Tidy up time!

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It’s November, and this month’s jobs are almost all about the final clear-up for winter – with a little planning ahead, says gardener Pete Harcom

It’s time to finish the winter preparations! There are still a few more jobs to get done in the garden this month – before the Christmas rush!
It might be November, but we can still get some good dry days to finish up outside before the harshest of the winter weather.

Your jobs list
Clear any faded and dying annual climbers such as sweet peas from their supports.
When clearing up flower beds, do try to keep off the soil if it’s wet to avoid compacting it – use wooden boards to spread your weight.
Clear up fallen leaves and put them in plastic bags or in a heap to rot down as leaf mould (which may take a year or so). This can then be used as a mulch.
Cover and protect agapanthus plants with mulch or garden compost. Straw can also be used for protecting half-hardy plants. Alpines planted in the garden can have a gravel mulch, or, if they are in containers, they will benefit from covering with straw (or simply bring them into the cold greenhouse for the winter).

Watch the compost
Keep on top of the compost heap by turning it regularly. Keep it moist and mixed well with shredded paper – if the heap gets heated well, nettles and some weeds can be composted.
Do not compost any of the ‘difficult’ weeds such as bindweed, ground elder or dock.

Leave the heads
It is a good idea to leave your plants with attractive seed heads – like rudbeckia, sea holly (eryngium), teasels, love-in-the-mist and any ornamental grasses – as these will provide valuable food for birds in the winter months (and can also be used for indoor flower arrangements!). Just cut down the old seed heads in spring, when the new growth appears.

Bulb it
There is still time to plant your spring bulbs and bare rooted trees and shrubs before the colder weather. Don’t panic if you haven’t got round to it yet!

Autumn show-offs
Japanese maples, or acers, are particularly spectacular at this time of year with their rich autumn colours. They can be planted in the ground or in pots this month and will benefit from sheltered semi-shady spots in the garden.

Sowing seeds
This is a nice job to do at this time of year. Just a few of those I strongly suggest sowing this month are sweet peas, ajuga reptans (really good for ground cover), cornflowers, astrantias, corydalis solida and allium sphaerocephalon.
Eryngium (sea holly) is particularly attractive and can be sown now in a cold greenhouse. The seeds can take a while to germinate, but they are worth it – and bees love them.

Lastly …
After all that is done, take a break and browse through your seed and garden catalogues – you need to start making a plan for next year!

Sponsored by Thorngrove Garden Centre

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