The clocks have changed and it feels rather wintery in the garden already. But there are still things to be getting on with when the weather permits. Here are our suggestions.
November is the start of ‘bare root’ season, through to around the end of March. This is the time when plants are not actively growing so are easier to transport and plant. There are many benefits to buying bare root plants. They are usually cheaper than their potted counterparts (less compost and lighter to transport). There is less risk that they may harbour pests amongst their roots, and those roots will have developed naturally, not consigned to growing in circles in a pot. There is even an argument, pertinent at the moment, that bare rooted plants are better able to cope with drought as they will naturally strike out into your soil, compared the potted plants which tend to favour the compost they arrive in.
Not all plants come as bare root varieties but many do: hedging, roses, fruit trees and canes, and many trees and shrubs will be available.
If you’d like some advice on planting bare root specimens, try this short video from Gardeners’ World: https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/grow-plants/how-to-plant-a-bare-root-tree/
And here is some general advice about fruit trees from our archives: https://hambrooks.co.uk/fruit-trees/
If you haven’t already, now is the time to admit that most flowering plants have ‘done their thing’ for this year and give them a good tidy. Annual climbers – sweet pea, Thunbergia, morning glory – can all be peeled from their supports and sent to the compost bin. Perennial flowers and old foliage can be cut down to give any new shoots space come the spring; they would appreciate some mulch around their base now too.
If you have fruit trees or bushes, it’s also time to prune back autumn-fruiting raspberries, currants and gooseberries. Your strawberry beds or pots can be tidied, removing any unwanted runners or weeks. And you can prune apple and pear trees after you’ve harvested the fruit to control their size and shape but also to encourage a good crop next year.
It might seem odd to need to protect alpines from winter rain but, in their natural environment, they only have to deal with the cold temperatures and gentle melting of snow; they won’t appreciate some of the deluges we can get in the winter! Therefore, check the drainage holes in any pots and, where you can, move them somewhere that will give them at least some shelter from heavy rain.
In our area, we are lucky that many plants will survive outside that might not do so further north or east in the county. But that’s not to say we can’t give those plants a helping hand! ‘Borderline hardy’ plants in the ground, like Agapanthus or Fuchsia, would benefit from a thick mulch of straw or compost as protection. If you’re growing them in pots, think about moving the pot under cover or to a more sheltered corner where they won’t freeze.
Our garden wildlife has spent the spring and summer pollinating our fruit, eating our aphids and generally helping to look after our gardens for us. As the colder weather bites, it seems fair that we return the favour for them.
With Bonfire Night looming, there is much about checking for hedgehogs (and frogs, toads and other wildlife) taking shelter in your stack before you light it. Now is a particularly risky time for hedgehogs as they are starting to think about hibernating and could be thinking your bonfire pile is the perfect hidey hole to see them through the winter. That’s not to say you shouldn’t check any bonfires you are having at other times in the year, of course, but please check extra carefully now!
If you are feeding and watering your wildlife, please ensure you wash bowls and feeders regularly to prevent the spread of any diseases. If it’s frosty, don’t forget to break any ice that has formed on water bowls.
If you have a worm composter, either bring it inside (a shed, garage or cool utility room is great) or cover it. Worms like a temperature around 20’C to keep wriggling and digesting your waste.
Indoors, if you are feeling extravagant and have turned on your central heating, think about giving your houseplants an extra misting to counteract the drying effect modern heating has.
If you have garden furniture that you leave outside, think about a weather-proof cover to keep it clean and in good shape for next season. Parasol stands and cushions will probably do better stored indoors if you have room.
If it’s mild, your lawn may still grow a little so it’s fine to mow it; in fact, it can be a useful way to collect fallen leaves as well. Just raise the blades on your mower a bit, to give the grass a little extra protection by leaving it a little bit longer. (Our other blog this month talks all about leaves – you can find it here.)