We have enjoyed a few beautiful days of sunshine during October and I believe almost record temperatures for this time of year. It does not make up for the dreadful summer but many days of sunshine at this time of year certainly make clearing the borders more comfortable, if not enticing.
We have decided that one of our main borders, planted with very small shrubs five years ago is now in need of drastic attention and we have had some beautiful days to get stuck in.
It is also the correct time of year to be moving shrubs. Imagine my joy at finding what I can only describe as a small plantation of cordyline indivisa (large heads and much wider leaves than the usual variety), all emerging and ready for moving to pots and all from the seed of their parent above.
Some of the shrubs should have been attended to much more regularly and are huge and bushy and crowding out others. Those that I don’t want to lose or cannot move I have improved by raising the canopy, taking off the bottom branches, to encourage them to grow taller and to let light in below.
November is the month for acquiring and planting bare root trees and shrubs. Bare root stock can only be purchased between November and early March as they are lifted straight from the ground. Because they are not supporting top growth the roots get away well at this time of year.
I went during the summer to look at a rose bed that had been planted last autumn and the owner was bitterly disappointed that bare root roses planted had, in the main, died. Those that hadn’t turned up their toes were definitely about to do so. We went through the usual detective work to discover why and it was very soon clear that she had dug up all her old roses and replanted in the same bed with new ones. This is a phenomenon known as rose replant disorder which is not fully understood scientifically, but the fact remains that if you replant a rose where another has previously been it is unlikely to survive.
The only way to achieve success is to remove as much of the soil from the bed as possible and exchange it with soil from another part of the garden. For just a few bushes you might get away with it if you add plenty of manure and garden compost but they are not cheap and it isn’t worth the risk.
you ignored my advice to summer prune fruit trees then at this time of year you can do some remedial work to apples, pears and soft fruit like red currants. The work you do now largely consists of removing large branches that are too low or long and your aim is to open up the centre of the tree to create a bowl or goblet shape and reduce the overcrowding of new young branches that may be crossing and rubbing against each other. Also remember to remove any branches that are dead, diseased or dying.
Despite the fact that it is November there are still loads of jobs to do in the garden and one or two undercover!
All your spring bulbs should be planted by now except tulips which stand a better chance of resisting disease if planted in the first couple of weeks of November. Find a sunny spot and if the soil is heavy add some grit for them to sit on. Tulips tend to die because they are covered by other foliage in the summer and can’t bake. So planted with other mixed spring bedding or with flag irises.
Lily bulbs can be planted from now until April; again they like sharp drainage and if you cannot give them a well drained base, plant them on their sides on a layer of sand or grit.
If you are planning a new lawn lay turf now unless the ground is very cold (unlikely) and water if we get a dry spell.
Some plants have suffered from the dreaded phytophera fungus again last year devastated escallonia and sycamore. My escallonia showed only a few spots on the leaves. Now the scientists are telling us that there are actually very few plants that in a bad year will not be affected. So rake up and burn affected leaves. Otherwise do save healthy garden leaves for a leaf mould pile. My carrots were superb this year because although I sowed into cold soil in mid March I put a sprinkle of leaf mould down the drill first and they had a nice warm bed to start in. That has proved an invaluable trick when the soil is really too cold to sow but you need to get on despite the weather.
Protect alpine plans from excessive wet. In their natural habitat they would be covered with a blanket of snow which is dry, so if you can keep off some of the rain with a cover of plastic or glass over the top but with the sides open for ventilation, they will appreciate it.
If it’s too wet or too cold to get outside, then consider cleaning the shed out and cleaning and tidying the pots. Turn the lawn mower upside down and just look at all the stuff you haven’t cleaned off, and get the mower in for a service during the winter, the price goes up in the spring!