November, true to form, delivered autumn and the colours have been amazing. Across the last ten years I have planted quite a few native trees and this year have been rewarded with a stunning show. Even the domestic planting has been generous with Maples, Liquidambar and very noticeably Cotinus and Gingko all showing off. As we are encouraged to be planting trees, do consider the extras (flowers, berries, bark and autumn colour) when making a choice.
The weather has been suitably seasonal though at the time of writing only one full frost has landed, and it was just enough to knock out the summer bedding. The gentle tumbling of leaves has created work of course and the compost heap is piled high. Leaf mould is very special, so do try and round yours up for composting. With the bedding out, we can set about the bigger tidy up, thinning shrubs and trees a little, just nipping out overcrowded, broken or damaged branches. If we do get snow, the removal of clutter will protect the plant from damage. Top weary herbaceous plants too, removing the failing growth and dead flower stems. With the space open we can still do a bit of late planting, dropping in bulbs and even oddments of selected over winter bedding. Remember this is the month for bare root planting, so hedging and soft fruit will all transfer well as will rhubarb.
If you are done with planting, then digging over the ground on drier days is worthwhile. Winter will bite into turned ground, breaking it up ensuring easier cultivation in the spring. Where ground is particularly heavy you can lightly dust it with lime to accelerate the crumbling process. If you have any protected space, then you can still be sowing a few seeds. A number of annuals (like Antirrhinums) will make good growth from a winter sowing and historically, my grandfather would always have something going by Christmas. It can be managed on the windowsill in the kitchen until germinated, when seedlings can be moved to a cooler space.
And finally, start researching compost. The horticultural industry is currently wrestling with the changing shape of growing mediums as we move towards a peat free future. By 2025 the use of peat in horticulture will be stopped. Alternatives are around and you should be considering through experimentation what will work for you. This year we have trialled 5 different products. The jury is still deliberating.