Richard's top tips for November

  • Week 1

    Stop the rot. Check your shed is watertight before the winter rain really starts. Any leaks in the roof can be repaired with roofing felt.

    Don’t kill your houseplants with kindness! Yukkas, weeping figs and other green plants hate being over-watered in winter. I water mine just once every fortnight. Flowering plants like cyclamen need to be watered more often, every three to four days.

    Tulip time. November’s the ideal time to plant tulips. Most other bulbs prefer to be in by now, but if tulips are planted any earlier than now, their shoots can get damaged by cold weather and fungal diseases.

    Tool tidy. Garden tools last longer if looked after. Before putting any of them away for winter, scrape the soil off and wash away any residue. Wipe metal surfaces with an oily rag.

  • Week 2

    Berry Christmas. Growing berried holly for xmas decorations? Net it over to keep the birds off, or cut it now and put in a bucket of water in a shed or garage.

    Bean feast. Sow broad beans for the earliest crops next June. For best results, plant in well drained soil in a warm, sheltered spot.

    Leaf rot. Don’t waste those falling leaves. Put them in a black bin bag, mix in a handful of grass clippings, make a few holes in the bottom of the bag, then forget about it for 12 months. Next autumn, the leaves will have rotted down to make a wonderful compost which is great for planting and for enriching the soil.

    Windowsill herbs. Dig up little clumps of chives, parsley and mint from the garden and pot them up. Place them on the kitchen windowsill, they’ll soon start growing and you’ll be able to harvest them over winter.


  • Week 3

    Don’t slip up this winter. Make patios, paths and steps safer. Give them a good scrubbing with warm water plus a bit of washing up liquid to remove the moss and algae.

    Dig it. Try to dig the veg plot before Christmas so that the frost can break down any clumps to a fine tilth over winter.

    Service the mower. Get the mower serviced soon, before the rush starts after Christmas. If the weather’s mild, the grass will still grow, so you might need it back sooner than you think!

    Easy cuttings. Try the simple way to take cuttings of shrubs and roses. Dig a 20cm/8in trench, mix in a 5cm/2in layer of coarse grit at the base. Cut 35cm/14in long shoots from the shrub, trim off the tip, and place in the trench so the top 10cm/4in is above the ground. Fill in the trench, firm, then water. Each cutting should develop into a well rooted plant by next autumn.

    Pump action. If you’re not using your pond pump over winter, take it out, clean the filter and store it in the shed. Give the pond a tidy up, remove dead and dying leaves, and feed the fish if the weather is mild.

  • Week 4

    Gimme shelter. Put a cloche or clear plastic shelter over Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) plants to help them flower earlier – hopefully in time for Christmas. The best way to display the lovely pure white flowers is to float them in bowls of water.

    Perk up your houseplants. Houseplants hate the winter, especially in hot centrally heated rooms when the air gets very dry. Help them out by placing them on trays or saucers of gravel. Keep the gravel moist (but not waterlogged) and the humidity will perk up the plants as well as keep pests away.

    Leave it out. Rake up and compost fallen leaves on the flower borders. Left there, they’ll look a mess but worse they’ll also provide an ideal shelter for over-wintering slugs and snails.

    Tie backs. Check the ties and stakes on young trees, and make sure they are secure. Climbing plants may need tying back to prevent them getting damaged in winter gales.