27 Oct Gardening Jobs to do in October and November
October brings beautiful crisp blue skies framed by fiery coloured falling autumn leaves – the perfect backdrop for mid-autumn garden maintenance. The last of the cool sunny days are the ideal time to harvest your remaining crops and prepare your greenhouse for the colder months. As November arrives with windier and wetter weather, protecting your garden against the elements becomes the priority.
This article is divided into several sections:
- General garden maintenance jobs
- Protecting and planting flowers
- Harvesting, growing and storing autumn vegetables
- Preparing berries and fruit trees for cooler months
- Reflecting and forward-planning
Use the entire piece as your autumn garden companion or jump to the areas most relevant to you.
Garden Maintenance Jobs for October and November
Give Your Greenhouse an Autumn Clean
Greenhouses provide the perfect refuge for your more tender plants over winter, but it’s crucial to keep the area pest and fungi-free. With summer’s bounty well behind us, your greenhouse will probably have ample space come October. Make the most of the extra room to give your greenhouse a thorough clean. A horticultural disinfectant that is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral will help clear your greenhouse of any unwanted pest that may cause problems in future crops. A deep clean will also clear the glass of any grime and let more light in – essential over the darker winter months. For the same reason, take down any shading that you currently have in place.
When you begin to move plants inside, make sure not to undo all your hard work. Check your plants for pests such as aphids and remove any dead or decaying matter. Try to organise them with ample space and good ventilation. You can protect your plants further by insulating your greenhouse with bubble wrap inside the frame. Again, make sure to keep the space well-ventilated.
As the clocks go back and the dark nights set in, install solar lights in your greenhouse so you can continue working. The sun doesn’t need to dictate the time you spend outside: some warm clothing and a decent light can help you get your daily dose of fresh air.
Protect Your Plants from Frost
Plants that won’t withstand winter frosts unprotected should either be brought into the greenhouse or covered with a fleece or cloche. Protect cauliflowers that are producing florets over the winter by pulling their leaves over the top of them and tying the leaves in place with string. A cloche will similarly protect them from frost.
Outdoor containers should be moved into more sheltered areas and bubble wrapped to insulate against the cold. It’s also worth raising the containers onto pot feet to prevent them becoming waterlogged during the wetter months.
Make Your Own Leaf Mould
All of those falling autumn leaves create the ideal hiding place for pesky slugs and snails. Clean up your garden and make the most of this plentiful resource by creating your own leaf mould. It’s a straight-forward process that can require little more than a few bin liners. Leaf mould is your very own homegrown compost – it’s free! It’s packed with nutrients that your ordinary kitchen-scraps compost lacks and you can use it as a soil conditioner all year round.
Prevent Soil Compacting
With wetter weather, it is easy for your soil to become compacted as you gather the last of the season’s crop and bring things in to shelter. To avoid this, place planks down on your main access routes to spread out the impact, offering some protection from your footsteps.
Tie Down Delicate Flowers and Plant Out Hardy Winter Varieties
Once they have finished flowering, delicate climbing roses should be tied in to protect them from strong autumn winds. Whilst you’re tying them, clear away any fallen leaves that may harbour black spot. This fungus can stick around over winter and reappear in your spring blooms, so it’s best not to compost it.
A few hardier blooms can be sown even at this time of year. Sweet peas can be planted in a cold frame or your greenhouse for early spring flowers. Perennials including foxglove and lupin can also be started off in the greenhouse in November.
Spring bulbs can be planted directly outdoors right through October and November. Daffodils, tulips and alliums can all be started now to create a wonderful spring display. Wildflower seeds will similarly be ready by spring and encourage bees and butterflies.
Autumn Vegetables to Harvest
Beans and Peas
The last of your beans and peas will need harvesting now. As these plants release nitrogen into the soil, clearing the area couldn’t be easier. Simply cut the stem back and leave the roots to completely break down. Avoid planting them in the same spot over consecutive seasons. Instead, make the most of this area for nitrogen-loving plants such as green leafy vegetables and rhubarb.
Pick a new spot for next years’ peas and beans. You can prepare this now by digging trenches and filling them with nutrient-rich kitchen waste and manure.
Squash and Pumpkins
With Halloween fast approaching, harvest your pumpkins before the first frosts hit. If left outside, pumpkins and squashes can become mushy – hardly ideal for carving!
Unlike pumpkins, parsnips do well in the frost as the colder weather creates a sweeter flavour. Harvest them towards the end of November and you’ll be rewarded for waiting.
Autumn Vegetables to Grow
While it may be time to harvest the majority of what’s left in your garden, there are still a few vegetables that will continue growing in October and November.
When you harvest the last of your cabbages, cut them off at the root and make a shallow cut in the stem. This will encourage the last flush of smaller leaves to grow.
You can also now plant out your spring cabbages.
Hardy Leafy Greens
Leafy greens will continue to grow right through autumn and winter. Winter lettuces such as corn salad (lamb’s lettuce) can be grown and harvested all over autumn and winter.
Ripening and Storing Vegetables Indoors
You may still have green tomatoes and peppers yet to mature. To give them the best chance of ripening, bring them indoors and hang them upside down. It’s common to be left with some green tomatoes even at the end of an excellent growing season. Rather than let them go to waste you can make all sorts of green tomato sauces and chutneys, a perfect addition to your Christmas cheeseboard.
For vegetables that you are already storing, including potatoes, onions and garlic, check for any rotting material. The neck of garlic and onion bulbs is normally the first place to rot. Onion bags and hessian potato sacks will help your crop breathe while in storage.
Preparing Berries and Fruit Trees for the Cooler Months
Raspberries and Strawberries
Most berries require some work before the winter. For your raspberries, cut back this years’ fruited canes to make way for the younger, green canes that you will use next year. Protect these new canes from autumn and winter winds by tying them to fencing or support wires.
Clear away any straw from the base of your strawberry plants, this will provide better ventilation in the wet months. As with your raspberries, you also need to cut back old foliage to make room for new growth.
If you have apple trees, your fruit should be ready to harvest now. You can easily check by giving the fruit a gentle pull if it comes away easily, your crop is ready.
To avoid caterpillars causing problems in the spring, wrap grease bands around the trunks of the trees. This can be done on any of your fruit trees to stop overwintering pests. Grease bands will trap wingless winter moth females as they attempt to climb the trunk and lay their eggs in the branches. It is these eggs that will grow to become the caterpillars that will cause you trouble later on.
Once you have harvested all of your fruit, birds that you previously worked so hard to keep out can now be let in. Remove any netting so that birds can catch any pests that make it past your grease bands. We would also recommend putting out bird feeders and additional bird food. Birds are a gardener’s friend over winter, keeping out unwanted pests. Help them out by providing a little extra food during the sparser months.
Reflecting and Forward-Planning
Once your plants are dormant, now is the time to relocate them. When you have decided where your vegetable beds will be, spread fresh manure over the ground. This will rot down over the winter and give your crop a nutrient-rich soil next year.
Now that the flurry of summer activity is most definitely over, the cooler, quieter months are the perfect time for reflection and planning ahead. Between garden maintenance and autumn preparations, take some time to think about what worked and what didn’t this season. Jot down any ideas you have or seeds that you would like to buy ready for next season.