Garden jobs for November

General garden maintenance

  • Keep up with clearing leaves from paths and terraces where they create a slip hazard and can block drains. Rake up regularly from lawns where fallen leaves block light and increase humidity, both of which can damage the grass. Don’t waste the leaves – put them into hessian sacks and leave them in a forgotten corner of the garden to become glorious leaf mould.
  • Leave ornamental grasses in place over the winter to support birds and overwintering beneficial insects. Grasses can provide structure and look lovely on a frosty morning but some deciduous grasses look tatty and past their best, so cut these down to 8-10cm above the crown.
  • Make sure tree stakes are secure to protect young and recently planted trees from strong winds. Check that the ties aren’t too tight - the trunk girth may have increased over the growing season.
  • If you have trees with interesting winter bark such as silver birch or Prunus serrula, wipe the trunks with water to make them brighter and shinier.
  • Tie in climbers, and cut back long whippy growth.
  • This is a good time to move plants around if they’re in the wrong place. Dig them up with as much root as possible, move them to the new spot, firm and water them in well. With herbaceous perennials, cut the top growth down so that the roots can get established without wasting energy on leaves.
  • Mulch beds and borders with a thick layer of compost, bark or other mulching material to insulate plants and roots from cold temperatures. Using an organic mulch such as farmyard manure or peat free wool compost will also feed the soil and help to break down London clay soil.
  • It’s time to clean and store away all tools, pots, bags of compost, hoses and irrigation equipment which you won’t be using during the winter months. Wash, dry and store pots, seed trays and containers to eliminate pests and diseases that could infect your plants next year.
  • Clean and sharpen cutting tools such as shears and secateurs.
  • Spend a couple of hours checking that pergolas, trellis, fencing and arches are in good order and well secured before winter sets in. Recent windy weather may have weakened structures, and a bit of time now could save a lot of problems later.
  • Put away or cover any garden furniture which you won’t be using through the winter.

Preparing for cooler temperatures

  • Remember that the roots of plants in containers are more susceptible to frost than plants in the ground and therefore need protection. Move them to a more sheltered spot and/or wrap hessian, cardboard or bubble wrap around the pot.
  • Have some horticultural fleece ready to protect vulnerable plants against frost.

Container gardening

  • Raise pots and containers on to pot feet or bricks to help drainage and prevent the contents from becoming waterlogged.
  • Clear out remaining summer bedding in containers and replace with something fresh for the winter months. Pansies, violas and cyclamen will give lovely colour in window boxes and containers. Plant more densely than summer bedding because these plants won’t spread very much through the colder months. Colourful bedding can be combined with small evergreen shrubs, ivy, grasses, ferns and more.
  • Try an evergreen shrub in a container - Nandina, Viburnum tinus, Pieris, Camellia and beautifully scented Sarcococca all make great container plants. You can give them the growing conditions they need – for example, Pieris and Camellia need acidic growing conditions so use ericaceous compost.
  • If you want some height in containers, for example on either side of the front door, a standard bay tree, olive, holly or Camellia might fit the bill.
  • What about some pots of bulbs to flower next spring? You could plant a pot of one variety - choose some gorgeous tulips and plant them quite densely. Dwarf iris are stunning in pots - top them with a layer of grit to stop rain splashing compost onto the flowers. Or try a bulb lasagne with a layer of tulips deep down, then add some narcissi or hyacinths, and some Muscari or dwarf iris nearer the top. With staggered flowering times the pot will be in flower over several months.
  • Pot up indoor narcissi such as Bridal Crown, prepared Hyacinths and Amaryllis to be flowering ready for Christmas. You can also grow Hyacinths in a special glass which gives a view of the roots.


  • Acers, birches, walnuts and laburnum are better pruned now, after leaf fall, than after mid-winter, when the sap is rising and they may ‘bleed’.
  • Thin canes on established bamboos to give the remaining canes more room to move and allow them to develop more quickly and strongly. Keep the removed canes to use as plant supports.


  • Herbaceous perennials, shrubs and trees - there is still the opportunity to plant most things. The ground is still warm and as long as it’s not waterlogged, roots will establish if planted well.
  • Plant something with autumn berries such as Pyracantha or Skimmia pabella in the knowledge that there will be lovely spring blossom too.
  • November is the traditional month to plant tulips but you can still plant most bulbs successfully. Many bulbs are happy in a half shady spot and will last longer in flower. Alliums, tulips, narcissi, muscari - it’s difficult to choose but they will all brighten up the garden next year.
  • Sow sweet peas ready for next year in deep root trainer cells. Many people report much better results from autumn sown plants, kept in a cold frame over winter.

Fruit and Vegetables

  • Prune redcurrant, blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes if not already done. Aim to keep the centre of bushes open and uncongested to allow air to circulate and sunshine to reach the stems.
  • Mulch rhubarb around the crown.
  • Remove unripe figs (anything bigger than a pea), apart from tiny ones which will hopefully develop next year. The larger ones won’t ripen now. Wear gloves to protect your hands from the sap.
  • Apply glue bands to fruit trees to prevent the wingless female winter moth from climbing up and laying eggs in the branches.
  • Check that trained fruit trees such as espaliers are well secured to their supports.
  • Lift parsnips as you need them, but leave them in the ground to get frosted as this helps the flavour.
  • Sow broad beans and peas for an early crop next year.


  • If your lawn needs a little boost, apply a conditioner like Lawn Gold Winter which helps to prevent moss on your lawn, strengthens the roots and greens your lawn during the winter months.
  • Now beds and borders are less abundant, try edging your lawn. Lawn edging creates a neat and tidy appearance and makes maintenance easier.
  • It’s not too late to aerate your lawn to improve drainage.
  • Keep the blades set high on the lawn mower for winter cuts.
  • If weather is wet or frosty, avoid walking on grass as the turf can become compacted and fail to thrive.

Pests and diseases

  • Keep the battle up against squirrels - make their lives as difficult as possible in order to protect your newly planted bulbs. Try covering pots with chicken wire, sprinkle chilli powder around… there’s no simple answer, but it’s worth a try.
  • Slugs and snails are still around, so continue to deter them from overwintering in your garden. Clear away rubbish and don’t leave places for pests to hide.
  • Rake soil to expose snail eggs to be eaten by birds.


  • Clean out bird boxes to encourage new occupants. Birds look for warm winter roost spots and if they are familiar with a box by spring, they are more likely to move in.
  • Keep bird feeders full and provide a water supply. Install a birdbath if you can and keep the water fresh.
  • Resist the temptation to cut back ivy and other plants which are flowering at this time of year. They are a valuable source of pollen for bees.
  • When tidying and cleaning in the garden, leave somewhere for wildlife such as hedgehogs and toads to hibernate. If you’re planning a bonfire, check your pile for any wildlife before you light it.