As temperatures drop, plants start to slow down, become more delicate and in need of some form of protection, both from the elements and from unwanted visitors in the garden.
Winds might bring some very cold spells, but the earth will still be warm and welcome new fruit trees and bushes.
November is also the perfect time to make a bonfire with your garden waste and enjoy the first warming glass of mulled wine or cider after a day spent in the garden.
Sow, plant, propagate
- If you haven’t already done it, sow broad beans, garlic and Japanese onions sets. Broad beans in particular don’t like wet soil, so a mulch of compost or well-rotted manure will encourage worms, which in turn will aerate the soil providing a better environment. Buy certified virus free garlic rather than breaking up a bulb from the supermarket.
- Although it’s a bit late to sow green manures, if temperatures don’t drop dramatically, sow field beans and grazing rye.
- Sow hardy peas. Two good varieties to try are Meteor and Feltham First and hardy broad beans such as The Sutton and Bunyard’s Exhibition.
- Plant apples, pears and plums between now and March whilst they are dormant, particularly if you have bare root trees, but not if it’s frosty or the ground is water-logged. Given the strong winds in Brighton & Hove, make sure your trees are properly staked. On particularly exposed sites, provide artificial or living windbreaks.
- Plant soft fruit such as blackcurrants, gooseberries, white currants, and raspberries after preparing the soil and incorporating well rotten organic matter or manure.
- Planting rhubarb: you can find one year rhubarb plants, or crowns in good garden centres or online. Choose a sunny site and add compost or well-rotted manure to the soil. Plant the crown with the growing tip just above the soil level. Don’t pick stalks the first season as this will weaken the plant. Start harvesting lightly in the second season then regularly pick in the third year. Harvesting usually starts in April and finishes in July.
- Sow wildflower meadow seeds and attract beneficial wildlife into your food growing area
- Another busy harvesting month – before the November frost becomes too severe, harvest and store carrots, celeriac, turnips, swede, beetroot, Jerusalem artichokes, winter radishes, salsify and scorzonera.
- Start picking kale – it tastes better after the first frost.
- Lift and store turnips and swedes and harvest Brussels sprouts, starting from the bottom.
- After the first frost, parsnips become sweet – you can leave them in the ground all winter whilst lifting a few to add a special flavour to your roast dinners.
- Take advantage of any dry and sunny day to finish collecting flower and vegetable seeds for sowing next year. Dry them inside if necessary and store in paper bags or envelopes in a cool dry place.
- As soon as the your soft fruit plants drop their leaves, take hardwood cuttings and plant them directly into a well prepared bed in the open ground and next year you’ll have many more plants at virtually no cost. Do so with currants, gooseberries and raspberries.
- Trim cranberries
- Feed your fruit trees and bushes
- Blackberries and hybrid-berries: if you haven’t already done so, cut the canes that have fruited this year down to the ground, and train the current year’s canes. Post and wire systems are the best way to train blackberries and hybrid-berries
- Make sure you keep the base of your fruit trees and bushes free of weeds as they compete with your plants for nutrients. After you’ve weeded spread a thick layer of mulch, including any organic matter you can find as well as well rotted manure.
- Don’t cut autumn fruiting raspberries’ canes now – wait until the end of Jan/beginning of Feb.
- Don’t prune cherries or plums until next year as this will encourage silver leaf fungus.
Jobs to do
- Unless you’re running your garden on no-dig principles, keep on digging before the wet weather makes the ground too soggy and the frosts make it too hard – the first bed to be prepared should be the onion bed.
- Clean up the garden but don’t be too tidy – leave flower heads and berries as they’ll be precious food for wildlife during the winter, as well as some piles of wood which act as shelter for invertebrates. More about getting your garden ready for winter whilst thinking about wildlife here.
- Complete your summer compost and begin a new one. If you don’t have one and you lack the necessary space why not set up or join a community composting site?
- Cover any frost vulnerable vegetables such as broad beans and winter lettuces with cloches or horticultural fleece once the weather turns cold, but leave some space for air flow.
- Protect your brassicas from birds in particular pigeons – cover them with mesh or netting.
- Feed the soil: cover the surface of any bare beds with 2 to 3 inches of well rotted manure. This will gradually break down over winter ready to feed your spring crops and saves you the work of digging it in.
- If you don’t have a space to raise your seedlings or overwinter tender plants, now is a good time to build your own cold frame.
- Incorporate the leaf mould you made last year into the soil and don’t worry if there are any fungi as they will not harm your plants. Leaf mould is particularly good where you’re planning to sow root veg next year.
- Plant a hedge: if your garden is on a windy site now is the time to start planting a hedge – this will act as a windbreak which will filter the wind instead of blocking it, as well as providing birds with precious nesting sites, hedgehogs with hibernating sites and people with berries for food. A mixed native hedge is ideal – take a look at your local field hedgerows and you’ll know what species will grow best.
- Collect water: as the weather is highly unpredictable don’t forget to start collecting and storing rainwater. Collect any overflow from gutters in water butts. Make sure there is a lid on your water butt as it stops evaporation and stops animals from getting trapped and drowning.
- Plant spring bulbs and get your growing area ready for a colourful start in the new year.