General Tasks

  • Finish planting spring bulbs.
  • Check bulbs for forcing.
  • Cut back chrysanthemums and bring into the green house, if necessary.
  • Protect choice alpine plants from wet conditions.
  • Cloche Christmas roses.
  • Protect tender plants from frost.
  • Cut back herbaceous plants.
  • Stop autumn-sown sweet peas.
  • Plant-out rooted cuttings of carnations and pinks on free draining soils.

The Flower Garden in Autumn

What to do in the flower garden in November

Composting should continue with all waste vegetation going onto the heap or into the garden recycle bin. All the hardy and half-hardy plants that are being pulled up now can be put on the compost heap.

Taking care of Dahlias

Except in the mildest areas of the UK, dahlias will have been killed back by the first really hard frost. Once this happens, cut them down to within about 15 cm (6 in) of the ground, label each plant clearly and carefully dig them up.

Lift the plants using a spade set back from the roots so as not to damage them. Shake off all the loose soil, turn the tubers upside-down and stand them in trays, in a frost-free area to dry out. This allows any water to run out of the stems so that it doesn't rot the tubers. When the stem is completely dry, gently clean away the soil and snip off any remaining fibrous roots. You can then dust the tubers with sulphur powder or other approved insecticide-fungicide mixture to protect against storage rots.

The tubers should now be stored in a dry and frost-free place until the spring. If you are in doubt about the right temperature, the tubers can be stored in boxes of dry compost or bark, or under a layer of straw. Inspect them occasionally during the winter to check on their condition.

Don't forget to lift, dry off and store any supports or stakes ready for next year.

planting tulip bulbs

Finish Planting Bedding Plants

Any remaining spring bedding displays must be planted at the beginning of November so they can establish themselves and attain a reasonable size before the winter. If you are interplanting the spring bedding with bulbs, these too should go in now; tulips can be planted last of all.

Frost Protection

Any plants still to be protected from frost should be protected right away. Quite severe frosts are likely from now on, so half-hardy and tender shrubs could be at risk. Tender shrubs (such as fuchsias) in tubs or pots can be brought in under cover for the winter. Climbers trained against walls and fences are best protected by placing straw or bracken over them, and tying this in place with twine for the duration of the winter. As soon as there are signs of growth next spring, remove this protection or the new shoots will develop far too quickly. Half-hardy herbaceous plants can best be protected by heaping crushed bark, straw or bracken over the crowns.

Preparing Indoor Bulbs

By the end of the month those bulbs that were planted in bowls or pots in September for flowering indoors at Christmas, or soon after, should be ready for bringing inside. The timing can be judged by the amount of top growth that they have made (there should be 2-3 cm (1 in) of shoot above the top of the bulb). Those grown in pots can then be potted-up into ornamental bowls, taking great care not to damage the roots.

Bring them indoors into very gentle heat at first, perhaps in an unused or unheated room. If the temperature is much higher, this will result in a lot of leaf and very little flower. After a couple of weeks, when they are growing well, they can be moved into a warmer place.

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Plants for November

Very few plants are in flower this month, those that are, are well worth growing:

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