Keep your broom handy…
As the autumn leaves begin to fall in earnest you’ll need to sweep up regularly to prevent lawns from dying back. Some gardeners prefer to let leaves settle on their borders and allow the worms to do the work of composting them directly into the soil. Others prefer to gather everything up and make lovely leaf mould compost. Either way, you need to ensure that you don’t let leaf-litter lie over the crowns of plants, especially herbaceous perennials that have died back, as this could rot them in the winter wet weather.
Cut away the spent leaves from hellebores to allow room and light around the plants, ready for the flowers in late winter or early spring.
November is also a good time to cut back grasses and bamboos, as well as any remaining perennials that have ‘gone-over’.
Remove debris from your pond as the leaves fall, to prevent them sinking to the bottom of the pond and muddying the water.
Now is a good time to lightly prune shrub roses and buddleja. You can also prune most trees now, except for prunus species, as these can get silverleaf if pruned in the colder months. Larger trees may require a tree surgeon to undertake the work.
If you haven’t done so already, clean out the greenhouse by tidying up pots and tools, clearing any old or diseased plants and washing the glass with a mild disinfectant solution.
November is an excellent time to plant bare-root roses, hedging and trees, while they are not actively growing. Be sure to keep the root balls wet and plant as soon as possible. Firm in the plants well and support with stakes as necessary.
You can now take hard-wood cuttings from cornus, ilex, salix, hydrangea and forsythia.
Look out for pests and diseases, such as honey fungus, as the fungi are visible in the autumn. Make sure not to spread any diseases around the garden by cleaning tools and keeping infected plant material out of compost heaps.
By November it’s too late to sow grass seed, but if warmer weather prevails you may still be able to lay turf. Feed with an autumn lawn feed to encourage root strength rather than top growth.
Autumn is a great time to dig over new flower or vegetable beds. Be careful not to do this on very wet days, or to compact the soil. You can avoid this by walking on planking to spread your weight evenly across the soil.
Apply grease bands to fruit trees to prevent winter moth females from climbing the trees and laying eggs in the branches.
Have a good general tidy up of the garden. Put away garden furniture or cover it to prevent water or wind damage in winter storms. Wrap fleece around any tender plants like tree ferns, that need extra protection. Undertake any projects like building cold frames. Raise pots off the ground to allow proper drainage. Clean paths and patios of fallen debris to avoid them becoming slippery.
We haven’t had any really cold snaps yet, but consider feeding the birds as the frosts become more regular. Check your bonfire pile for hedgehogs before setting a match to it. Leave some piles of old wood and leaves for amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates.
And if the weather’s really awful…
Get out the seed catalogues, put your feet up with a cuppa and dream of next year.