November Hints and Tips

After this year’s vagaries of temperature and rainfall, plants have become confused and some are flowering now when they should flower in spring; e.g. the apple blossom at RHS Wisley (not to mention witch hazel and irises in my garden).

It is now worth considering the plants that have thrived or suffered this year and replant accordingly.  This trend may well continue.

At this time of year, the fruiting bodies of fungi (toadstools) are visible.  It is worth remembering that leaves are broken down mainly by fungi, liberating nutrients.  The vast network of tiny tubes (the mycelium) from which the toadstools arise is of great importance to the health of trees and shrubs.  They live in a mutually beneficial relationship with the roots, increasing surface area for the uptake of water and nutrients.  More is being discovered all the time.

If you buy bare-rooted plants to plant now (cheaper than the potted version), apply mycorrhizal fungi when you plant, to give them a strong start.

Jobs to do

Dead leaves in the pond should be removed with a rake or net, but leave some as a habitat for invertebrates.  Put the extracted leaves near the pond for a day so that any creepy-crawlies can get back into the water

Greenhouse: clean the glass to maximise light.  The RHS says to disinfect staging and pots, but, if you have biological control agents, e.g. Encarsia wasps for whitefly, this will wipe them out and you have to start them again.

Kitchen Garden: When the leaves are down then you can start pruning fruit trees except plums.  Remove dead, diseased and crossing branches.   A pigeon should be able to fly through the tree when you have finished! Cut side shoots back to two buds and leaders to six.

Currants should be pruned to give an open structure.  Take cuttings from the prunings: strip off lower buds and push into soil to a depth of 6 inches (15cm).

Grapes can be pruned after leaf-fall but before the end of December

Sow broad beans and plant garlic cloves now. The cloves should have their tips 3-4cm below the soil surface, 15cm apart and 30cm between rows. Overwintering in the soil at less than 10oC for 1 or 2 months means it develops good bulbs.

Ornamental garden: Prune Acers and other deciduous trees and shrubs; put grit round alpines to stop rot; plant tulip bulbs. Do not be too tidy; perennial seed-heads and foliage are a valuable resource for wildlife.

Protect tender plants from frost by..

  • Heavy mulching in situ. Agapanthus, Phygelius
  • Lifting bulbs, corms and tubers and dry in a frost-free place e.g. Dahlia, Canna and tuberous Begonia
  • Wrapping with horticultural fleece after packing lower stems with dry straw e.g. bananas, tree ferns
  • Bringing pots under glass for the winter



Winkworth Arboretum for Autumn colour, open National Trust all year 10am-6pm, except Christmas. Other NT properties include Polesden Lacey and Claremont Landscape garden. RHS Wisley is open by booked time slot, free to members. The Valley gardens, Virginia Water are free entry and good for displays of fungi.