Cornus stolonifera 'Flaviramea'

Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’

There are still plenty of jobs to do in the garden this month. It’s a case of getting the garden ready for some potentially harsh months. There will still be colour in the garden at this time, many trees and shrubs have decorative bark or colourful stems, berries are in evidence and, depending on the weather, there will be some late flowering perennials (asters or Michaelmas daises) so plenty to enjoy still.

Here is a list of important jobs to do this month.

Raking leaves from the lawn

Raking leaves from the lawn

  • Tidy the garden for winter, keeping fallen leaves from lawns
  • Plant bare-rooted trees and shrubs and new roses
  • New Roses – The ground is usually neither waterlogged nor frozen and so is easy to dig. This means that rose roots have a great basis to establish over the winter. Remember that if you are planting a new rose in a site that contained roses before you must change the soil otherwise your new rose are likely to develop ‘rose sickness’. Dig out the soil, as if you were going to plant the rose, then double the size of the hole and use that soil somewhere else. Replace it with well rotted compost and topsoil mixed together. Hard work, but it is not worth risking your new rose dying on you.
  • Check that any climbing roses are still tied in to their support structures.
  • If you have not prepared your new rose bed yet then do so. You can plant roses all through winter as bareroot plants and in our experience they do much better than the pot grown equivalent which comes into its own in spring.
  • If you did not do so last month then cut the bigger bush roses back by about a third. You are not pruning them, just reducing their windage to stop them rocking and damaging their roots.
  • It will come as some relief to know that from now until spring you can leave your evergreen hedges well alone (apart from box and that is for December). But if you have just planted an evergreen hedge do make sure that it is protected from the elements. A really cold and bitter wind is more damaging to foliage than a heavy frost so consider putting up a temporary netting windbreak to get your young plants through the winter.
  • We are now in the bareroot hedge planting season and both bare root deciduous and evergreen hedges can be planted from now onwards, until spring is sprung next April or May depending on the weather. Older deciduous hedges will be grateful if you prune out any diseased or damaged branches so that they do not act as an entry point for infection over the winter. If you need to really change the shape of a deciduous hedge you are best to hard prune in the winter when the plant is dormant. Don’t be too savage however – remove about one third of a really overgrown deciduous hedge at a time.
  • Fruit Trees – Once the leaves have all fallen, any frost free day between now and February is an ideal time to prune the fruit trees with pips not stones, i.e. apples, pears, figs etc but not cherries and plums.
  • And if you did not do so last month then put grease bands around your fruit trees to catch the wingless female winter moths which climb up from the soil to lay their eggs on the tree. Which hatch into the grubs that eat their way into your fruit and… RUIN IT.
  • Protect tender and newly planted shrubs from frost and wind. For exotic plants such as “hardy” bananas (Musa basjoo) and tree ferns, wrap their trunks and crowns in straw or bubble wrap and hessian
  • Secure climbers, tall plants & young trees to fixings such as trellising, stakes and canes. If found loose re-tighten.
  • You can keep planting container grown climbing plants. Established climbers may need a little pruning where you have a long, stray whippy stem blowing around. Alternatively, if you can find a suitable gap in the framework, tie them in.
  • That very great gardener the late Christopher Lloyd of Great Dixter fame (still well worth a visit if you in the South East) always maintained that those clematis that you normally prune close to the ground in spring were as happy being cut back hard at the end of November. The certainly look less ugly for the rest of the winter…
  • Check that structures within the garden such as arches, pergolas, and fencing are in good condition. If any are found to be weak either repair or replace.
  • Plant tulip bulbs, as long as the ground is not waterlogged or frozen
  • Clean and service the lawn mower
  • Clean, oil and sharpen garden tools
  • Keep off the lawn during wet or frosty weather to reduce damage and compaction
  • Plant fruit trees and bushes
  • Rhubarb crowns that have become overcrowded can be lifted and divided in November and December. Plant new ones before the end of January this year.
  • If you are planting blackcurrants, place them so that the crown of the plant is about 10 cm beneath soil level and then cut the stems to about 10 cm above the ground to encourage strong shoots for future fruits. Established plants will need a third of their old shoots removed right at the base of the plant to stimulate new growth there. (The new shoots are much lighter than the old wood so you can tell them apart.) Blackcurrants grow on the previous year’s (and older) wood so you don’t want to remove too much of it, but equally you need to encourage new shoots, hence the pruning. At the same time cut out any diseased or damaged growth as near to the base as you can.
  • Redcurrants and whitecurrants also need pruning but they differ in that they fruit on the current year’s growth. You are aiming for five to seven main branches per plant, each with plenty of fruiting spurs, to grow into an open framework. In a red/whitecurrant’s first winter after planting the leaders should be cut back by a third to a half to an outward facing bud. This is because inward buds grow inwards… and cross with other branches. This crowds the centre of the plant, prevents air circulating and makes damage from rubbing more likely so that fungal attack and other diseases are more likely. Choose some well-placed shoots to act as the main branches and cut these back by a third to a half as well, again to an outward facing bud. All other side-shoots should be cut to about 10 cm or to 2 to 3 buds. On older bushes, the leaders need to be pruned by a half to an outward facing bud and any laterals hard pruned to about 5 cm.
  • Gooseberry bushes need pruning differently according to how old they are. For gooseberries up to three years old the leaders should be cut back by one half to a good bud. You are aiming for about eight branches per bush. In the gooseberry’s third year and from there on in, restrict your pruning to removal of dead or damaged branches, and those that cross one another or touch the ground.
  • Sow or plant vegetables such as garlic, broad beans, peas, onions and shallots, these will provide a harvest in May to July.
  • Insulate pots left out for the winter, wrap them in bubble wrap or something similar
  • Bay and Olive – If you keep the compost your olive trees are in relatively dry (just damp) they will be fine in temperatures down to about -10 degrees Centigrade. However, until Bay has been outside for a couple of winters it should be protected from really cold winds and sharp frosts with fleece or by being moved into a sheltered spot if it is in a pot.
  • Raise containers and pots by placing wood, tiles or bricks underneath. This ensures they do not become waterlogged in wet weather.
  • Winter-prune fruit trees and bushes
  • Bulbs – Ideally most of your spring bulbs should be in by now……but tulips will still flower if you plant in November and some of the older gardening books will recommend November as the best time to plant them. You could pot up some Amaryllis bulbs ready to flower for the festive season. Put them on a radiator or in the airing cupboard to start them off but do not forget to keep checking on them! They grow like lightening and their compost needs to be kept just moist.
  • Wildlife – Don’t forget wild friends in the garden. Start leaving out food and water for the birds. Now is also the time that berried plants such as Berberis, Hawthorn, Holly, Pyracantha and the Rowans (Sorbus aucuparia varieties) come into their own as a food source. Find a corner that tidy people do not see too often and make an unsightly pile of logs, branches and leaves. This will be a home for an incredible variety of hibernating wildlife, almost all of which are either pollinators or pest predators in the spring.
  • Check any tubers like dahlias or bulbs (corms) like gladioli that you lifted earlier to make sure that none are beginning to rot and infect the others. Keep them dry and frost free.
  • Try not to walk over frosted grass in your lawn as you crush it. Choose a dry day to rake off any leaves. And now is a really good time to get your lawn mower serviced because everyone else will put it off until spring!
  • Wash and disinfect  seed trays, pots, canes and other paraphernalia of gardening with something like Jeyes fluid.
  • Greenhouse and cold frame glass will need cleaning and if you are over-wintering tender plants in your green house check that the heater is working and/or insulate the greenhouse with bubble wrap. Ventilate glasshouses and conservatories to reduce humidity and fungal disease
  • Garden planning – this is also a good time to walk round the garden noting any changes you want to make, for example revamping a tired border or making more significant changes involving landscaping – the ideal time to call for the services of a Garden Designer! If you want a nice looking garden for next summer the planning and designing should take place now, allowing the building and planting to take place in the spring.