After weeks of being passed by when most of the country was getting some rain we have, at last, had a significant amount of rain. The water butts have been filled up and my pond water level is where it should be. The rain comes too late to make a lot of difference to the immediate appearance of the garden but let’s hope it’s the beginning of normal rainfall to prepare for next year’s gardening, and that is really the main gardening theme for this of time of year; looking ahead, preparing and planning for next year …
Uppermost in my mind is the state of the lawns. A day’s rain some while ago led to some recovery but there are still many large bare patches of dead grass which have left the lawns looking very unsightly. I have wondered about re-sowing these patches but they make up a big area and I have decide to wait till next spring to see what recovers naturally. Scarifying and aerating lawns will help recovery. Small areas can be done with a fork and rake but larger areas are best done by hiring the necessary tools or using one of the professional lawn care companies.
In the garden generally, many plants will have been left stressed by heat and lack of water and they will need attention to get them back into good shape. Dead stems and foliage can be cut down now or left until February to keep seed heads to feed the birds or to enjoy the look of uncut stems on a frosty morning. Where you have seed heads of plants that self-sow prolifically it’s a good idea to cut the seeds of before they spread but it is probably a bit late for this now. Clear away competition from weeds where these have been brought on by the rain and then provide frost protection and subsequent nourishment and keep moisture in the soil by mulching. The addition of fertiliser is best left until spring when plants come into growth.
We can’t tell whether we shall have a hard or a mild winter but it is best to be prepared for the worst. Perhaps I should say “the best” because hard frosts break up the soil and reduce pest infestations. I like the seasons to do what, traditionally, they are supposed to do; be cold in the winter and warm (not too hot) in the summer with times of great beauty in-between for spring and autumn. The warm autumn may have tempted you to leave tender plants growing outside but they do need to be brought inside or wrapped up. Horticultural fleece is the best thing to use for covering shrubs and can be used in single or double layers. It is cheapest to buy this in bulk in a roll on-line or by mail order from a catalogue. You can tie it on with garden twine or clip it with clothes pegs, either to the shrub itself or gathered sections of the fleece. Plants, such as overwintering lettuce or spring cabbage, can be protected with glass or plastic cloches.
November is a good time for planting roses, trees and deciduous shrubs, fruit bushes and summer fruiting raspberry canes and these are all cheaper if bought bare rooted rather than in a container. The general rule is to plant at the same depth as the soil level revealed on the stem . As you dig the hole lay a stick or bamboo across hole and check that when the roots of the new plant are spread out on the bottom of the hole the soil level on the plant stem is level with the stick. Back fill with a mixture of soil and compost. Water well and keep new trees and shrubs watered weekly. Newly planted trees need staking either verticaly close to the trunk or at an angle with the stake driven in a couple of feet from the stem. If planting vertically drive the stake in before planting the tree to avoid damaging the roots. One exception to level planting is clematis which should be planted two or three inches below their original soil level. This is a valuable protection from the plant dying from clematis wilt. Wilt may still occur but, against all expectations, the clematis may well start shooting again. I have a clematis which did just that and it flowered late but well and it is still doing so.
Remember that November is the best time for planting tulips to keep them disease free. Broad beans and garlic can be started in the vegetable patch now.