The month of November is always a dramatic one, with the often foreboding colour of the sky contrasting with the searingly bright colours of the turning leaves- it’s something to be savoured. When the mornings are crisp and fresh, a potter around the garden collecting dried seed, or a quick tidy up, can be all it takes to reconnect with the garden which can often be neglected this sultry season. Working outside is almost never regretted, and even if it’s completing just one of these jobs, there’s nothing better than spending an hour or so outside and warming up with a hot drink admiring your work from the comfort of an armchair….

Maintain & Protect…

As the wetter and colder weather is most certainly here, thoughts should turn to prioritising protection in the garden.

Firstly, we must provide food and shelter for our feathered friends, with access to fresh water a bonus. If you have a bird bath keep it frost free, and topped up with fresh water to stop it from being infested with algae. Bird boxes should be cleaned out, and feeders should be topped up now with inexpensive seed or nuts, and will make all the difference to the wellbeing of our beloved wild birds. The more our avian friends frequent our garden, the more pests are eaten as a result, so leaving out a feast will help the garden in turn.

Before burning any old garden matter, please make sure there are no creatures that have taken up residence in the pile. To protect pot plants and containers from frost, and water logging, raise them off the ground with inexpensive terracotta feet, and insulate with hessian or fleece wrapped with twine. This will stop the pot from cracking and the plant inside will be kept cosy and warm.

Keeping feeders topped up for the birds is a must when the cold weather truly sets in

Continue to clear fallen leaves from pathways and the lawn, tidying them into an allocated leaf area, where they can rot down into a beautiful rich soil conditioner which will be ready to use in around two years. Frugal gardening sometimes takes time, but the results are fantastic, and it’s a homegrown and plastic free alternative to store bought conditioners.

Now is a great time to edge your lawn- with the borders pretty much bare, it will create a nice tidy appearance throughout the winter.

If you have plants in the greenhouse, with no way of heating it or space to bring them inside, try insulating with a layer of bubble wrap on the inside panels of glass. If you can source the bubblewrap from a resource sharing site, even better.

Prune & Cut Back…

Now is a great time to tidy up the strawberry bed, if you have one, by taking off yellowing leaves, and dead runners. You can apply a layer of mulch to the surface around the plants to protect them over the winter.

Keep cutting back yellowing foliage of herbaceous perennials, and lift and divide clumps which are overgrown.

Cut back ornamental grasses and bamboos- those that do not put on an ornamental display in the winter are best cut back now as they can often look messy. Some bamboos can be cut, stored, and used as plant supports in a years time, when they have had time to dry and strengthen.

Begin winter pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs. Dead, diseased or damaged wood should be removed, but take care when it comes to pruning cherry or plums- they are susceptible to the disease Silverleaf at this time of year, and so it’s best to leave theirs until the Summer.

Gooseberry, red and white currants can be pruned now

Prune gooseberries and redcurrants now, in a similar way to apples and pears. The idea with pruning young bushes is to build up a framework of four or five main branches , each with plenty of fruiting spurs to produce a lot of fruit. A guide can also be seen here

Increase your stock…

Now is the time that bare root stock will be readily available for purchasing and planting, and can be done so throughout the dormant season- from now until March. They are substantially cheaper than container grown plants, and often come plastic free if buying from a nursery, which is a bonus. Add in lots of organic matter when planting, making sure the hole is large enough to accommodate the roots without cramping them. Be sure to stake and tie in the trees to avoid wind rock and damage.

Plant bare root stock trees now

Continue lifting and dividing herbaceous perennials, as weather permits, and reap the rewards of free plants next spring.

Tulips, narcissus and lilies can all be planted now, as can hellebores and spring bedding plants such as wallflowers, sweet William, forget-me-not and bellis. Planting now will ensure that the plants have time to settle in before the winter sets in.

Continue to take cuttings of hardwood shrubs such as redcurrants, white currants, black currants and gooseberries.

Sow & Harvest…

Start lifting parsnips after the first frost, as this will sweeten their flavour. They can be stored in the same way as carrots- in sand. Another alternative is to leave them by the back door heaped over with a pile of straw, which can be held in place with some netting pegged into the ground.

You may be able to start harvesting Brussel sprouts now, depending on the variety sown. Start harvesting from the bottom upwards, as the largest sprouts form at the base of the plant first. You can stake very large plants that look like they may be likely to topple.

A great idea is to dig up a supply of leeks now, as severe frosts will make harvesting impossible. Lift a supply and then re bury them horizontally with their tops sticking out close to the house in a sheltered spot.

Lift a supply of leeks before severe frosts make them difficult to harvest

Keep harvesting winter greens such as kale and collards, and pick some to chop and freeze for handy nutritious additions to soups and smoothies.

You can sow the following in the unheated greenhouse now: Sweetpeas, lupins, foxgloves, verbascum, delphinium, laurentia and cyclamen.

Under cloches: Pak choi, spring onions and winter salad