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Sunday, July 14, 2024
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GardeningNovember in the Garden

November in the Garden

Even if, up to now, it’s been possible to pretend that winter is ‘a long way off’, now that the clocks have gone back it really does feel that the garden has entered a new phase. Time is running out for planting spring flowering bulbs, the majority should already be safely interred, with the exception of the, ever popular, tulip. Tulips are best planted late, even into December, in an attempt to reduce the occurrence of the dreaded ‘tulip fire’ disease.
Anyone with half an eye on gardening trends, especially if you have an ‘Instagram’ account, can’t help but notice that home-grown cut flowers are ‘all the rage’. Tulips, like dahlias, are very photogenic and, come the spring, will feature strongly on every social media savvy gardener’s profile. If you want a guaranteed display then newly bought tulip bulbs, planted in fresh compost in an attractive container (preferably an antique copper washtub—a la Sissinghurst), topped off with spring flowering wallflowers, or vibrant violas, will provide plenty of photo opportunities come next April / May.
Ever since I used them ‘en masse’, when I worked for a garden landscape company, I’ve had a soft spot for lily-flowered tulips because they have an elegance of form which, whatever the situation they are used in, lends them an air of sophistication. Dark tulips, such as the ever popular ‘Queen of Night’, can be dramatically teamed with a white variety, my default is still ‘White Triumphator’, for a classic contrasting display. For many years now the bronze / gold, sumptuous, saturated, colours of ‘Abu Hassan’ have been sought after to the point where I am yet to grow it as it’s always sold out by the time I get around to placing my bulb order!
Now is the best time to get on with any gardening projects which require wholesale digging up and moving of established plants. With the exception of evergreen specimens, which are best moved in the spring as they begin into active growth, most herbaceous perennials and deciduous shrubs can be dug up now and moved around. This is because, this season, they are able to withstand the shock of being dug up, their roots disturbed and damaged, just in time to recover during their winter dormancy.
The soil is still warm enough that they can begin to repair and regrow, having been dug up and moved, and the lack of leaves, or top-growth, means that there is no demand to replace transpired water (moisture evaporated from the leaves and stems) so the displaced plant does not become desiccated. Also, from a practical point of view, the increased rainfall in the autumn and winter months ensures that your newly planted specimens will not suffer from drought.
It is these same factors which provide the ‘window of opportunity’, opening now, for the procurement, and planting, of bare-root trees, hedging and fruit bushes—so get your orders in now and I’ll come back to these at a later date.
Of course, if you are lifting herbaceous perennials, the good old ‘border’ plants, then now is the time to ‘go forth and multiply’ by chopping up any large clumps and replanting the divisions into freshly dug, and manured, soil. If you have more divisions than you have room for, bearing in mind that the whole point of lifting them is to reduce congestion in the border, then these can be potted up, using fresh potting compost, for use elsewhere or to be traded / donated to other gardeners; remembering the old adage that “the best way to keep a plant is to give it away”.
The arrival of proper overnight frosts is the signal that most ‘fiddling’ maintenance jobs can cease. Frosty nights will accelerate leaf fall, which has started already, but, fingers crossed, there will be a gradual slide into complete denudement because that’s the best way of enjoying all the autumnal hues which this year’s sunny summer should have precipitated.
Fallen leaves should not be allowed to lay on the lawn for too long as they will shade out the grass beneath and lead to bald spots. If dry enough an easy way to remove them, assuming you have a ‘collecting’ lawnmower, is to continue cutting the lawn, on a high blade setting, even though the lawn is barely growing. Cease mowing if it becomes clear that it is too soggy underfoot and that using machinery will do more harm than good.
On the subject of ‘more harm than good’; if you were intending to use a lawn ‘feed and weed’ preparation on your lawn, but have yet to complete the task, then it is almost too late. In warm, southern, areas of the country, such as the Marshwood Vale, it might still be possible to apply a proprietary ‘feed and weed’ (following the guidelines on the packaging) but only if the weather is mild and not too wet.
The ‘feed’ (nitrogenous) aspect of the treatment will promote grass growth but only if the soil temperatures are still warm enough that the grass is actively growing. If average temperatures fall below something like 7°C, the grass will stop growing and any nitrogenous ‘feed’ is likely to get washed straight through the turf and could, possibly, enter nearby watercourses. If in doubt; wait until the spring to apply any such treatments.
With all the digging up, planting, planning and ordering, there is plenty to keep you busy, if you want to be, during these shortening days – Happy Gardening!

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