November: Maintain and prepare

With halloween and bonfire night behind us, it really is time to start thinking about those winter months ahead.
Jobs for the latter half of November include general garden maintenance, tidying up your trees and preparing your fruit and vegetables for weeks ahead.

General maintenance
Bonfire night may be over, but those with larger gardens may well still light a fire to rid themselves of excess leaves and debris. It goes without saying that you should check all bonfires before lightning to make sure all wildlife is safely cleared away. Hedgehogs love a pile of leaves.
Your fallen leaves can also be collected and left to decompose to create mould for later use. Bedding plants and annuals that are over can be added to the compost bin. When you can and while it’s still possible, continue to mow the lawn but raise the heights of the blades to leave your grass longer than the summer. It will also make it easier for you to cut.
Your garden infrastructure will also need some love.

Caring for trees
Grab your hardy gloves, it’s time to tool up, for this is the pruning hour. Sorry, it’s a bit late for halloween. But with the sap retreating down into trunks, you can safely take your loppers and secateurs to most things deciduous.
You are looking to remove anything dead, diseased or damaged, but with an eye to the aesthetic. Look out for any branches that are rubbing against or growing around each other because these will be damaging the bark. Word of caution, you can’t undo pruning, so take your time. Do not prune evergreens and also avoid plums, cherries, apricots and almonds.

The cost of living crisis and rising awareness around sustainability has led growing numbers of people to try growing their own fruit and veg.
If you have an area of land dedicated to vegetables, it’s worth putting down a plank of wood on areas you will be walking. This prevents the soil becoming too compacted.
Spread rotted manure on beds you won’t be using over the winter and add organic matter to heavy soils that you will continue to use.
Parsnips will have sweetened by now and are ready to pick after the first frost. Top-heavy brassica plants can be protected from the wind with stakes and by drawing up soil around their base.
Protect the crowns of globe artichokes from frost by wrapping the base of the plants in straw. The Jerusalem variety can be cut down now with the tubers stored in a bucket of dry compost.
Broad beans and early mangetout varieties like Oregon Sugar Pod need to be protected by a cloche – leave the ends open for ventilation. If you want a continuous supply of herbs then you’ll need to bring them indoors, you can also grow winter lettuce varieties in a warm greenhouse.
Top-heavy brussels sprouts can be supported with sturdy canes – make sure you pile earth up around the stems for extra stability in the high winds of winter. Cabbages, kale and other hardy brassicas need to be protected from aerial threats by netting. Plant garlic, shallots and onions in free-draining
soil or raised beds, then cover with fleece.

Dormant is a key word at this time of year. Mare clumps of rhubarb can be divided once dormant, similarly currant plants can be planted out as bare roots, as can raspberries and your edible hedging.
Enrich the soil with well rotted manure or garden compost before planting.
Remove strawberry runners and dead leaves. Blackberry canes that fruited this year can be cut back to the soil, new ones can be tied. We’ve entered the period where fruit trees, think apple and pear in particular, can be pruned. But do not prune your plums yet.
You will also need to use grease bands on tree trunks to prevent wingless female winter moths climbing up and laying their eggs in the branches.

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