Garden tasks in November

Follow this need-to-know guide, put together by RHS Wisley Plant Centre's horticultural experts, of tasks to keep your garden up to speed this month
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November is the best month to plant tulips to reduce the risk of fungal disease
This monthly guide is geared to London gardens and their unique conditions - such as our urban microclimate - and limitations, including lack of time.

Need to do in your garden this month

* It’s the great Autumn tidy up! Rake up leaves from the lawn and borders. You can stack them in a corner or bag them to make leaf mould - this makes an excellent soil improver, and can also be used for seed-sowing.

* Raise garden containers onto pot feet to prevent damaging water-logging. Large tubs that are at risk of cracking in the frost should be covered with bubble wrap, hessian or fleece to insulate them over the winter.

* November is the best month to plant tulips to reduce the risk of fungal disease. Try the short Tulipa ‘Red Riding Hood’ in a container or window box and Tulipa ‘Spring Green’ for that classy, understated look in the border. To deter the squirrels put a layer of chicken wire over the planted area and cover with gravel for a nicer look.

Autumn leaves
Rake up leaves and bag them up to make leaf mould - an excellent way to improve your soil
* Put out food and water for the birds to help them through the winter.

* Remember that house plants need less water and feed now that the days are shorter. Don’t feed garden plants this late in the season, as they are no longer growing and the nutrients may be washed into rivers and streams by winter rain.

* Continue to cut down faded stems on herbaceous perennials like Rudbeckia and Shasta daisies and add these to the compost heap if you have one.

* Wet September and October weather will have made many clay soils unworkable until spring. In these cases apply a mulch of organic matter to improve and maintain the structure of the soil, or compost from old growing bags will do nicely.

* Prepare for winter by protecting your plants from the cold weather. Wrap half-hardy palms, ginger lilies and cannas in fleece and straw if they grow in sheltered positions. Alternatively lift the plants, pot or crate them up and bring into a frost-free location (e.g. greenhouse or conservatory) to plant outdoors again next season.

* Please check piles of debris before starting your bonfire to ensure a hedgehog hasn't set up home within.

* Prevent winter moth damage to your fruit trees in spring by intercepting the female caterpillar now so she doesn’t lay her eggs. Garden centres stock ready-prepared strips for tying around the trunk, or grease which you can apply straight on to the bark.

Viola Velour
© RHS Herbarium
Now is the last chance to plant out winter bedding, such as this purple and white Viola Velour (winter pansies)

Nice to do in your garden this month

* Now is the last chance to plant out winter bedding. You could try wallflowers, forget-me-nots, Bellis, Primula, Viola (winter pansies) and other spring bedding plants. Or how about heathers and trailing ivy for winter colour? Plant them into well-prepared ground or pots of suitable compost.

* Lily bulbs can still be planted in pots this month. They can either be brought inside next spring to ‘force’ them into an early display, or left outside to flower naturally in summer.

* Hellebores rarely flower naturally by Christmas, despite their common name of Christmas rose. They can be encouraged to flower a little earlier, if you want, by covering them with cloches or potting them up and placing them on a window sill inside the house.

* Plan ahead! Order mail order seed catalogues for next year’s bedding and perennials and start preparing your planting list. Or put some suggestions on paper for Father Christmas to give you!

* Pot up leafy herbs to put on a window sill so you still have fresh herbs for use in the winter kitchen.

* There’s still plenty of fabulous autumn colour about. If you don’t see any from your window, nip out and buy a shrub for your garden. Try Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’, Nandina domestica ‘Firepower’ or Cornus alba ‘Sibirica Variegata’.

* If your garden lacks scent you may wish to plant a rose. There are hundreds to choose from at this time of year. The yellow Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’, pink Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and Rosa ‘Alec’s Red are good selections for fragrance. Place where you’ll be able to smell the heady perfume.

* Plant centres are glittering with gorgeous Christmas decorations to suit every taste and purse; every tree, door and mantelpiece. Choose a single item or a whole new selection this year and get excited about Christmas!

All images provided courtesy of the Royal Horticultural Society. Visit the online print shop at

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