Jobs for the garden in November and December

We always think of November, and to some extent, December, as being the months for tidying up the garden and getting it ready for the worst of the winter ravages. And for those whose lawns are surrounded by trees, the process of clearing leaves can indeed seem to be an unending one.

But there are plenty of other tasks that can be done when the weather is mild. We’ve split our list up into three sections, so you can take your pick!

Clear up time | Preparing plants for winter | Plant & divide

Clear up time

  • Remove leaves, from lawns and ponds in particular. Ideally clear the leaves at least once a week (more often if possible) – leaves smother the lawn and prevent it from ‘breathing’ properly. If you have a compost bin, add this year’s leaf fall to it and then turn the pile over to encourage the breakdown process, leaf mulch is great to put down as a winter covering for bare soil. When you have finished clearing the leaves, autumn lawn feed can still be applied where appropriate.
  • Cut down herbaceous perennials and remove the dead top growth.  Do remember though that some perennials are best left until early spring (Penstemon and Verbena bonariensis for example). With these, we suggest part pruning the plants to tidy and prevent wind rock, and then pruning them harder around March when you can see new growth starting nearer the base of the plant.
  • December is a particularly good month for pruning overgrown apple and pear trees and, dependant on the species, some large shrubs. Consider creating some deadwood stacks for wildlife with the pruned branches in a secluded corner of the garden.

Preparing plants for winter

  • Some plants will benefit from a little bit of winter protection in cold areas – a straw mulch is usually a good choice.  Agapanthus and Zantedeschia (Arum Lilies) for example both like to be kept protected during cold weather.
  • Containers on patios can get waterlogged in wet winter weather.  Consider raising them on feet or something similar if they are currently sitting directly on the patio surface.
  • Check tree stakes and ties, and other plant support systems.

Plant & divide

  • November through to March is the best time to attempt to move established plants.  It is also the best time to lift and divide many perennials. If you are after some change in your garden, now is the perfect time of year to rethink the planting scheme in your garden.
  • It is the start of bare root season – many varieties of trees and hedging are available to buy as bare root plants, and this is often the most cost-effective way of planting large areas of hedge and common garden trees. Bare root plants are lifted straight from growing field and should be planted as quickly as possible to avoid the roots drying out. Planting in this way has a high success rate of establishing, as the weather conditions are often mild this time of year, the plant is in its dormant stage and a large surface area of roots will be in contact with the soil.
  • Now is also a great time to plant roses. Other plants can also be planted when the weather is mild enough, but we like to avoid planting some hot, dry weather loving plants (Lavender and Hebes for example) from December onwards, as their new young roots don’t really appreciate starting life in a cold, soggy garden.
  • It is also your last chance to plant spring bulbs (don’t hang around though; December will already be too late for some).  If you have any spare bulbs, why not pop them into a pot on the patio and then plant them out in the spring after they have flowered.
  • And finally… don’t forget to plant up a few pots on the patio for a splash of colour on those dreary winter days.

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