Garden inspiration

red berries against green leaves

Maintenance Jobs for the November garden

November can be a damp, raw month and although flowers can be scarce in the garden, there are still berries, evergreen foliage and bark to add interest on even the dullest of days. You can warm yourself up by tidying the garden and preparing for the winter ahead. It’s also a good time to check your tools, catch up on greenhouse maintenance and begin planning your spring display. Whatever the month, there’s always something to see and do in the garden.

Rake up fallen leaves and pile them up to make leaf mould. If leaves are left in a thick layer on the lawn, they will kill off the grass and fallen leaves left lying around plants can encourage the gardener’s public enemy number one: slugs and snails. If you have a large garden with lots of leaves to deal with, make a simple container with four stakes and chicken wire around and stick it in a corner somewhere to contain the leaves and compost down. If you have limited space, rake the leaves into plastic bags (left over compost bags are ideal). Punch holes in the bags and leave in an out-of-the-way space to rot down. In eighteen months or so, you will be rewarded with good, friable leaf-mould, which makes excellent mulch – for free.

autumn leaves in a wooden compost bin

Compacted areas of lawn, such as paths or places where children play, can be aerated now. This involves driving spikes quite deeply into the lawn and can be done with a garden fork for smaller lawns; for bigger ones, you can buy or hire specialist tools. Aerating will allow the water to drain and deprive the moss of the conditions it needs to thrive. It looks a bit of a mess straight after you’ve finished because the plugs stay on the surface, but for the long-term health of the grass it is well worth the time and effort. Over the winter, try to avoid walking on the lawn whilst it is wet as this will compact the soil.

a person pushing a garden fork into the lawn

Save yourself a job and leave as much winter cover as possible – so don’t cut down all herbaceous perennials in the garden. Leave some to provide insulation to protect plants from the coldest winter weather, seedheads for birds and cover for over-wintering insects. Late-flowering plants with dry, hollow stems, such as heleniums, rudbekias, asters, verbena bonariensis and all ornamental grasses, are particularly good to retain until new growth starts in spring. However, anything that is not standing without support should be removed and composted. This is particularly important if the stems are wet, soggy and falling over the crowns of plants as this can cause rot. Cut right back to the base of the plant and remove all the soggy summer’s growth to let in air and prevent fungal problems.

Brown seed heads

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