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ByLiz Graney

Gardening Jobs for Late Autumn through to Early Winter

We are now half way through November – the leaves are falling and it’s getting colder and wetter. The nights are drawing in and you may be pushed for time in the garden or you may be looking for inspiration in the spare time that you do have in your gardem. As autumn turns to winter, your main jobs in the garden are mostly about protecting plants and structures from the colder, wetter and wilder weather to come in December through to March

There’s still some planting to do if you want to keep growing too!

Timely Tips

Ensure that insulate your outdoor containers from frosts, using hessian or bubble wrap held in place with garden twine. We have already started to see the first of the seasonal frosts in most areas. As the weather starts to get more wintry, your garden needs some protection:

    • Raise pots off the ground for the winter by using bricks or ‘pot feet’, to prevent waterlogging.
    • Encourage hungry birds into your garden by investing in bird baths and bird feeders. Our feathered friends will keep pest numbers down and bring joy on a bleak winter’s day.
    • Protect roses from windrock by pruning them by one-third to half their height. This will stop them swaying in strong wind and prevent roots coming loose in the soil.

In the flower garden

Remove fallen leaves from around the base of any rose bushes which suffered from blackspot or rust this summer, to reduce the chance of reinfection next year.Here are your main jobs to do in the flower garden this November:

    •  Continue to lift dahlia tubers, begonias and gladiolus corms to store dry over the winter months. Remove the dead foliage before storing.
    • Cut back the yellowing foliage of herbaceous perennials, and lift and divide overcrowded clumps to maintain their vigour.
    •  Cut a few stems of holly with berries for making Christmas garlands. It’s early, but now’s the time to do it, before the birds eat all the berries. Stand them in a bucket of water in a sheltered spot where birds can’t take them.

In the vegetable garden

Here’s what to do in the vegetable garden this month:

    • Lift parsnips after the first frosts, when their flavour will have sweetened.
    • Prepare a perennial vegetable bed which can be planted up with rhubarb crowns and asparagus crowns.
    • Prepare a bed for planting autumn garlic. Improve heavy soils with organic matter before planting.
    • Place a scaffold plank on the ground along the main access route into your plot to allow access without compacting the soil as you walk across it. This is especially useful on allotments.
    • Spread fresh manure across the surface of your vegetable beds to rot down over winter.
    • Build a raised bed to take the bending out of vegetable growing.
    • Stake top-heavy brassicas and draw up some soil around the base of stems to prevent wind from rocking the plant and causing damage to the roots.
    • Check stored onions and garlic and remove any rotting bulbs immediately. The neck of the bulb is usually the first area to rot. Try using onion bags to improve air flow.
    • Check stored potatoes and remove any that are rotting. Use hessian sacks to store your potatoes as this will allow the crop to breathe.

 

In the fruit garden

    • Divide mature clumps of rhubarb once they’re dormant.
    • Plant currant bushes while they’re dormant.
    • Plant raspberry canes now for a delicious home-grown crop.
    • Tidy up strawberry plants – cut off any dead leaves and remove runners.
    • Prune pear and apple trees anytime between now and February.
    • Don’t prune your plum trees now as they will be susceptible to the silver leaf fungus – wait until midsummer.
    • Apply grease bands to the trunks of fruit trees to prevent wingless female winter moths climbing the trunks and laying their eggs in the branches.
    • Remove the top netting from fruit cages as heavy snow in winter will make it sag.
    • Check fruits in storage and promptly remove any showing signs of disease or rotting.

Looking after your lawn

lawn care

    • Aerate your lawn now – there’s still time to do it before winter sets in. You can either use a lawn aerator or simply insert a garden fork at regular intervals and lean it back slightly to let air in.
    • Continue to clear fallen leaves off the lawn to keep it healthy.
    • Set your lawn mower to a higher cut-height for winter.
    • Edge your lawn. This is easy to do in the winter months once beds are clear. Lawn edging creates a neat and tidy appearance and makes maintenance easier throughout the year.

In the greenhouse

greenhouse jobs

    • Clean and maintain your greenhouse. Replace damaged glass and clean it thoroughly, washing the glass, floor and staging with horticultural disinfectant to kill any overwintering pests and diseases.
    • Protect greenhouse plants by insulating with sheets of bubble wrap attached to the inside of the frame, to reduce heat loss. Remember to ventilate, particularly after watering.
    • Install solar lights in the greenhouse so you can still get out there on dark winter evenings to check your plants.
    •  Be careful not to overwater plants as the winter approaches. Little and often is the key.

Other jobs about the garden

    • Protect greenhouse plants by insulating with sheets of bubble wrap attached to the inside of the frame, to reduce heat loss. Remember to ventilate, particularly after watering.
    • Reuse spent compost from annual container displays as a mulch on the garden.
    • Build a cold frame to protect young plants from extreme winter weather.
    • Sweep up debris and fallen leaves that harbour overwintering fungal spores and create hiding places for slugs and snails.
    • Lift and relocate plants when they are dormant
    • Create compost bins for collecting fallen leaves and dead plant material.
    • Collect leaves up for making leaf mould as a soil conditioner. Oak, alder and hornbeam will rot down in a year but beech, sycamore, horse chestnut and sweet chestnut will take a couple of years to compost.
    • Shred fallen leaves to help them rot down even more quickly. A quick way to do this is to gather leaves on to the lawn and mow them with a rotary mower that has a collection box.
    • Start preparing a bonfire with twigs and prunings – cover them with plastic so they remain dry for better burning later. Make sure you check for hedgehogs before lighting your bonfire.
    • Net ponds to prevent leaves falling into them. If you need to clear pond weed, lay it next to the pond for a day after removal, to allow wildlife to escape back to the water.
    • Clean out water butts and let the autumn rains refill them. Install a new waterbutt ready for next year.
    • Give dry soil one last good watering before the ground freezes.
    • Use the last of the dry weather to paint sheds and fences with preservative before the winter arrives.
    • • Give evergreen hedges a final trim before the bad weather sets in, so they look neat and tidy for the winter.

From the comfort and warmth of your indoors

    • Take stock of this year’s garden and make a few notes or sketches for next spring. Reflect on what grew well, what failed miserably, and what changes you will make next year. You will be surprised at how useful these notes can be when you start ordering seeds and plants for next year!
    • Take photos of where herbaceous plants are located before they die back so you don’t damage their roots during a winter dig.
    •  Place your orders online for fruit treesfruit bushes and perennial plants. These can be planted between now and springtime.

Remember Colin and Liz are also here to help and assist you with your gardening jobs all year round and are happy to advise, support and assist you. Please pop us a message on Facebook or through our contact page.

ByLiz Graney

Autumn Hedgehog Warning

Hedgehogs are a gardener’s friend, as they eat snails, slugs and insects.

Make a hedgehog a home

Leave areas of the garden ‘wild’, with piles of leaf litter and logs. These are an attractive nest as well as a home for the invertebrates (slugs, beetles) that hedgehogs like to eat. It can also sadly mean they also hid in bonfires and leaf piles where you may not notice them. Please make sure this time of year that you always check bonfires before lighting them and try not to disturb leaf or log piles unecessarily.

Making an artificial home can be as simple as placing a piece of board against a wall.

Feeding hedgehogs

Food and fresh water will encourage hedgehogs to return. Leave out foods like tinned dog or cat food (not fish-based) and crushed dog or cat biscuits. Specialist hedgehog food is also recommended and can be bought from wildlife food suppliers.

Never feed hedgehogs milk as it can cause diarrhoea; instead provide plain, fresh water in a shallow bowl.

Hedgehog-friendly gardening

  • Cover drains and holes and place bricks at the side of ponds to give hedgehogs an easy route out. Cover swimming pools overnight and when not in use.
  • Check for hedgehogs before using strimmers or mowers, particularly under hedges where animals may rest. Check compost heaps for nesting hogs before forking over.
  • Build bonfires as close to time of lighting as possible and check them thoroughly before lighting.
  • Remove sports or fruit netting when not in use to prevent hedgehogs becoming entangled, and getting injured.
  • Slug pellets can poison hedgehogs and should only be used as a last resort. Instead try using one of many “natural” alternatives, like sprinkling crushed eggshells or coffee grounds around the plants you need to protect. If you have to use pellets, place them under a slate which is inaccessible to hedgehogs.
  • Hedgehog gateways are now available and can be a great idea as a way to let hedgehogs enter and leave your gardens too. A small hole in your fence will always help with this.

Hedgehog hibernation

Hedgehog in the wild © Rob Scrivens RSPCA

Hedgehogs usually hibernate between November and mid March and animals must have enough fat reserves to survive hibernation. Making hedgehog homes in the garden and providing food will help hedgehogs.

Juvenile hedgehogs weighing less than 500 grams during late autumn will need help to survive the winter – download the RSPCA factsheet caring for autumn juvenile hedgehogs (PDF 416KB) for advice.

Find out what to do with an injured or sick hedgehog or an orphaned young hedgehog.

Did you know?

As many as 10 different hedgehogs may visit a garden over several nights, which could mean ‘your hedgehog’ is a number of different individuals visiting at different times.

ByLiz Graney

Some of Our Furry Friends

At Garden Elf we are believers that a garden should be enjoyed by all of the family and in many cases that includes furry friends as well. Many of our customers have dogs (of all shapes and sizes), cats, ponies and there is even a hawk at one of our gardening customers! With this in mind we always ensure that any gardening products we use are animal and child friendly (as many customers also have children or grandchildren).

Colin with Daisy the Terrier

We are also well used to, prepared and experienced in rescuing gardens from our furry friends activities and adventures. Only this weekend one of our regular doggy friends took it upon himself to remove some newly planted rose bushes so Colin was at hand to rescue them and replant them. We are used to chickens following us around and on occasion have even provided chicken sitting services to a handful of customers.

Spotty Chicken

If you are like us our animals are part of the family and we are used to ensuring that they are completely safe at all times. We are also used to them ‘helping’ us at various times. At several of our customers the dogs are just as pleased to see us as their owners and shadow Colin the entire time he is there.

 

ByLiz Graney

Wildlife Gardening

In our rural location wildlife is a natural part of every garden from birds and their feeders to insects, newts, toads or hedgehogs. It is our responsibility to ensure our gardens are not only beautiful and safe for us but also wildlife friendly providing a safe haven, potentially food for birds and insects (especially bees which are essential to our world) and an opportunity to see wildlife in our gardens and from windows in our own homes.

Labybird on Flower

Colin and his occasional assistant Isabella (our daughter) loves seeing all the toads in ponds, lakes and streams. they have even been known at certain times of the year to save hundreds from various swimming pools! Hedgehogs are not as common as they used to be but with a little careful planning in your garden they can find a haven and become an asset to your garden whether its small or large!

Sweetpea Flower

We all know the importance of bees and also sadly their declining numbers in recent years. Setting aside a small area of your garden to wild flowers or carefully selecting certain varieties of flowers in your boarders will attract bees and provide food for them but also attract other garden friendly insects like butterflies.

 

ByLiz Graney

It’s Getting Cold Out There!

Wow its October already and that means darker evenings, darker mornings, falling leaves and if course the start of those frosty nights! If your garden is town based you may be lucky and get away without a frost for slightly longer but if on the other hand you are rural based you may have already experienced some light frosts! I know we have personally had to defrost our cars at 6am several times already in the morning before going off to the stables to do our horses.

Icey Plant

 

So thinking about the changing seasons, lower temperatures and of course in particular frosts what does that mean for your garden?

  1. Make sure tender plants are covered up
  2. If pots aren’t frost prove then put them away
  3. Always keep a little rock salt in to ensure pathways are safe
  4. Think about protecting the roots of more stable plants if frosts are particularly hard
  5. Put your garden furniture away or cover it
ByLiz Graney

Garden Elf’s Garden Year – December

One question we often get asked is what can you do in the garden at this time of year! We are still being kept busy being asked to provide quotes for various jobs around the garden and there are always tasks you can be getting on with in your greenhouse too! With such short days its a real struggle for many people to get anything especially outside with the cold, wet and darkness, but being positive there are a lot of little jobs that you can fit in.

Robin on Post

What to do this month?

  1. Prune apple and pear trees while they’re dormant
  2. Stake newly planted trees firmly so they survive winter gales
  3. Stand pots on feet so plants don’t sit in wet compost
  4. Plant, or transplant deciduous shrubs and hedging
  5. Ensure any outside plants are protected from unpredictable frosts
  6. Have a really good clear out of your greenhouse and or shed
  7. Make sure all your bird feeders are full and topped up along with fresh water

Recently we have been meeting with our customers to discuss various garden projects which can be done this time of year too –

  1. Building a waterfall into a new pond
  2. Trimming a hedge back