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November 2016 Newsletter

We’ve seen a mixed autumn so far with a few chilly nights and had days when we can get out into the garden even at this late time of year. But clocks are going back this weekend and the evenings are dark sooner and there becomes less opportunity to get out to the garden.

Take advantage of dry days or weekends to get some gardening done; there are still a fair number of jobs you can carry out in November. If the weather does turn, come indoors and plan for the garden next year. Order seeds, plants and shrubs online or from the Unwins online catalogue to come up with fresh displays in your garden, or fill in any gaps that you’ve noticed in the garden this year.

More importantly enjoy those fiery autumn colours from the trees as they contrast with late-season perennials. Whether admiring from indoors or outdoors, it’s a gorgeous time of year. Relish it!

Happy gardening!  

Leanne Swift 

Jobs to do in November

Clear spent annuals and cut back perennials

(If the weather hasn’t become frosty) Your annuals may still be flowering freely – and will do so until we experience the first touch of frost. However they may start looking a bit tired so now is a good time to clear them away and replace them.

Lift and clear annuals now ready to plant autumn and winter bedding. Annuals can be chopped up and added to your compost bin or green-waste bin.

If you noticed that any of your annuals did not grow well or suddenly withered, take a look in the soil and see if you can spot vine weevil larvae. They are white and maggot-like and they eat the roots of plants causing stems to collapse. If you’ve noticed these in containers, dispose of the soil and replace with fresh soil or compost. If you’ve spotted them in the soil of your flower beds apply a biological control like a vine weevil nematode when the weather becomes warm again in spring.


Tend to the pond – winter preparation

Now’s a good time to prepare the garden pond for over the winter. There are a number of tasks to complete now so you can rest assured the pond will be in the best-shape for the coming months.

Clear leaves from the top of your pond and add to your organic waste or green bin. Netting is helpful for catching the falling leaves over autumn. It also keeps opportunistic animals like cats and herons away from your fish.

Lift and bring in some of your tender pond plants. Calla lily Zantedeschia can be cut back and covered with a warming layer of straw or bracken.

Cut back some of the marginal perennials if they have spread out of their allotted space. Perennial marginal plants like aquatic mint and monkey flower can be cut back hard.


Autumn lawn care

Get out into your garden on a crisp but dry November day to tend to your lawn for great results next year. After leaf-clearing and mowing there’s three additional jobs you can do with your lawn now that will put it in great stead over the winter and well into next year.

Just choose a pleasant day, and firstly sweep the leaves that have recently fallen. While the weather is still warm mow the lawn on a low cut if your mower has adjustable blades.

Scarify – This is to remove all the dead grass and other material in the lawn. Over time this material (thatch) builds up and creates an ideal environment for grass diseases to come about. Removing the excess thatch keeps the lawn grass healthy and well-aerated. You can get this thatch up using a rake.

Aerate – Get some air to the grass roots and relieve some of the compaction that causes moss to come about in the lawn. Just get a garden fork and pierce into the lawn at regular intervals.

Top dress – Brush lawn sand into the holes you’ve created from forking the lawn. Lawn sand has a number of beneficial traits. It encourages faster and better roots to form, improves the drainage of lawns – good in particularly wet areas, and lessens the growth of moss with this new improved root environment.

Your lawn may look a little worse for now but this healthy treatment at this time of year means your lawn looks tidy over winter and lush from spring next year.


Lift dahlia bulbs and store

Dahlias produce lovely flowers year after year. They produce lots of underground bulb-like tubers that produce plants year after year with flowers identical to those they put up in previous years.

Depending on the harshness of the winter, tubers will either survive or succumb if left in the soil. Give yourself peace of mind and lift the tubers just in case it’s going to be a cold winter.

Cut down the stems of dahlia plants to about 15cm (6 in). And prise up the roots with a garden fork as you would digging up potatoes.

Clean off excess soil from the bulbous tubers so they are free of soil and dry. Trim off any off the fine roots attached to the tubers.

Place the trimmed stems with the cleaned tubers in open trays or shallow wooden boxes and pack the trays with compost or dry sand so the tubers are covered but the stems are exposed. Store over winter in a dry cool frost-free place like a garage or shed or frost-free greenhouse.

Cover the trays or boxes with a sheet when hard frosts are predicted. Remove the sheet though by day so that adequate air can get to the stems.

Throughout winter inspect the tubers for mould or rot discarding any that are not at their best.


Divide summer flowering perennials

If you’ve been particularly impressed with your perennials this year, it’s a good idea to lift them now and separate the roots into smaller clumps. You can do this with ornamental grasses too.

Fork around the base of your perennial plants and prize up the large root ball. Place the clump on a large sheet you can work on. Chop the large clump into smaller sections. Sometimes the clumps have tough roots and you may need to prize sections apart using two garden forks back to back.

You can then place some of these smaller clumps in barer areas of your garden and increase your stock of your favourite plants. They’ll then bulk up as they come back year after year.


Sort seeds into sowing time order and get equipped for perfect seed sowing

If you’ve found that you have a collection of seeds that you’ve either not got around to sowing or have not had the space to sow this year, it’s a good rainy-day job to sort these packets out into sowing-time order for the upcoming year.

Check the ‘best-before’ dates too and discard any that are over. Germination success rates decrease over time so by checking best-before dates now you’ll save yourself any disappointment later on.

Supplement your collection of seeds with new and exciting varieties - which you can order now and plan for some great displays next year.

If you want the all the equipment you need for sowing seeds all in one place why not get your hands on one of our flower seed kits – be it attractive annuals or perfect-performing perennials, we’ve got great starter kits for you grow your own flowers. Perennial flower seed kits and Bedding plant flower seed kits also make great Christmas gifts for budding gardeners.


Plant up winter pots and baskets

Half fill baskets and containers with multi-purpose/ container compost, massaging out any large clumps. Place your plug plants gently into position.

Avoid pulling at stems – these are very fragile at plug plant / young plant stage. Instead hold at the leaves and the root balls.

Add compost into the gaps around the roots ball, firming the soil gently. Water well after planting and water afterwards depending on the temperature and wetness of the weather.


Tree planting in warm spells

Take advantage of a clear dry day to plant up young and bare rooted trees. Autumn’s a great time to plant both bare-rooted ornamental trees and fruit trees. The warmed soil from the summer makes a great environment for developing roots over the winter, and the cooler ambient temperatures reduce risk of water-loss.

Dig a hole some 15cm (6 in) wider than the spread out root system and to a depth whereby the soil mark from the nursery on the stem of the young tree will be just covered.

N.B. If your garden soil is on the heavy side, you will get better establishment by cultivating the sub-soil in the area where the young tree is to be planted. Take out a wider hole than normal (about 3ft in diameter) and loosen the subsoil with a fork before planting the tree.

Make sure the union where the variety is grafted onto the rootstock (this is the ‘knobbly’ part towards the base of the main trunk) is 12-15cm (5–6 in) above soil level when you have finished planting.

If you opt for supporting your tree with a tree-stake – good practice if planted in an open site exposed to prevailing winds, it should be banged in before the tree is planted.

After placing the tree in the hole, spread out the roots and add layers of soil, firming down with your foot or an old log. The final layer should not be firmed however, as it could shed water away from the tree.

TOP TIP! There are many purpose-made ties on the market, but a pair of ladies tights is also ideal. Tie them around the tree and the stake in a figure of eight, thus forming a buffer. Don't forget to check the tie once a year in case it is girdling the tree.


Design of the month – Winter displays with containers

Use this planting time to experiment on different displays for your winter bedding. There are plants that furnish your garden nicely all year round but really come into their own in winter.

Try this display to show off plants with exceptional winter colour and structure.

Take a planting trough and fill with spring-flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils and Chionodoxa (glory-of the snow). This will give you a firework-display of bulb colour at the end of winter and into spring. At 30cm (12 in) apart plant up upright dwarf conifers like lime-green ‘Goldcrest’. In between plant up with small shrubs such as Hebe ‘Red Edge’ (pictured) to give colour interest from the leaves. Flowers like pansy ‘Delta’ then look lovely filled in any gaps along with ivy to spill over the sides.

In a container at either side of the trough plant up shrub of Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ to add flaming-red and orange colour and height to the display.

You’ll then have a container display that shows off the best of colourful winter stems of Cornus, different leaf textures of conifers, ivy and hebes and flower-power from vibrant violas and pansies.


Disease of the month – Pansy leaf spot

If the leaves of your pansies and violas are blotched with black spots, they may well have the disease pansy leaf spot.

The good news is that the disease is not spread through the air or via seeds – so even in a damp autumn, it’s unlikely your plants will acquire the disease from the weather.

If you notice your viola plants have black spots they may have acquired the disease through from wild violets which are small purple flowers that grow as weeds in patches in your lawn. A lawn weedkiller applied to your lawn now is a good preventative measure. 




RHS London Urban Garden Show – 12-13 November 2016

Come to Royal Horticultural Show in central London and get great inspiration on plants and gardens that are perfect when you just have a small space.

Whether you’re choosing flowers and plants to decorate your doorway or looking for ways to maximise a small area of space this show is for you.

Visit the webpage for information on entry details, displays and workshops.


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