave the bed alone. On existing beds, it is better to spread composted material rather than dig in as frost and insects will do the work for you without damage to soil structure.

November is time to sow garlic, onions and shallots as they are all vegetables that need a good stretch of chill to boost the health of the bulbs. Remove any weeds that have been missed and plant cloves and sets well spaced, water in, then leave alone. Plant garlic cloves with tips 1" below the surface of the soil and onions and shallots with their tips just above soil level. Empty vegetable beds can be used to grow green manure such as mustard or red clover which is then dug in before planting in the spring. A word of warning: green manure adds valuable nitrogen for above ground crops such as peas and beans, but is not suitable for root vegetables like carrots and parsnips that prefer a low ph soil - too much nitrogen means lush greenery above ground, but tiddly root veggies below.

As I said earlier, my sitting and contemplating place is looking quite pretty with the normally empty containers at this time having the dainty violas and colourful cyclamen. All somewhat lost on Martha and the cats who just enjoy battling for my attention – ignored, of course, by me as I sip the red…

bottom of page