Whether we’re in for another ‘beast from the East’ or a surprisingly warm winter, Head Gardener Stephen Hackett has covered all bases in this month’s tips!
A lot depends on the weather in November. It may be a mild, calm month – in which case there seems no hurry to prepare for winter. On the other hand, we might have frosts or strong winds, or both. If the latter, then the more that’s been done to get the garden ready for winter the better.
If we continue to have lots of rain, try to keep off borders and beds as much as possible, and use a plank or board to step on if you do venture onto the soil. Wet soil compacts very easily when trodden on, and this causes damage to the soil structure which is bad in the long run.
It’s a good time to look for bare-root plants in your local nursery or mail-order. This is a very cost-effective way to buy perennials, shrubs and roses, as they’ll be a lot cheaper than equivalent container-grown plants. Ideally get the bare-rooted plants straight into the ground when they arrive, but if it’s too cold or wet they can be potted-up temporarily while you wait for the weather to improve. If you have a bit of spare ground – perhaps in the vegetable plot – you can always ‘heel in’ bare-rooted plants: essentially this means planting them in a temporary spot, which will keep them healthy until you’re ready to put them in their final position.
Established roses will benefit from some attention, especially those which are tall: just a light prune will serve to take off any long, straggling top-heavy stems which might catch the wind and lead to ‘wind rock’ which can loosen the roots. Try to leave any stems which are still carrying hips, as these will be much appreciated by Fieldfares and Redwings arriving from colder climes to overwinter here.
Tender plants such as Pelargoniums can stay outside as long as the weather’s not too chilly, but they’ll need bringing indoors (a greenhouse or conservatory is ideal) as soon as there’s a chance of frost. It’s worth taking a cutting or two as well, which can be kept on the kitchen windowsill, just in case the parent plant succumbs over the winter.
If the weather does turn colder, remember to keep bird feeders well-filled and clean them regularly to remove old food and prevent disease.