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November is a time when gardening slows down. Many assume this means it stops completely, but this is a long way from the truth. November is the last month before the genuine cold weather and frost kicks in, which will completely ruin so much of your garden if you leave it open to the harsh elements. Therefore November is a month for lots of preparation projects in order to ensure your garden survives winter and is ready to flourish when the warmer months arrive. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail springs to mind.
There are some key jobs that are so simple to do that they should be done by everyone who wants that perfect spring garden, or crop yield to be proud of. Beyond that, there are select greenhouse and plant maintenance jobs that should be done, as well as some general garden maintenance jobs that are ideal to get done in November. November is also a key time to start giving extra attention to your local wildlife – food sources run dry and they need a little extra care this time of year. Finally, there is a tiny amount of planting and harvesting that can actually be done in November also, so let’s get into it!
Key Jobs - Leaf Harvest and Insulating
Harvest Fallen Leaves
The first job that is a must for everyone is harvesting any and all fallen leaves. Fallen leaves can smother your grass or make your patio really slippery if they are not collected, so it’s a very important job to get on with right away. Not only are you clearing a ‘hazard’, but these leaves can also be used as a great way to improve your garden and it’s soil quality. Most commonly leaves are used to make leaf mould:
- Shred the leaves with a lawnmower
- Sprinkle them with water to ensure they are wet
- Put them in plastic bags and seal
- Pierce a few holes in the bag
- Leave the bag in the corner of your garden for 12 months when the leaf mould will be ready.
Leaf mould will help retain moisture and hamper weed growth when used. Also as the leaf mould rots into the soil, it will improve the quality of the soil. No need to waste anything that will work to improve your garden!
Alternatively, you can throw them on to your compost heap. If you’ve not already got a compost heap for your garden, they are so easy to start and have tremendous benefits when used on your garden soil.
Insulate Greenhouse and Potted Plants
November is a key time to get all your outdoor pots insulated, as well as your greenhouse if you have one. The frost is fast approaching, so why leave your precious garden exposed? Give it a chance by insulating it with bubble-wrap over the winter. It’s an incredibly simple process and greenhouse bubble-wrap can be picked up for less than £5 per m2. Get it done!
Make sure you give the glazing a good wash down with disinfectant before you get started, as it's an opportunity to get rid of any nasty stuff that may have been growing on the inside before bubble wrapping up for winter.
Frost can also damage potted plants. Frost can penetrate the pots and fatally damage the roots which isn't ideal. You have a couple of options however - ideally you will be able move them into a frost-free place such as a garage or a greenhouse if there is a frost expected (or even just move them indoors if they aren't too big!), or you can simply wrap the pots in bubble wrap much like you will your greenhouse.
A fun tip for next time you re-pot a plant, is you can actually bubble-wrap the inside of the pot before adding soil and this will do exactly the same job.
Plant Maintenance Jobs
Raise your Potted Plants
Even once your potted plants are wrapped, it’s important to also raise them off the ground on a couple of bricks or blocks. Potted plants can become waterlogged if left on the floor when experiencing near constant rain!
Next, any trees or large plants you have planted recently should be protected. Food is scarce this time of year and, in desperate times, wildlife may turn on your young trees for their next meal. You can pick up some spiral tree guards for less than £1 each and they are well worth it considering the protection they provide.
Aerate Your Soil
With a garden fork, stick and slightly lift the soil to ensure it is aerated. It’s a quick job but dramatically improves the quality of the soil in your garden. Aeration is often neglected, but you should almost certainly try to aerate your soil where possible.
Removal & Composting of Other Plant Materials
Climbers are likely to have started to fade, so can be removed from fences or trellises and sent to compost. The same can be said for tomato plants – they will likely have faded, in which case they can be removed and composted. Once they are removed, it's also a perfect time to repair any damage on your fences or trellises as you don't really get the chance when they are covered in plants!
It is also worth trimming back fruit trees. All leaves and similar cuttings should be cut up before adding to a compost pile – this can be achieved by running them over with the mower. Thinner branches and twigs should be broken up into the smallest pieces possible before composting as they take a long time to decompose when compared to other materials. Larger branches should be passed through a wood-chipper where possible before composting. They will take years to decompose if thrown in whole!
However, due to the slow rate of decomposition, branches & wood chippings make a fantastic base for the bottom of your compost pile and will take years to decompose properly.
Misc. Plant Maintenance
The last few jobs are fairly simple. The first is to check for and protect against winter pests – whilst wildlife activity may be lower, they are also driven to slightly more unusual behaviours, so it’s important to be ready.
Secondly, keep watering any spring bulbs you have. Reduce the amount of water you give them as the they die down, but ensure you keep an eye on them so they don’t completely dry out. Additionally, any plants that move inside will likely dry out at a much quicker rate thanks to your central heating. Keep an eye on these as you may need to water them more regularly than you think!
General Garden Maintenance
(Maybe) The Final Mow Until Spring...
With the wet and cold weather incoming, you may not need to cut your lawn again, but if your lawn is still growing it may be worth giving it one more cut. Raise the blades slightly as you don’t want to cut it too short and end up with a short, sickly lawn for the next few months. Keep a good length on it so it looks as good as it can over winter.
Waterproof the Shed
A running theme for a lot of the jobs that need doing at this time of year is protection against the weather and your shed is no different. Ensure your shed is waterproofed to protect everything inside it. There’s no point storing your tools in it if they are going to get rained on anyway!
Clean & Oil Your Tools
On that note, your handy tools are ready to be stored away in your newly waterproofed shed. Give them a good clean and a rub down with an oily rag to ensure they are in perfect condition for when you need them next!
Clean the Patio
Algae and moss will want to continue to grow into the winter, so why give it a head start? Give your patio a good pressure wash and remove all the green you can find on it. You want to make it as difficult as possible for moss and algae to grow on it as it will be very slippery in winter if it turns green. If you want a more complete guide on how we would recommend cleaning a patio, read our patio maintenance guide here.
Ponds and Other Water Features
Once all the cleaning is done, remove all pumps from your ponds and insulate any taps or outlets for water around your garden as ice can permanently damage them in certain situations. So it's best to avoid the situation altogether
Protecting Wildlife Through Winter
The cold, frost and scarcity of food during the colder months means you should put extra care into providing for the wildlife that visits your garden. Try putting in additional shelters such as bird-boxes or hedgehog houses where wildlife can find a safe space from the elements.
Next, it is important to provide a bit of extra food for the wildlife that visits. Stick to high calorie stuff such as pastry, bread or rice. Grated cheese is also great, as is fruit or something like dried meal-worms. Potatoes can also be a good idea, but ensure these are cooked, as raw potatoes can cause more harm than good.
Ensure you put food out at regular intervals. It won’t take long for wildlife to learn that they can find food in your garden – which is a joy for many gardeners – but if you don’t keep it up, the energy they spend flying to your garden to get this food will be wasted if there is nothing there for them. So if you are planning to put extra food out, make sure you commit to it.
Make sure you are looking after smaller birds also – larger birds are likely to bully away the smaller ones as food is scarce this time of year, so take an old log with lots of cracks and crevices in it and sprinkle lots of feed across it. The smaller bits will fall into the cracks and be perfectly hidden for smaller birds such as robins, they will work to get the food out of the spaces with very few complaints I promise!
What to Plant & What to Harvest - November
There isn’t an awful lot to plant during November, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing at all. The first job that needs doing regardless is digging out any used veg plots. You can help create better soil come planting season by digging out - the frost and cold weather will then work to break down soil clumps and create a better-quality soil for planting.
While there aren’t many flowers you can plant, November is surprisingly the perfect time to plant tulips. If you starting planting right away and stagger your planting by a week at a time, you will see continual blooming right through spring.
You can find a huge selection of tulips that are ready to plant over the next few weeks HERE! There are so many colours and styles of tulips to choose from that you'll almost definitely find something that you love.
There are a few more options if you are looking to plant a few crops. Garlic, shallots and onions are ideal to plant this time of year. Just make sure you cover them with a fleece once they are planted as the frost can still affect them. Broad beans also do well in November, but unfortunately that is about it. Use November as a time to plan what you are planting next year – it is also a perfect time to order any fruit trees you may to plant next year.
In Conclusion: November Isn’t a Time To Do Nothing!
The outdoor weather has gone and the temperatures are plummeting – but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do. So much about what we need to do over the next few months is in preparation for the colder and more miserable weather we are likely to experience in the coming months. Once these jobs are done, you can rest easy knowing that everything in your garden is protected as best as it can be. By doing this, you’ve given your garden every chance to survive what is the most difficult season of all.