November is a normally a chilly month when winter feels very much just around the corner. Frosts have done their work and most plants are resting. There's still plenty to do if you fancy getting a bit of fresh air. Everything you do now will set the garden in good stead for the coming spring.
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By November, the weather should be cold enough for the lawn not to need regular cutting, although it usually needs an occasional tidy-up during winter.
Clean the underside by scraping off dried clippings and make sure the collecting bag is empty. If it's a petrol mower, drain off the fuel, as unleaded petrol doesn't store well.
There’s no need to go mad collecting autumn leaves as worms will pull any that fall onto the ground into the soil and help improve it. Try to clear them from paths and patios, though, as they can form a slippery layer.
It's a busy time of year for tidying up, so make the job easier by sharpening your secateurs. Begin by cleaning off any hardened sap with wire wool.
Then, use a fine-grade sharpening stone (alternatively, use a sharpening device), hold the secateurs firmly in your hand and sharpen both edges of the cutting blade on anvil secateurs, and only the outer edges of the blades on bypass secateurs.
If you don't fancy doing it yourself or you're experiencing other problems with the secateurs, check first as some manufacturers, such as Felco, offer servicing.
As you clear summer crops on the veg patch, increase the bed’s fertility for veg by mulching with organic matter, such as garden compost or spent mushroom compost. Apply a 5cm-deep layer and leave the worms to drag it into the soil.
Make space in the greenhouse for tender plants by having a tidy-up.It will also help you find things more easily next spring. Unused compost is best spread on bare ground outside as a mulch as it deteriorates in the bag and you'll get the best results if you use fresh compost in the spring.
Turn heaps of compost made since late summer to speed breakdown and improve quality. It’s hard work but makes a worthwhile difference as it speeds up decomposition. It only needs to be done once and is a way of introducing oxygen to the heap. This feeds the bacteria, which promotes further decomposition. It’s also a good opportunity to break up any lumps you find and mix the ingredients. The easiest way to do it is to dig out the whole heap with a fork and move it into an empty neighbouring bin.
Frosts are usually here by November so be prepared. Bring the greenhouse heater out of storage and place tender plants in a light, frost-free place. Put up bubble wrap after cleaning the greenhouse glass to allow in the maximum amount of light.
Your barbecue should last for years if you store it in a dry place overwinter, such as a shed. Before you put the barbecue away, heat it up one last time as any mess will come off the grill much easier when it’s warm– never do this indoors or you risk carbon monoxide poisoning. Any gas bottles should be stored outdoors.
Sow broad beans in deep module trays, with the aim of seedlings being about 5cm high by the new year. This small size makes them more weather hardy than larger plants. The reason for the deep module tray is that broad beans quickly put out a long root. Sow in a greenhouse until mid-November in the south, as soon as possible in the north, and then the plants can go out before or even after Christmas. Sowing them in autumn rather than February means you should have an earlier crop. If the winter is very hard and the autumn-sown plants fail, you can always sow more in February. Remember not to sow too many seeds, as broad beans plants are multi stemmed and give lots of pods.
Harvest celeriac, , and also turnips if they are large – small turnips may grow some more. In mild areas, all of these together with swedes and parsnips can stay in the ground, unless rodents are present as they may nibble them and cause damage. The celeriac store well in a box or crate and should be usable until May next year. Beetroots will also last until spring. Eat the smaller ones first as they don’t keep as well as the larger ones. Turnips are a bit more watery, so try to use them up by March or they may start to rot.
Winter salads, such as ‘Grenoble Red’ lettuce, mustards and corn salad, all produce much better crops of leaves if they’re protected during winter. Fleece might seem the obvious choice, but it rips easily in windy weather, so you may prefer to use insect-proof mesh held up in a low curve by wire hoops. You shouldn’t need to water at this time of year, but keep an eye out for slugs, which like to nibble the leaves.
Garlic likes a period of cold so November is a good time to plant it. Put individual cloves 15cm apart in rows that are 30cm apart. has been a problem in recent years so plant in a cold greenhouse or under a cloche to help avoid it.
The secret to avoiding stored crops, such as onions, rotting before you use them is to empty out the store and check over the veg every couple of weeks. Look the veg over and gently press it to identify any that have started to rot and need to be used soon. Only put firm veg back in the store.
Remove dead or weak growth and any crossing branches. Shorten this year’s growth on main branches by a third, to a bud facing the direction you want it to grow in. Cut backside-shoots to five or six buds.
Planting tulips in November won't avoid the fungal disease tulip fire, despite what you may have read elsewhere. However, it is a good time to plant tulips, as they enjoy the cool, moist conditions that are associated with this time of year.
Look for bulbs that have intact skins and don't show signs of mould. Tulips should be planted three times the depth of the bulb.
Save money by ordering bare-root plants, which are usually cheaper than the pot-grown equivalents, by mail order. They are only available in the dormant season, so you need to be quick. They're a great way to buy roses, hedging; shrubs; fruit and trees. It's also good for the environment as the plants are ground in the ground no peat is used.
Try to plant them as soon as they arrive. Otherwise, give them a good soak in a bucket of water then roughly plant in a corner of the garden until you're ready to put them in properly.
For flowers indoors at Christmas, plant paperwhite narcissus in mid-November. Put the bulbs so their tips are just below the compost surface and plant them 2.5cm apart. Put them in a cool spot, such as a coldframe, until the shoots are20-25cm long, then bring them indoors. The stems will need supporting as they tend to flop.