Forest Garden

Advice for the gardener

Top Tips for November

An old weather lore saying for November

If the rain clouds look like smoke, the wise man dons his cloak

  • November can be a gloomy month with rain, fog and mists but with temperatures changing so rapidly, who knows for certain.  The wise gardener listens to the local weather forecast and plans accordingly
  • Finish off winter digging while the weather is dry and continue to tidy up the garden
  • Keep lawns and borders free from leaves once the fall begins
  • Compost as many of the leaves as possible, particularly if you have beech trees, using one of Forest’s versatile compost bins
  • Gales are a feature of November weather so check all plants, shrubs and trees that are staked and make sure they are tied in correctly to withstand the big blow
  • Check all garden fences to make sure they are sturdy and will withstand the winter battering.
  • Check the roofs of sheds and other outdoor buildings and secure any loose material that could blow off in a gale
  • Regularly check guttering to make certain they are clear of leaves. Blocked gutters will cause rain to overflow down walls and windows
  • Colder weather is definitely on the radar, where ever you live, make sure that all tender plants are under cover
  • Make sure that all terracotta containers being left outdoors are frost resistant and protected from high winds
  • Prune wisteria during this month.  Long, thin leads can be cut back and this will help encourage flowering in 2020
  • November is the time for the first harvesting of Brussels sprouts, leeks, kale, swedes and winter cabbage
  • In many areas it is time for the last lawn mow of the season.  It is also the perfect opportunity to get the machines serviced so they will be ready for action in the spring
  • Check the outlet taps on water butts to make sure they are not blocked by debris
  • Roll up hoses and store them in a frost-free location and if you have outdoor taps either turn off the water or, if that is not possible, protect them with cladding to keep the frost at bay
  • If you feed the birds in your garden it is important to continue throughout the colder months and ensure they have access to fresh water

An overview of November

The garden is getting ready for its winter rest and the same applies to the gardener.  There is always plenty to do but the urgency of spring and summer is on hold and you can enjoy the garden in November, the colours of the trees, the birds and, if it’s cold, the protection of the greenhouse.  It is often a wet month so do not finish off the digging if the soil is soaked.  The first winter gales and frosts are a realistic prospect in all but the most protected areas of the country.


If you are growing hyacinths or other bulbs for Christmas flowering, check their condition and make sure they are not waterlogged.  Towards the middle of the month move them into a lighter spot. Ensure other bulbs are planted before the end of the month.


If you have not already done so, cut back the old flowering stems and make sure the plants are free of fallen leaves as these can harbour disease.


These must be over wintered in a light but frost-free location and given hardly any water.  They must not become frosted so protect them with a good layer of horticultural fleece when the cold weather is forecast.


There are differing schools of thought on November pruning.  It is preferable to partially prune, taking out long and high standing shoots to prevent the root being loosened by the wind that will rock the plant.  The final pruning then takes place in the spring.  Remove all diseased leaves from beneath the roses and dispose of them – do not compost them.  New roses should be planted now in well prepared and humus rich soil.  Do not let them dry out in warmer weather.  


The planting of new trees should be completed before the end of the month and ensure they are well staked to prevent their roots being loosened by wind rock.  As with new roses, make sure they do not dry out in warmer weather but are not water-logged.  November is the month to prune more mature trees and remove low growing or unsightly branches.  The sap has stopped rising through the tree and the cuts will quickly heal over.

The Greenhouse

This is likely to become the winter refuge for plants such as pelargoniums and other tender species.  Providing it isn’t frosty, ensure the greenhouse remains ventilated to help reduce the risk of disease.  If the weather is warm, open the door and windows during the day to create a good air-flow – but remember to close them up at night. If you use greenhouse heaters, now is the time to check them and make sure they will work when needed.  


The fish become torpid as the temperature drops and they go off their feed.  November is the ideal time to cut back vegetation in and around the ponds. Also remember to clear leaves off any net covering.