November Gardening Tips

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The weather determines so much of the timing of garden jobs. At Glyndebourne in early November we will be looking out for the first frosts; once frost has burnt the leaves of the dahlias we cut the foliage down to six inches from the ground and carefully lift the tubers. In the greenhouse we leave the tubers upside down so that moisture can drain out of the stems and then cover the tubers with dry compost in a box for storage over the winter. At Glyndebourne we used to use old wine boxes for storage, now we are lucky to have our wooden boxes made for us out of old scenery, with handles for easy lifting and feet – so that the box is slightly raised and air can circulate around the stored tubers to help prevent rotting. The canna rhizomes from the Bourne Garden will also be lifted and stored in this way.

Photo: Vicky Skeet

Days that are too wet for gardening outdoors can be spent on essential indoor jobs such as pot cleaning, tool-sharpening and maintaining the lawn mower. It’s also a good time of year for reviewing how the garden looked and performed. We keep notes throughout the season, and taking photographs and recording what worked well and not so well will help you to plan your garden for next season.

Depending on the weather, the last cut of the lawns at Glyndebourne will be in late October or early November. Repairing worn patches in the lawns can be done by sowing grass seed in late September into October but turf for larger areas of damage can be laid in November. Keeping the lawn clear of leaves as they fall allows the lawn to receive water, nutrients and air and helps to prevent pests and diseases, but also provides valuable material for making leaf mould, I think it’s the best sort of compost. Our leaves used to go on the compost heap with everything else but last year we made separate leaf mould bins. The leaves of deciduous trees like oak, beech and hornbeam make the best leaf mould, sycamore and chestnut leaves will take longer to rot unless you help them break down by shredding them before adding them to the leaf mould bin.

November is a good time to turn the compost heap. It should be done periodically throughout the year, turning the material incorporates air which helps the composting process. We use a digger to turn our compost as we have a large heap on a concrete base, but at home you can do it by spade and fork, and on a cold November day enjoy watching the steam rising from the compost as you turn it, knowing it’s a sign of successful composting.