It’s all about preparation! Gardening in November!

Pleasures lie thickest where no pleasures seem:

There’s not a leaf that falls upon the ground

But holds some joy of silence or of sound,

Some spirits begotten of a summer dream

Laman Blanchard

Out they come – the gloves and hats and scarves and wellie socks for whilst the rest of the world may now have retreated back indoors to sit out the winter in a warm room, we gardeners have much to do as we head towards winter solstice and the shortest day of the calendar year.

I agree with the writer and gardener, Vita Sackville-West who together with her husband Harold Nicolson created a world famous garden at Sissinghurst Castle and who once said: “People who are not gardeners always say that the bare beds of winter are uninteresting; gardeners know better, and take even a certain pleasure in the neatness of the newly dug, bare, brown earth.” What Vita knew and today’s gardeners understand is that November is all about preparing for next year’s garden (and tidying up after this year’s growing season) so if I have one mantra to share at this time of the year it is: prune, sweep and mulch!

We’ve had a late leaf drop in the UK this year but by the end of this month most of them will down so you’ll likely be busy now tidying leaves away but actually, you can leave those that have dropped on to your borders since your plants will benefit from what will convert to a natural and nutritious winter mulch. And with those leaves you do clear from paths, lawns, decks and doorways, simply drop them into bin liners and allow them to break down to make a mulch for woodland plants or to add to an organic compost. Remember though to puncture the bin liners with small holes as the bacteria that breakdown the leaves need air for the job.

November means preparation (for next year) and protection so you’ll need to invest in a roll or two of bubble wrap as insulation to help those more tender container plants get through another winter. And on the subject of containers, you need to raise these to stand off the ground and on pot feet to help prevent waterlogging over winter. Now is also the time to plant tulips for a spring display next year and to plant out any winter bedding in the borders. Roses, in particular, need to be encourage into dormancy to help them survive the winter   and you will also need to be clearing faded sweet peas and other annual climbers from their supports.

Finally, if you have any holly with berries in your garden now then act quickly and take cuttings ready for your Christmas decorations. You’ll regret it if you don’t because the birds will beat you to it! Leave the cuttings to stand in a bucket of water somewhere where the birds won’t find the berries – in the greenhouse or the garage or potting shed.