It’s not just the inside of a property that makes a house a home – the garden is as important as any room and needs care and attention just like all the others. With each season there are things to consider with an outdoor garden and our gardening expert, RHS professional associate Darren Rudge is on hand to share his advice. Discover more hints, tips and guidance in our Gardening Ideas page.

Darren Rudge section divider

Evergreen foliage from our trees and shrubs carry the colour in our gardens now, along with those plants that show their decorative effects through bark and fruits; you can still expect some flowers but in general November can be a raw month.

Don’t despair though as Asters, some roses and Nerines can still be picked and taken into the house. The main period of autumn should be over, but our winters are not what they used to be, and there may still be plants showing autumn tinges well into this month.

There can also be some fabulous days with excellent winter sunshine combined with a cold chill: this makes for great working conditions in the garden and we need to take advantage of every day we get that is like this.

Sun shining through autumn trees with leaves on the ground

An end…but a beginning!

Many of us gardeners regard this month as the end of the growing season, but it really is a beginning. There is work in the garden you can be doing now that will save you a lot of time when spring arrives.

Outside - start your winter digging; both for vegetable plots and for our gardens; as when frosts and snow hit this will help break down the exposed clods and improve your soils structure.

Clear fallen leaves immediately; sodden leaves on the lawn, around the base of plants is not a good thing and will be dangerous if left on pathways and patios. Do put these in your composter sprinkle a little lime and bone meal into the mix and you’ll have excellent leaf mould; do remember leaves must be wet to rot down so always add water if they were not collected on a damp day.

Model spraying indoor plants with a water bottle

Inside – less natural light during late-autumn can put many house plants into a dormant phase (basically like they’re going to sleep ahead of winter). Dormant plants need much less watering compared to the rest of the year – too much and you’ll force them to grow making them weak or (even worse) they could rot because water accumulates in the pot and compost.

For most house plants it’s best to reduce watering to once a fortnight, for succulents drop this to about once every 2-3 weeks and stop watering cacti altogether.

Winter flowering plants are the exception though! Plants such as Schlumbergera truncata (Christmas cacti) and the Euphorbia pulcherrima (the festive favourite – a poinsettia) need watering whenever the compost feels dry.

A grey garden compost bin

Winters grip begins to tighten!

The jobs continue whatever the season and there are plenty of things to be getting on with in November, including:

  • Cleaning pots and trays
  • Protect newly planted trees and shrubs using fleece
  • Plant tulip bulbs
  • Get your lawn mower serviced and sharpened
  • Dust off the leaves of indoor plants with a damp cloth – this helps them get more light - and move them into a room where there’s more natural light for them.
  • Plant bare rooted trees and shrubs along with roses
  • Check and install pond and greenhouse heaters
  • Make sure house plants aren’t in any draughts but also not in places where it will get too hot. Most house plants like it to be 15 - 24°C (60 - 75°F) – sudden drops or increases in temperature can also damage the plants.
  • Lift and divide rhubarb crowns
  • Inspect all your indoor plants thoroughly for pests (look under the leaves too)
  • Winter prune fruit trees and bushes
  • Don’t forget to put out food for birds and other animals that now inhabit our gardens

Euonymus alatus tree

Star plants for November

For some excellent colour and interest look out for the following:

  • Bright red leaves and fruits given by Euonymus alatus, stunning fruits of Iris foetidissima which is a low growing herbaceous perennial, the flopping and feathery flower heads of Cortaderia selloana (pampus grass) giving movement and height.
  • For coloured bark look out for Betula pubescens (the downy birch), Acer griseum (the paperbark maple) and Prunus serrula (the Tibetan cherry); do go up and stroke them.
  • Finally let’s not forget some shrubs with dogwoods (Cornus) and willows (Salix) showing some stunning colour in their many different cultivar forms; you may also catch a glimpse of the downy white stems of ornamental brambles like Rubus cockburnianus.

So, my advice is to get out and about looking at the wonderful colour we have in our gardens and green spaces during November. I look forward to seeing you there!

A tree with bark peeling off

Happy gardening folks!

- Darren Rudge

The Laughing Gardener

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