In November the garden starts to retreat but there's lots to do to prepare the garden for winter.
Perennials and bulbs
• Sweet peas can be sown outside but they do need some winter protection either under cloches or in a cold greenhouse. 'November is the perfect time to start sowing sweet peas for next year – be sure they spend the winter under cover,' says Sarah Raven.
• This is the absolute last chance to plant most spring bulbs but the best time to plant tulips. If there's no room in the garden try putting some into containers.
• 'By the middle of November, plant 'Paperwhite' narcissi ready to flower in time for Christmas. Forced bulbs should be brought to a cool windowsill when they have approximately 3cm growth.
• Make sure you also check stored summer bulbs for any signs of rot or mould. Remove any affected bulbs or separate to prevent spreading.
Fruit and vegetables
• Plant out winter onion sets and garlic cloves and plant soft fruits such as raspberries and blackberries. If you have cloches you can sow broad beans and peas.
• Keep an eye on Brussels sprouts and cabbages, and if birds find them delicious, cover them with netting.
• Also, organise your seeds. Sarah adds: 'Sort out any leftover or half-empty seed packets and throw away any that are out of date or damaged. Clean, pack and label any saved seeds left to dry, and take the time to organise them into seed tins.'
• Another useful task is to start planning next year's vegetables to allow for a good rotation of crops. 'It's important to not grow the same type of crops on the same ground each year, as this can cause a build-up of pests and diseases. Move them around each year so the same group isn't in the same area for more than one season,' Sarah explains.
• Roots, brassicas, legumes can be grouped together, and everything else, such as potatoes, onions, tomatoes, can be grown together too. Annual crops such as cucurbits (courgettes, pumpkins, squashes, marrows and cucumbers), French and runner beans, salads (endive, lettuce and chicory) and sweetcorn can be grown wherever you have space, just avoid growing them in the same place too frequently.
• Try taking hardwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs and fruit.
• Crisp edges make a lawn seem tidier and fresher, even on dull winter days. When night time temperatures fall to near freezing and below, the lawn will stop growing so it's worth cutting the edges now as they should stay trim until the end of winter.
• A very easy way to make leaf mould is to rake up damp leaves, put them in a bin bag with a few air holes and tie the top. By next autumn you should have magically produced crumbly leaf mould that can be used as a mulch.
• Plant out winter bedding. Pansies and violas look delicate but polyanthus and primroses have the edge for presence. Another plant is the double primrose; it's available in many colours and is so beautiful it looks like winter roses.
IF YOU ONLY DO ONE THING...
... Put prepared 'Paperwhite' daffodils – which means they've been specially treated to flower quickly – in a pot. Keep indoors and they should be flowering for Christmas.
PLANT OF THE MONTH
If you see a small rounded tree with amazing autumn colour of purples, reds and orange, it's probably a liquidambar, commonly called sweetgum. Slow-growing with shiny bright green maple-like leaves in spring, it will eventually reach 25 metres.
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