Posted 18th Nov 2015
There’s always something to get on with in the garden – even during these short autumn days. So, whenever weather conditions allow, go outside, get some fresh air and get the garden ready for winter and beyond with the help of Scotts Miracle-Gro
Flower beds and borders
When the first frosts have blackened the leaves of dahlias, it’s time to lift and store the tubers. If you live in a mild area, you could leave the tubers in the ground, covering the soil with a 7.5-12.5cm (3-5in) thick mulch of bark or similar mulching material to protect them from the cold. But they may succumb to severe winter weather, or come into flower late next year.
First cut down the stems to about 15cm (6in) from soil level. Then carefully lift the tubers with a garden fork, so as not to damage them. Clean them to remove excess soil, not forgetting to label them. Stand the tubers upside down in a dry, airy, frost-free place for a few days to drain excess moisture from the stems. Remove any dry soil and then pack them in boxes filled with just-moist compost, coir, sand or similar. Make sure the packing material is kept clear of the crown (where the stems join the tuber) or rot may set in. Keep them in a cool, frost-free place over winter. Dahlias growing in pots can be overwintered in their pots indoors. Canna tubers can be treated in the same way.
Continue the autumn tidy up by removing dead, dying or damaged leaves from plants and cutting down the faded flower stems of herbaceous perennials. Make sure you cut them back to their base. The stems of those plants with colourful heads, such as sedums and sea hollies (Eryngium), can be left until spring, as they will provide some winter structure. And those bearing seeds can be left as a treat for garden birds.
Make the most of the dark evenings by making plans for which flowers you want to grow next year. It pays to order your seeds now, so you don’t miss out on particular varieties in spring.
Grow your own
There’s still time to sow an overwintering broad bean, such as ‘Aquadulce Claudia’, for an early crop next year. Cover the soil and developing young plants with fleece or, better still, cloches to provide protection from cold, frost and pigeons. It may be better to sow them in small pots or cell trays and then plant out the young plants when they’ve grown on.
November is the best month to plant garlic, but make sure it is a variety suitable for autumn planting.
Radishes, mustard, cress, cut-and-come-again salad leaves and winter lettuces can be sown and grown in growbags or giant planters in a greenhouse or in pots of good potting compost, which can even be kept on a light windowsill or in a conservatory.
This is a good time to get ahead and prepare new asparagus beds for planting in the spring. Plenty of added organic matter and even grit will help to improve drainage on heavy, clay soils – vital for good crops.
Make your sowing plans and order your vegetable seeds now. When the seeds arrive, you could make a seed organiser divided into sowing months to help you remember to sow them at the right time.
Now’s the perfect time to plant all new fruit trees, bushes and canes. The soil will still be quite warm, and the roots of new plants will benefit from this. This is particularly important for peaches and nectarines. Make sure the soil is well prepared, adding lots of organic matter – such as well-rotted manure, compost or tree and shrub planting mix. Add more organic matter plus bonemeal to the soil dug out from the planting hole.
Always plant at the same depth that the plant was originally growing, firm the soil around the roots and water in well.
Trees will need to be staked with a good tree stake and secured with two tree ties. After planting, mulch the soil around fruit trees and bushes with a 5-7.5cm (2-3in) thick layer of bark chips or similar mulching material to help keep weeds down and maintain soil moisture levels in spring and summer.
You can prune red and white currants and gooseberries by cutting back the main branches by half to three-quarters and sideshoots to one to three buds from their base.
Lift and divide old, unproductive crowns of rhubarb and replant in well-prepared soil with plenty of added well-rotted manure or similar bulky organic material.
Rabbits, deer and squirrels can be a problem at this time of year, gnawing the bark of fruit trees. Protect trees by wrapping their stems in plastic tree protectors.
Trees, shrubs, roses and climbers
This is also a great time to plant all manner of hardy trees, shrubs, climbers, roses and hedges. Follow the advice for fruit. At this time of year, bare-root and root-wrapped plants are available from garden centres and nurseries, which are generally cheaper than containerised ones.
November is the perfect month for moving deciduous small trees, shrubs and climbers that are growing in the wrong place or have outgrown their space. Older plants may not establish well, and so may not be worth the risk.
Where possible, start by pruning back up to half of the top growth – moving plants puts a stress on the plants and you can reduce this stress by reducing the amount of stems and leaves the plant has. Water the soil around the plant thoroughly the day before. Dig up as big a rootball as possible that you can manage to lift. Replant in well-prepared soil with lots of added bulky organic matter plus bonemeal, so that the rootball sits at the same level as it was originally, covered with no more than an inch or so of soil. Tall shrubs and trees may need staking to keep the roots secure. Water in well after moving and for the first year.
You can protect the roots of penstemons, phygelius, hardy fuchsias and other slightly tender plants from damaging winter frosts by covering the soil around them with a 7.5-10cm (3-4in) deep layer of bark chips or similar mulching material. Don’t cut down the old stems until spring, when new growth starts, as this can provide some extra frost protection of growth buds low down on the stems.
Check tree stakes and ties are secure and will withstand strong winter winds. At the same time, ensure ties are not strangling trunks or branches and slightly loosen them if they are.
General gardening jobs
Clear away all the fallen leaves promptly, as rotting leaves can be a source of disease and a home for pests. They can also smother small plants and cause areas of the lawn to die. They can be added to the compost heap, where adding a compost maker will aid faster rotting down, and can even be shredded first by going over them with a lawnmower to help them break down quicker.
It’s time to get your greenhouse and cold frames ready for the onset of cold, winter weather. Insulating them with bubblewrap will help to keep vital warmth inside. Cold frames can also be insulated with hessian or polystyrene sheets – but remember to remove any coverings during the day to allow in light to the plants.
This is a good time to install water butts and water collection systems in the garden to make the most of all the late autumn and winter rain. If you already have water butts, then give them a good cleaning out to help keep the water fresh.
Bamboo canes and wooden stakes should be recovered from the garden, the soil knocked off and stored in a dry place to ensure they’re good enough to use again next year.
For further gardening advice, news and information on all Scotts Miracle-Gro products, visit lovethegarden.com.