November may be considered the first month of the new gardening year, as at this time we begin to lay down the foundations for the forthcoming year. The first frosts arrive if they haven’t already occurred during October. Low temperatures and very short days mean that growth is almost at a standstill. The first priority is garden hygiene.
Fallen and dead leaves will hold the spores of many of next season’s fungal infections, and will also provide hiding places for the overwintering generation of pests. These will lay their eggs next spring, leading to a build-up of major problems in the summer. All deciduous leaves should be gathered up and made into leaf mould. Other rotting vegetation should be placed on the compost heap.
The foliage on herbaceous perennials that have died back can be removed. Tidy the soil by disturbing the surface. Many perennials will need dividing, and this work is often better performed in the autumn than the spring and do it by the end of the first fortnight in November. Paeonies are notorious for not flowering for a year or more after being disturbed.
If they must be moved, the task should be performed during early November, which will allow them to obtain the best possible start next spring. There is still time to plant tulip bulbs, Spanish and English irises, anemones (tuberous types), auricula, gentians, lily of the valley, polyanthus, primroses, and pansies.
Deciduous trees and shrubs may be planted this month but not when the soil is frosted. Roses may also be planted now, and lightly pruned to reduce loosening of the roots by high winds (delay the final pruning until March).
November is a good month for planting fruit trees. Apples, pears, cherries, plums, damsons, greengages, peaches, nectarines and mulberries can all be planted this month as can blackcurrants, redcurrants and whitecurrants, gooseberries, blackberries, loganberries, tayberries, wineberries and worcesterberries, and both indoor and outdoor grape vines. Winter-prune apples and pears but not the Prunus fruit. This month is the last opportunity to plant strawberry beds.
Make sure that windows are clean, to allow in maximum light. Wash down with a horticultural disinfectant, washing all windows and staging and soaking the beds. Flower pots of the old-fashioned earthenware type need scrubbing with disinfectant. Plastic pots should be wiped over. These measures will go a long way towards controlling damping off and botrytis. Remove dead leaves and weak growths from overwintered fuchsias and geraniums (pelargoniums).
Climatically the aim in the winter greenhouse must be to keep out frost and allow adequate ventilation in the daytime by opening the vents once any frost has thawed. A frost-free greenhouse will enable you to keep many plants alive and to over winter others in a dormant state. For pot plant production, early vegetables and so on, aim for an overnight temperature of 5–7°C/40–45°F. Higher temperatures necessary for germination of seeds or striking of cuttings can be provided by a propagator.
Pot crowns of lily of the valley to give sweet-scented flowers throughout the winter.
Late-flowering chrysanthemums should be given plenty of water, but as soon as they have flowered, reduce feeding and watering and cut back the foliage.
There will be few opportunities for cutting the lawn but providing that it is reasonably dry you may continue to mow with the machine at its highest settings whenever conditions allow.
Cut back and remove dead foliage from marginal herbaceous perennials. Check netting to make sure that leaves are not blown into the water. Remove any that have entered the pond, but otherwise do not disturb the water life.
Dig vacant ground to expose overwintering insects and other pests to the birds which will solve many of the next year’s pest problems. Protect winter greens from pigeons by covering with netting. Sow ‘Aquadulce’ broad beans, which will crop in May and June before the blackfly can do significant damage. A sowing of first early peas may be made if it was not done last month. Lift rhubarb crowns for forcing in a warm greenhouse.