Though November tends to be about woolly jumpers, hot drinks, and cosy movie nights, there’s still plenty to do in the garden!
As the temperature drops and the wind and rain increase, tender plants will need some protection. The autumn and winter months can also be a challenging time for animals, so being prepared to support local wildlife can really make a difference.
Below, we’ve put together a list of 11 gardening jobs for November. Whether you want to add an instant splash of colour to your garden or start preparing it for spring – we hope you’ll find some inspiration here.
1. Plant some autumn/winter bedding for instant colour
Hardy bedding plants such as pansies, violas, cyclamens, primroses, and heathers are great at tolerating our frosty British winter and will provide a pop of colour even when it’s miserable outside. They make a great addition to pots, hanging baskets, and flower beds – so if your summer-flowering plants are looking past their best, it could be time for a change.
Rather than throwing away any old, dead (or dying) plants, why not dig them up and add them to your compost heap? You can find out how to make your own compost by watching the helpful YouTube video below.
2. Support wildlife
Autumn and winter can be a tough time for wildlife, including birds and hedgehogs. They’ll need to stay warm and well-fed to survive, and this can be a real struggle.
Hedgehogs go into hibernation anytime between October and December (depending on how mild the temperature is). To prepare for this, they’ll often start eating more and building a nest.
If you want to help hedgehogs this autumn, you could consider installing a hedgehog house in your garden and providing them with food (wet cat and dog food or crushed cat biscuits are good options). To find out more, check out this British hedgehog guide from Country Living.
Birds usually eat more to build up fat reserves and find somewhere to roost (rest) during the colder months of the year. To give them somewhere to roost, you could add a bird box to your garden. You could also install a bird feeder and keep it topped up with high-fat foods like sunflower seeds and mealworms.
Birds need water for drinking and bathing during winter too (bathing is essential for keeping their feathers in good condition). So giving them a fresh supply of clean water in a birdbath can be a big help. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has more information and advice on birds and water here.
3. Plant spring bulbs
It’s easy to think of gardening as a spring or summer activity, but what we do in the garden in autumn and winter can affect how well it flourishes throughout the rest of the year. By planting spring bulbs now, you can make sure that you’ll have a show of beautiful blooms when the weather starts to warm up next year.
November is the best month for planting spring bulbs because the soil is still fairly mild in temperature. It’s warm enough that bulbs will have enough time to establish a root system before frost sets in and they go dormant over winter – but not so warm that they’ll be susceptible to rot, or other fungal or viral diseases. The days are also still short enough that the bulbs won’t be tricked into thinking it’s spring and start flowering.
4. Save money by planting bare-root roses, shrubs, and trees
Roses, shrubs, and trees are dormant between November and March. But during this period, they’re often sold as bare roots – a much cheaper option than buying them potted.
When planted in autumn, bare root plants will establish a root system below the ground, ready to produce a vibrant display of flowers and foliage come spring.
To find out how to plant bare-root shrubs and trees, you might want to watch the video below from Thompson and Morgan – or read this short guide.
5. Add compost to empty vegetable/flower beds
If you have any flower or vegetable beds that’ll lie empty over winter, then a handy tip is to cover them with a layer of partially-rotted organic matter.
Adding compost in autumn means that it’ll have plenty of time to break down and work itself into the soil, so it can provide an abundance of nutrients for new plant growth come spring.
6. Raise pots off the ground and/or wrap plants up
Container plants are at a greater risk of frost damage than those planted in the ground because it’s more likely that the pot and soil will become frozen (due to waterlogging and there being less of a buffer between the plant roots and outdoor temperatures).
When the soil freezes, plants can no longer absorb water, causing them to dehydrate and possibly die. Even hardy plants can become damaged during autumn and winter if their soil becomes frozen.
The best way to protect your pots from frost and waterlogging during autumn and winter is to raise them off the ground. You can do this using bits of wood or bricks – or you can buy pot feet on Amazon.
Tender plants that are too large to be brought inside can also be wrapped in garden fleece for extra protection.
7. Prune roses to protect from wind-rock
Roses that have grown very tall during the summer may need pruning this month to protect against wind-rock. Wind-rock is where tall plants sway in the wind and become loose in the soil, and are therefore more vulnerable.
You can cut off the top quarter of a plant’s growth this month – any more should be avoided as this could leave it more susceptible to frost damage. Many people then do a second round of pruning in the spring to encourage bushier growth.
For more tips and advice, check out this article on how to prune roses from Gardens Illustrated.
8. Protect winter brassicas from pigeons
Brassicas are at risk of being eaten by pigeons all year round. But the risk increases during early summer when crops are developing, and in autumn and winter when other vegetation becomes unavailable due to snow or frost.
To counteract this problem, you can stick a couple of feathers into a potato and hang it from a string over your cabbage patch, to ward them off. The pigeons will think that your cabbages are being guarded by another bird, and will usually keep away. This article from the Royal Horticultural Society provides some other tips on protecting your plants from pigeons.
9. Use grease bands around fruit tree trunks
During autumn, garden pests such as winter moths, caterpillars, ants, and earwigs will be looking for somewhere to shelter and lay eggs. They’ll often do this around the base of fruit trees (especially apple and pear trees) and eat holes in the leaves, blossom, and developing fruits.
One way to prevent these pests from damaging your fruit trees is to put what’s known as ‘grease bands’ around the trunks. The grease (which is pesticide-free) stops wingless females from climbing up the tree trunks to lay their eggs.
For more tips, check out our article; 9 common garden pests and how to tackle them.
10. Sow first early peas, spring onions, and broad beans
If sown now, first early pea varieties such as Kelvedon Wonder and Meteor will provide crops in early spring. It’s best to grow them in covered containers to prevent damage from mice, birds, and slugs.
You can also sow hardier spring onion varieties such as Performer and White Lisbon for spring crops. These grow best in pots, though they should be kept in a greenhouse or covered with garden fleece to protect against frost.
If you want quick results, you could try sowing broad beans; either in the ground or in pots. If planted in November, they should germinate within two to three weeks. Another option is salad leaves – spinach, mustard, and mizuna are quick and easy to grow in autumn.
11. Consider adding some solar-powered fairy lights to your garden
Though the days are getting shorter, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a bit of light and sparkle when you look out your window in the dark evenings – especially with Christmas on the horizon. So, why not give your garden a glow with some solar-powered fairy lights?
Just be sure to put them somewhere where birds and other wildlife aren’t likely to get caught up in them, such as on a fence. It’s also best to avoid coloured lights as these can confuse glow worms.
Are you a keen gardener? Do you have any additional tips that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.