Rushlake Green Village Leaf

Gardening Diary - November 2012

"If there's ice in November that will bear a duck, there'll be nothing after but sludge and muck."

The weather this month is rarely an incentive to gardening but the abandonment of the garden to its own devices during the dark months is a great mistake as there is as always much to be done, even during winter.

Autumn digging will have been started last month with the digging in of compost, manure and we hope shoddy too. This digging over should be carried on and completed this month, no need to break down the clods as rain and frost over the winter will render the diggings down to a good workable condition. In the established border deep digging will not be possible but a light forking between the shrubs will help to aerate the soil whilst digging in any leaves and annual weeds will increase the humus content of the soil. All good things.

This month is a good time to plant roses, fruit trees and ornamental deciduous trees and shrubs. It is surprising how much root they will make by Christmas if planted whilst there is still some warmth left in the soil. Firm staking is essential with any new planting and should never be an afterthought; moving roots are fatal to the prospects of newly planted trees and shrubs.

Autumn bonfires. For me one of the great joys of gardening; A still November morning, a thermos of sweet tea, a long pipe and an autumn bonfire is all a chap may reasonably ask for. Having established working or even friendly relations with our neighbours we should not feel guilty at spending a whole morning leaning on a rake musing at the flames. Aside from the idle enjoyment this is the only way to dispose of rose leaves infested with mildew or black spot, apple and pear leaves with scab, white fly on cabbage and Sprout leaves and blighted tomato and potato foliage. Putting such stuffs in the 'Green bin' will spread disease around the county through the bags of compost thus sold on, likewise putting it on our own compost heaps ensures disease next year. We are told that composting creates Methane, a green house gas twenty times as effective as the Carbon dioxide released by a bonfire.

The lawn may need some looking after at this time of year, easing any compaction is well worthwhile, I find a garden fork pushed in half way and jerked backwards will effectively loosen the top layers, the lawn should be worked over in this way every six to eight inches, this may seem onerous and could be a suitable job to delegate to any youths about the house or indeed any child deemed capable of hard labour. The collecting up of leaves continues apace, it is important to keep the bulk of them off the grass, especially sycamore and the larger leaves. Real afficionados of leaf mould will keep the mould of years constantly moving from one bin to the next and exclude Sycamore and other big shiny leaves, though I hold nothing back. However you make it, though low in nutrients, the resulting mixture is a good conditioner of the soil, very useful for us South Saxons plodding about in our Sussex clay.

Pruning of apples and pears should begin this month. Sadly we have not room enough here to go into all the methods of pruning but for those of us who are worried by the obscurities of pruning lore, first identify your tree and refer to a book before sallying forth, genned up and armed with the secateurs. One thing I learnt early on is that bush trees are frequently overpruned which results in jungles of new growth the following year but very little fruit, much better to cut back individual branches, either those dead, diseased or crossing than to cut back all the branches. Plums and cherries should not be pruned during the winter months because of the risk of silver leaf infection.

If the weather is just too vile for outdoors work we may retire to the shed to sharpen and grease the tools. The mower should have done its work for the year, I always like to see it serviced, oiled and safely in winter quarters by the beginning of Advent, this way we may ease the burden on the gentlemen who service mowers, averting the grumbling in Spring when the hordes descend, mowers in trunk for an immediate service.

Content kindly volunteered by Ross Atabey from Green & Great Gardens your local landscaping and garden specialists. For further advice contact Ross on 07941 315214 01435 812 153 or visit