What not to do in your garden in November

by AnneWareham on November 5, 2012

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A new feature for the lazy gardener. This month a response to the (rather desperate, it seems to me) Mirror.


Apply a bulky organic mulch around the base of trees, shrubs and climbers to keep weeds down and the root area moist should conditions dry out again.

Noooo…. Never put any sort of mulch too close to the base and trunks of trees or shrubs. Want to rot the things??? Get and spread mulch, hooray – the lazy gardener’s friend is mulch – and spread it everywhere else, for sure, but never near the bark of woody things.

And why would you be mulching in the cold and/or wet of November for pity’s sake? Any old time will do to mulch, in spite of a lot of nonsense talked about it.

Fill in gaps in flower borders with small, pot-grown herbaceous perennials. They aren’t expensive at this time of year and if planted now will make an impact in spring.

Don’t do this if you live in the West or Wales: they will almost certainly rot off and waste your time and money.

Regularly brush off toadstools as they appear and before the caps open out fully. This will help to reduce their spread.

Err… off what?? The toads?? What on earth is wrong with toadstools?

Cover outdoor furniture or, if you have space, move it into a sheltered spot to reduce the amount of damage over the next few months.

If you’re daft enough to have outdoor furniture that can’t live outside a sheltered spot won’t help. Rot is the problem again and shelter doesn’t mean dry in this climate…

Fit spiral rabbit guards to protect trunks and stems – rabbits are likely to become a problem in many areas now that temperatures are falling.

If you have rabbits and didn’t do this when you planted the things (whatever they are) you might as well go and dig them up. They’ll already be chomped. Rabbits like to sample the new things you put out for them.

Lift and divide overcrowded clumps of herbaceous perennials. Discard the tired-looking central sections and replant the more vigorous outer portions.

In 25 years I have never done this and my poor so say weary perennials seem quite happy undugup and undivided.

So if not all that, what? Go indoors, light the fire and find a good book to read. November is time off.

Cotoneaster berries, Veddw, copyright Anne Wareham

Sigh.. then some more! Courtesy of Sue Beesley 

She says: rake leaves off lawn

If you are really stuck for something to do. Otherwise wait for the wind to blow them on to the beds where they will be useful mulch, or if you must, mow them up and dump mowings on to said beds for same reason. (Note to Gardener’s World followers – forget leaf mould and bin bags, put leaves straight on to your beds and borders. (no – not that bed, the one outside)

plant bulbs

Far too late for anything but tulips and I wouldn’t stick those in the garden, it being a lot of work for annuals. Tulips in pots are nice and you can do the potting in the warm indoors somewhere.

keep on top of weeds, 

Put piles of leaves on top of them and hope they’ll rot.

mow if need be

See leaves, above..

bring in tender plants if you must have them

Err.. in – where???

Plant bare root trees/shrubs soonish

Avoid buying bare root plants. I’ve never had much joy of them and plants in pots can stay in the pots for a good while if you can’t face the great outdoors. Plants in pots don’t ever need heeling in!

But mostly, dig out and burn/compost anything you really don’t like any more. #toptip

Leave your spade hanging up and try a little squirt of Roundup in the spring, when the sun shines and you’d like a lazy wander round the garden shooting things, weeds or boring plants you’re fed up with.

Back to the fire and the book…… (try this one? The Bad Tempered Gardener)

XXXXXXX Anne Wareham

Grasses at Veddw. Copyright Anne Wareham

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Gary Doherty November 5, 2012 at 7:17 pm

i would prefer to face the whole Wales XV alone on a Saturday night in Cardiff wearing an English rugby top shouting,”come on boyos give it your best shot” than criticise anything you’ve wrote : ) do agree,though some of us do like to potter about in November (hobby).Turning all media off and hiding behind the settee

AnneWareham November 5, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Well, as long as it stays at pottering. And isn’t at all useful or strenuous…..

Lynnette November 6, 2012 at 9:31 am

Brilliant. I’ve always left leaves, and miraculously they’re not there in the spring… they must rot down in the borders, as I’m pretty sure they don’t go up over the fence 🙂

AnneWareham November 6, 2012 at 9:35 am

Thanks! Well. leaves will tend to blow off flat, uninterrupted surfaces. And in borders I understand worms take them into the soil, to the benefit of both. Though what a worm does with a leaf underground I have NO idea….

Janet Page November 6, 2012 at 9:43 am

Hurrah – tips for lazy gardeners – you’re my new best friend. Thank you.
Now all I need to do is find a blog that champions lazy housework…

AnneWareham November 6, 2012 at 9:48 am
Lucy Dawson November 6, 2012 at 11:07 am

Agree with everything you’ve said. Have never understood why people go to the bother of ‘making’ leaf mould when it makes itself perfectly well every year. Also puzzled by people chopping down top growth of perennials and carting it off to the compost bin, then carting it back next year. I just leave my ‘choppings’ on the bare beds and let nature do the work. Looks a bit messy for a couple of weeks but there’s no evidence of it by spring. Sometimes I don’t even bother to chop it down – I let it rot down exactly where it is. Boy, am I lazy* (*not stupid).

AnneWareham November 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Exactly. Like the lazy not stupid!

Margaret (@maogden) November 6, 2012 at 11:10 am

This is great! I’m terrible for making jobs lists and creating more work for myself. I do slow down on the gardening from November though. I sweep leaves from paths and the drive because they get slippy. I find that those on the lawn eventually move themsleves onto the borders and those on the borders get left. I do like to make leaf compost though. Now I’ll just go and cross a few jobs off that list……

AnneWareham November 6, 2012 at 4:41 pm

O, I’ll keep at this and see if I can save you some more work later on..However, keep it to yourself, but there may be one or maybe two things we really need to do. I think.

John November 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I just blow the leaves into a sheltered corner behind the pond where the resulting big pile becomes winter home to a couple of hedgehogs and usually a few frogs. These then wake up early in the spring and get a head start on devouring the slugs.

I don’t mulch! Instructions say plant something at a certain depth. Adding 2 inches of mulch on top of the soil means that plant’s 2 inches deeper than it should be.

AnneWareham November 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm

You have good puff, being able to blow leaves around like that.

Thank you for wiseing me up to confusing plants about how deep they are.I have very sophisticated plants which get their rulers out and then rearrange themselves at a suitable depth.I find even bulbs seem to have this trick at Veddw.. XXXX

Maggie Biss November 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Re Sue’s ‘Far too late for anything but tulips’.. totally disagree.
I plant lazily ‘forgotten’ daffs and alliums and other bulbs, bought in a fit of misguided enthusiam in late summer, right into January when the poor little bulbs are practically climbing out of their bags screaming for mercy and they still flower, a bit later maybe.

AnneWareham November 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm

I’ve heard that about planting bulbs early over and over again (it was me who queried late planting.) And I have had daffodils come up in the meadow decapitated when I’ve mowed in October – so they are growing then (weird – I don’t cut very low but this is true!) But I, too, have also planted late with success. And glad to hear you have too. Come next September I’ll be saying ‘don’t bother planting your bulbs, you got loads of time yet!'(I have also planted tulips in pots after Christmas and they still came up earlier than I really wanted)

Thanks Maggie!

EcoGrrl November 13, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Agree with everything except the “little squirt of Roundup” which is a massively toxic substance that contaminates groundwater and poisons life around it. If you don’t like a plant, dig it up but don’t spray toxic chemicals!

Side note – you can put mulch around your woody plants but you need to leave space around the trunks – I do this around my trees and roses and leave a few inches around them so they do have the air they need. Works wonderfully.

AnneWareham November 13, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Yes, of course…

john lord November 5, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Roundup is one of the least toxic garden chemicals there ever was. It is biodegradable, with a half life of approx 140 days. The organic brigade have a chip on their shoulders about it because of its unrivaled success.
Funnily enough, they also argue against themselves when then use roundup resistance in weeds, ( ‘super weeds’) in some GMO crops as one reason to ban GMOs. Should they not be happy if roundup was loosing its edge?

AnneWareham November 6, 2013 at 11:07 am

(It’s a religion…)

Annoné Butler November 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I loved this – thanks. Made me feel much better about being a fair weather gardener. Never again will I divide a herbaceous perennial!

AnneWareham November 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Good – what a nasty job that must be in miserable, soggy November….Bet them writers aren’t doing that either.

Peggy Paris January 22, 2013 at 8:38 am

Great post! Hopefully the inspiration sticks!

AnneWareham January 22, 2013 at 9:51 am

Thanks! I shall do my best to see it does…

Paul Steer November 9, 2015 at 11:07 pm

We are a band of sisters and brothers – vive lazy gardening!