Essential tasks for November
Keep your garden looking its best with our guide to essential tasks that need doing in November.
In the Flower garden
Plant spring bulbs: Continue to plant spring-flowering bulbs, making sure you place them at the right depth. If border space isn't quite prepared, plant them in large pots instead. These bulbs can be planted out to fill gaps later.
Tidy borders: Any perennials past their best can be cut right down, clearing away remains and adding them to the compost heap.
Plant new hedges: Container-grown evergreens and conifers planted now will get a really good start in life, so complete new hedging projects as soon as possible.
Divide perennial asters: Perennial asters like Aster x frikartii 'Monch' produce striking display of bold daisy flowers from late summer for an attractive autumn show. Lift and divide clumps every second or third year after removing old flowering stems and replant the new sections, watering them in thoroughly.
Wallflowers: Fill gaps in borders with wallflowers for a great blaze of spring colour. Space them so that they will grow into one another and, for extra impact, plant tulips with flowers in a contrasting colour between them.
In the Glasshouse
Clean greenhouse glass: Every year give the outside of your greenhouse a good wash. General grime and algae accumulates on the glazing, reducing the amount of light getting through to plants inside. Use a hose and a stiff brush, slowly spraying and brushing every glazing panel in turn. Choose a warm day to complete the job.
Insulate your greenhouse: Insulate your greenhouse using bubble polythene. Choose grades made especially for greenhouses, as these contain UV stabilisers which prevent them from breaking down in daylight. Simply pin the polythene to wooden-framed greenhouses. With aluminium models, use special plastic clips that twist into place in the frame. In addition, use sheets of white polystyrene to line the glazing under the staging. This also reflects extra light back into the greenhouse.
Check the health of plants: Check each week that plants being overwintered under glass are healthy and pick off discoloured leaves and dead flowers, which encourage diseases. Make sure plants remain pest free. Water plants more sparingly now conditions are turning cooler and make sure there is good circulation around their foliage, to prevent fungal diseases.
Bulbs in bowls: Finish planting up bowls of spring-flowering bulbs, including crocuses, narcissi, dwarf irises and tulips. Then place them in a cool area to develop, that's covered for protection from heavy rain.
Lettuces: Plan a continuous supply of crops for harvesting through the autumn months and into winter by planting hardy lettuce varieties such as 'Winter Density' in growing bags, pots or border soil.
In the Kitchen Garden
Pot up chives: Chives are a valuable garnish at any time of year for sprucing up a salad, adding flavour to potatoes and colouring winter soups. Lift and divide congested clumps that have lost vigour every few years. Small clumps can also be grown in pots on the windowsill. Keep some chives by the kitchen window for a tasty winter garnish.
Fruit trees: Pick apples as soon as they are ripe, remembering that some varieties can be eaten straight from the tree, while others are best left for a time, stored in a cool place to reach their peak of perfection.
Broad beans and peas: Sow varieties such as 'Aquadulce Claudia' and 'Reina Blanca' in early November. For the earliest pea picking in May, sow a row of 'Feltham First'. Sowing 'Oregon Sugar Pod' under cloches this month can also provide a crop of mange-tout from May into June. In colder areas it's better to wait until spring.
Onions and garlic: Garlic cloves from strains that are selected to suit our climate can be planted outside now. Alternatively, raise them in pots to plant out later. Planting selected onion sets in autumn will give you a crop from late June into early July.
Carrots: Make good use of your cold frames during the winter by sowing a crop of 'Primo' carrots.
Blackberries: Prune away canes that have carried fruit this year to soil level and tie new ones into their place. Very long canes can be trained back down towards the soil or wound in circles to ensure the longest length of stem remains. Cane tips can also be buried in the soil to root and form new plants.
Lawn care: Spike lawns using a hollow-tined aerator and brush grit into the holes to improve drainage.
Frost protection: Watch out for frost, which can bring a sudden end to fading summer displays. Bring tender plants and crops under cover or, if time runs short, keeping a few sheets of fleece handy to throw over plants or containers can give some temporary protection.
Collect fallen leaves: Make light work of your autumn leaf collection by investing in a vacuum for the garden. Many have an internal shredder blade fitted that chops up the leaves as they pass into the collecting bag. This helps to speed up decomposition into friable leaf-mould. Discover the secret of making the wonderful soil condtioner with our step-by-step guide to making compost .
Seeds: Saving seed not only spares you expense, but can produce novel results. Try leaving the last of the sweet peas on their plants to set seed and develop pods. Once ripe, they can be picked and the seed removed, cleaned and stored. Alternatively, sow sweet peas now for early blooms. Seed can also be saved from crops such as peas and runner beans.
Green manure: Cover areas of bare soil with green manure crops, especially in the kitchen garden. Field beans and winter rye can be sown well into November. Both these green manures can be dug into the soil in spring, helping to improve its structure and increase its organic content. They are equally valuable in breaking down clay soils and adding heart to sandy ones.
Suckers: Many ornamental and fruit trees have a nasty habit of producing copious suckers from their roots and stem bases. The reason is that they have been grafted on to the roots of other varieties and the suckers are shoots from these rootstocks that are making a takeover bid. Simply prune them neatly away with secateurs or a sharp knife as soon as you notice them.