November is here and the clocks have been moved back, which means shorter days and less time in the garden. The weather can be wet and windy but when it’s good the days are crisp and bright and autumn colours really shine through. Autumn leaves are beautiful to look at but when they drop they create more work for us which isn’t such a bad thing because out of it we get leaf mould!
Although the days are getting shorter there’s still plenty to get on with in the garden to either make it look lovely or to prepare it for next year and whether you’re out in the cold or warm in your potting shed one thing is sure, that November will bring it’s own special magic to your garden.
The strong winds that we faced recently have stripped a lot of leaves of the trees and blew them into the garden. This means a bit of extra work clearing them up but it also means that we can make lots of lovely leaf mould!
Leaf mould is the perfect soil conditioner, filling it with fungi, micronutrients and other organic matter which aids in plant growth. Worms love it too taking the leaves and moving them from the top of the soil to lower levels, further improving soil structure and moisture retention. So if you have a glut of leaves it’s the perfect excuse to use them all up.
So here’s how you make it. First of all you need to contain all the leaves. You can use black bin bags with holes in the bottom but a much better technique, if you have the space, is to create a chicken wire cage. Knock four posts into the ground in a square shape, preferable in an isolated bit of your garden and definitely over open ground, i.e. not on patio or decking. Wrap the chicken wire around the posts and fasten with tacks. Any leaves that you have in your garden can be raked up and put straight into this cage and left to rot down. The best leaves to use are non-waxy or evergreen leaves, for example holly or conifer, as these don’t readily break down.
Once your leaf mould is complete, which can take anywhere from 9 to 18 months, there are several ways which you can use it. You can apply it around your plants as a mulch which will help with moisture retention or dig it in to a new bed or border. You can even add it to your compost heap to make it even better.
With the dark nights comes the drop in temperatures and there is a real risk of frost damage to your beloved tender plants. If you want to keep them over winter then you’ll have to offer them some protection.
If your plants are borderline hardy then they might be fine with a bit of fleece to cover them with. This increase the temperature by just enough to keep them perfectly safe. For everything else which is a bit more delicate, then you’ll have to bring them under the protection of a greenhouse . This not only keeps them warmer but also keep the wet away from their roots. This can cause rot so by stopping the damp as well as the frost you can protect your plants fully.
Although the end of the season is almost over outside, you can still grow crops in the greenhouse. We suggest planting in our greenhouse grow beds. These are perfect for indoor and outdoor use and various crops, such as tomatoes, can be grown in succession so you can have a harvest all year round, no matter what the weather. It’s easy too; simply add compost and the plant up. If there is a time when your grow bed is empty you can just fold it up and store it in your shed.
So what can you sow now at the end of October? It’s true that choice is limited this time of year but salad leaves can be planted indoors in containers over the colder months and harvested for delicious winter salads. There are a few varieties that will cope well with low light levels and temperature. For a real treat this winter sow the special October Sowing Seed Collection for superb winter salads and stir fries. It contains these delicious leaves:
Mizuna Kyoto – Quick growing and hardy. For salads and stir-fries
Rocket Voyager – A slow selection of wild rocket, with punchy flavour.
Spinach Amazon – Excellent for tender baby salad leaves
Oriental Mustard Mix- Five zingy varieties for stir fries and salads
Chervil - Unusual, parsley flavour, very rich in vitamins. Goes well with salads, chicken and white fish.
Once these have finished you can then replace them with the Low Temperature Seed Collection. We’ve trialled a wide range of veg seeds to bring you a ready-made collection of varieties that were very successful when sown in our Marshalls Greenhouse Gro-Beds in a cold (as low as 5°C) greenhouse in January. It contains:
Plants are dormant this time of year and can be planted anytime from now until March provided the ground is not too wet or frosty. Although plants are dormant underground they will be actively growing in the soil putting out new roots to give you a strong healthy plant in spring. Spring planting is the best time to establish your trees
There are trees to suit every garden including Apples, Pears, Cherries, Plums and more, growing your own fruit to eat straight from the plant is an experience second to none and you don’t need a huge garden. Fruit needs to be planted from autumn to early spring while dormant so now is the perfect time to begin growing them in your own garden. Raspberries, Strawberries, Blackberries, Gooseberries and Currants can all be planted now and they will grow happily in most soils given a sunny spot but a bit of preparation beforehand will reap dividends for your future crops.
Give your greenhouse glass a good clean to get rid of algae etc allowing more light to be available especially if you are over-wintering frost tender plants. Citrox is a powerful concentrated organic disinfectant for cleaning greenhouses, pots, staging, tools and seed trays. It doesn’t harm plant material in any way so may also be used to disinfect water for washing cuttings, bulbs and corms. It is pleasant smelling, safe and effective andwill eliminate any fungal or bacterial spores that may be lurking in those cracks and corners. Citrox is also an effective cleaner for pond accessories and can be used to clean bird tables, feeders and bird baths. It can also be added to water butts to keep water sweet and free from disease.
Tidy up your plot remove all yellow and dead leaves from over-wintering brassicas and lightly fork over adding plenty of home-made compost, Organic Extra or leaf mould to rot down over winter encouraging worm activity to help aerate your soil. Empty and tidy the greenhouse, removing any old dirty pots and clear up any lingering bits of rubbish and old compost as all these can harbour pests and diseases which will be ready to pounce on your precious plants as soon as the weather warms up in the spring.
Autumn is a good time to plant hedging and shrubs while they are dormant. Hedges within gardens create a softer, more wildlife friendly boundary and can provide a great seasonal display of flowers, berries and autumn colour. Even a small hedge can create your own little wildlife habitat. They can be close clipped or left a bit wilder, a mix of native varieties will give different periods of interest and a good nesting and winter food source for birds. Whether you want a formal hedge such as Buxus, Privet or Copper Beech or wildlife friendly Hawthorn, Blackthorn or Hornbeam they all benefit from an autumn planting and look so much better than a wooden fence!
If your bare root hedging or indeed any bare root plant arrives during a period of bad weather they can be stored for up to a week in a shady, frost-free place such as an unheated shed or garage but do check to make sure there is some moisture at the roots as they mustn’t dry out. If you can’t plant them immediately try ‘heeling them in’ this simply means placing the plants in a trench in a corner of the garden with the plant at an angle so that the main stem is above the trench and the roots in the bottom and covered with soil. Placing the plant at an angle and close to the ground gives more protection from wind and cold, keeps the roots moist and will help maintain dormancy, they can be safely stored in this way for a few weeks until the weather improves.
There is still enough time to sow and plant Broad Beans, Peas and Garlic. It’s been really mild lately and this bodes well for all of these veg. So take advantage of to good weather whilst it still lasts.
Broad Beans ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ and Pea ‘Douce Provence’ are both tough enough to come through the winter. ‘De Monica’ can also be sown in autumn, however, if you live in a very cold area or have trouble with mice, sowing your broad beans and peas in pots in a cool greenhouse, can give a more reliable germination. Sow one seed per 7cm (3in) pot or in Rootrainers filled with multipurpose compost. Water in and keep in a cool but frost-free place. Do not grow in a heated greenhouse as they need cool conditions and will fail to germinate if it is too warm.
For the best Garlic a long growing season and a good cold period is needed for the cloves to develop properly, so there is still plenty of time to order your Autumn Planting Garlic Bulbs. If you don’t have space in your veg plot just yet there is also a very good selection of Garlic for planting in early spring. If your harvested onions are nicely dry store them in onion nets to allow good airflow and keep them dry. Or you can plait them by the stems and hang them strung together in a cool airy place.