Garden Advice for Mid-November – Mid-December

I love autumn, the colourful falling leaves, shiny berries, and burnished tones add to the romance and beauty of the garden.  Make the most of the autumn planting opportunities available now, order seed catalogues and create a beautiful garden to enjoy all year round.  There’s still lots to do in the garden, or at your allotment now!

Mycorrhizal fungi are beneficial fungi species that occur naturally in the soil.  Mycorrhizal fungi have special symbiotic growing relationships with some plants, the plant and the fungi effectively work together to create a stronger, wider reaching root system for the plant.  This expanded root system helps the plant to reach further for food and water, enabling the plant to better withstand drought and stress.  The mycorrhizal fungi empower the plant, assisting the plant to enable it to establish more quickly after planting.  You can purchase a concentrated amount of these beneficial fungi at nurseries and garden centres.  Mycorrhizal fungi are ideal to use when planting bare root roses, trees, shrubs, fruit trees, and bushes, and this is the ideal time to plant these bare root plants.

This is also a good time to assess and re-evaluate your garden.  As long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged, you can move plants that have become too big for their current situation; although you may need some help and assistance if you’re moving a big plant or tree.  Using a fork, always lift as large a root ball as is possible.  It’s worth applying some mycorrhizal fungi to your plant’s roots, to help the plant establish itself in a new position, and stake if necessary when re-planting.  Apply a mulch of home-made or peat-free compost to help provide extra nutrients, conserve moisture, and help suppress weeds.  It’s often good to have a rearrange, you could improve your garden, and the view from your house or flat, so it’s worthwhile taking time out for a cup of tea, to check whether you’re making the most of your plants and garden!

It’s the perfect time to divide mint, to ensure you have strong, healthy plants for next year.  Empty your pots of mint, divide into two, four, or more – depending on the size of your plant, and re-pot with peat-free potting compost.  Pot up a few roots to bring indoors for a fresh supply of delicious, fragrant leaves.

Wash up pots and trays.  It’s a boring, but necessary job, not only will you feel virtuous afterwards, but you’ll be ready for seed sowing in the spring, and ready for any spur of the moment jobs, like taking cuttings or planting up any bulbs you wish to plant before spring!

If you want to sow seeds now, then it’s a good time to sow Sweet Peas, use deep pots like Rootrainers, which allow for, and encourage the sweet pea’s long roots.  Hardy broad bean varieties such as ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ can be sown outside, but do protect your plants from pigeons or they will eat your crops.  As the weather gets colder it is worth protecting the crop with fleece or Enviromesh, which will provide extra protection from the worst of the elements, as well as from pigeons.

Plant Tulips and Lilies now.  If you struggle with Lily Beetle, Lilium ‘Regale’, Lilium ‘Black Beauty’ and Lilium ‘Golden Joy’ are not as attractive to Lily Beetles as other varieties, so give these cultivars a try!

Pot up Hippeastrum – sometimes mistakenly known as Amaryllis – indoors.  You can also plant Lily, Fritillaria meleagris, Narcissus, and Tulip bulbs outside, now.

Hardwood cuttings of redcurrants, whitecurrants, pinkcurrants, blackcurrants, and gooseberries can be taken now.

Plan ahead and select a site to grow your runner beans next summer, choose an area with deep soil, in a sunny spot, that has shelter from strong winds.  Runner beans produce their own nitrogen in nodules that grow on their roots, these nodules add to the soil’s fertility, enabling the beans to be grown in the same spot each year.  For a successful harvest, runner beans require regular watering.  To increase your soil’s water holding capacity and benefit your crop next year, create a traditional bean trench now.  To prepare bean trenches: dig a trench about 18″ (45cm) deep, loosening the soil at the bottom with your fork, then mix in vegetable peelings, tea bags, comfrey leaves, pelleted poultry manure, compost, and shredded, plain, unprinted paper that has been soaked in buckets of water in advance.  Cover each layer with compost or soil from your trench.  Runner beans can’t be sown now, you’ll have to wait until the weather warms up by about mid-May time next year, but preparing your trench now will give you a water retentive bed, and the best possible start for your beans!

Prune gooseberries and redcurrants now.  Remove any dead, dying or diseased wood first, then remove any very low shoots that sometimes appear close to the ground, next remove any central growth coming from the centre of the plant, and any crossing or congested shoots, to leave an open goblet shape.  This will allow good air circulation, which is really beneficial to the health of your plants, and helps to deter pests such as gooseberry sawfly.

If your ivy (Hedera helix) is not currently flowering, this is probably the best time to cut back overgrown ivy.  Ivy is such a great plant to have in your garden, it provides food and shelter for so many creatures.  Bees, butterflies, and birds, all benefit hugely from ivy.  Ivy is a wonderful plant to enjoy all year round, but it’s wise to remove it from guttering, and anywhere else it has got, or is getting out of hand now; although if your ivy is flowering it is best to delay pruning your plants, as ivy flowers are such a valuable source of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects.

Clean out bird boxes and put food out for the birds.  If you’re using fat or suet balls, do make sure you remove any plastic netting before positioning them the garden, as the netting can get tangled around the birds’ tongues, resulting in injury or a painful death for the bird.  Special feeders are available, or you can make your own with half a coconut and some twine.  Regularly clean bird feeders and bird baths; always do this outside wearing gloves, and using separate cleaning utensils.

If you’re going to lift your Dahlias this winter, if your plants have been blackened by the frost, then now is the time to do it.  Lift your plants on a dry day, storing them in a tray of peat-free compost or sand, positioned in a dry, cool, frost-free place.

Check stakes and ties on trees, removing any ties that are too tight or have weathered, and replace as necessary.

Regularly clear leaves from lawns and remove worm casts from lawns.  In sheltered areas of the garden, leave piles of leaves for hibernating animals like hedgehogs.

Cut back Asparagus foliage to the ground, remove and burn the foliage to help prevent any Asparagus Beetles over-wintering.  Thoroughly weed the bed, and then apply a mulch of well-rotted manure or garden compost.

Carefully hoe areas where spring bulbs are planted, this will help keep the weeds in check.  Once the bulbs start emerging this will be harder to do, so it’s worth spending a few minutes on this now, to save yourself unnecessary time and energy weeding in the future!

If you are planning a bonfire, please thoroughly check your bonfire pile before lighting to spare any hedgehogs.  A good idea is to move your bonfire pile to a new site to light. It may take extra time and effort, but it is worth it to know you haven’t killed a lovely hedgehog!

Service and sharpen lawnmowers and secateurs.

Plant garlic and elephant garlic now.

Lift and divide rhubarb crowns.

Avoid walking on lawns in frosty weather.

Order seed catalogues.

Are you growing grapes?  Prune grapevines in the greenhouse.

Put up new fences and repair old ones.

Insulate outdoor pots with bubble wrap or hessian.

Winter prune apple (Malus domestica) and pear (Pyrus) trees now.

Remove yellowing leaves, or any leaves showing any possible signs of infection, from salad crops and brassicas.

Apply slow acting fertilisers like bone-meal.

Ventilate greenhouses and cold frames on dry days, to increase air circulation and prevent disease.

Place a ball on the surface of your pond to stop it freezing over completely in cold weather.

This article was first published in the mid-November 2013 edition of The Surrey and Hants News.

Other articles that may interest you……………..

For more gardening advice for November, please click here.

For more gardening advice for December, please click here.

To read the results of my Scented Daffodil Trial, please click here.

To read the results and findings of my Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

For information about Christmas at Kew and visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens in December, please click here.

For information on how you can help hedgehogs, please click here.

For tips and advice on growing Sweet Peas, please click here.

To read about beautiful holly trees, please click here.

To read my long-term review of the BiOrbAir, a specialised terrarium and indoor garden, please click here.

For information on bottle gardens and terrariums, please click here.

If you’re looking for ways to make gardening easier, please click here.

If you’re gardening on a budget, here’s some tips and advice, please click here.

If you’re looking for beautiful, important and historic gardens to visit in Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex, please click here.

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