As the pace of gardening slows down this is a good time for looking back over the past year and making preparations for next year. It was a strange year for weather with a very wet June and then a lot of dry weather with occasional bursts of short-lived but quite heavy rain …For me, this has been the year of the slug. I have written about this before and I am still amazed at scale of destruction wrought in my garden throughout the summer and on into autumn. Dahlias, delphinium and Michaelmas daisies were the main targets in the flower beds and in the vegetable patch the slugs left us with very little in the way of lettuce and courgettes. Intensive care brought the dahlias and delphinium to a good flowering size but some of the new Michaelmas daisies have continued to struggle. Some are still in pots in the greenhouse and I hope for better things next year. Sweet peas had a slow start but eventually did well. It has generally been a bad year for me for fruit production. The Plum and damson and pear trees produced hardly anything and the bramley apple had a much smaller crop than usual. Cox’s apple did well and we had a reasonable crop from a James Grieve apple. We had a big fruit crop last year so it may be that trees are having a rest this year.
The great success this year was my busy lizzies. I bought ‘garden ready’ plug plants by mail order from Suttons and planted them on into plastic pots before planting them out in late May. They all survived and flourished and made a fine show of colour in a north-facing situation. The sweet peas had a slow start but eventually did well and I have already sown the seeds for next year. October is the best time for sowing for early flowering and the plants will survive winter well with some protection from the coldest weather. When it has four sets of leaves, nip out the centre of the plant to encourage branching. The next opportunity for sowing sweet peas will be in January and then an April sowing should still get a result. Things you can sow in November are broad beans and garlic, although I have never had any real success with garlic.
November is the time for planting tulips in containers or in the soil. Many tulips flower well only in the first year after planting and then have to be thrown away but some can be naturalised for long-term growing and Darwin varieties are best for this. November is also the best month for planting bare root trees and deciduous shrubs. Dig a hole somewhat bigger than the root spread. Loosen the bottom soil and backfill with the dug- out soil mixed with garden compost or well–rotted manure. If a tree needs staking fix the stake in the hole before planting so that the state doesn’t damage the roots. Summer fruiting, bare-rooted raspberries can also be planted now but you won’t get a crop in the summer immediately following planting. Cut the new canes down to ground level and the new canes will grow up in their first year and fruit the following year. Thereafter the canes that have fruited should be cut down in the summer to allow for the growth of the canes for the next year’s fruit.
Like many gardeners, I battle with bind weed. The best way of getting rid of it is to dig over the soil where they are prolific and remove the roots. This needs great care because any bits of root left in the ground will grow again. My raspberry canes are worn out after many years of production and they are becoming enveloped in bind weed. Early this year I planted a row of new canes in the vegetable patch and now I shall dig everything out of the old fruit cage area (canes, bind weed and all), take down the dilapidated frame and wire netting and turn the area over to vegetables or flowers. As increasing age reduces my ability to cope with a big garden the next stage might be to start grassing over some of the vegetable area. I am also planning to introduce more shrubs to the front garden to cut down on the work of maintaining perennial plants.