Wrap up warmly and take the opportunity to appreciate the remainder of the autumn colour on the deciduous trees. The colder nights see the leaves dropping as the abscission layer breaks down. As the leaf falls a barrier has formed on the bud that prevents the ingress of disease and other pathogens into the living tissue, thus keeping the tree in good health. Two that have coloured and lasted this year were the Chinese Euonymus alatus and from eastern North America, the cut leaved Sumach, Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata’.
Many people assume that work in the fruit and vegetable garden tails off as the sets winter in, however there still plenty of worthwhile jobs to do:
- Hardy broad beans and peas can be sown now to provide an early harvest next year.
- One of the most reliable varieties of hardy broad bean is ‘Aquadulce Claudia’.
- A good variety of pea is ‘Douce Provence’. We sowed this last autumn, it over-wintered very well and cropped in June. Another advantage is that the plants are quite short (approximately 75cm) and require minimal support.
- Sweet peas can also be sown now. They are not edible but no garden is complete without them.
- Mice and birds can be a problem feeding on pea and bean seeds and seedlings. To deter them we sow the seeds in pots, toilet rolls or root trainers on tables in our polytunnel and plant them out in February or March.
- November is a good time to plant garlic, rhubarb and fruit trees and bushes.
Prepare the soil
- Healthy soil is essential for good crops. The best thing for any soil is to incorporate plenty of well-rotted organic matter such as compost or manure. This can be applied to the soil surface as a mulch or dug in.
- Fork over any areas of the garden that are infested with perennial weeds before you apply organic matter.
- Bare soil (without plants growing in it or mulch) is at risk of being eroded by winter rain. If you do not apply an organic mulch, there is no need to clear plants that have finished cropping. Leave them in the ground until spring; their roots will bind the soil together helping to prevent erosion.
Make leaf mould
- Autumn leaves are a great source of organic matter. Collect them and leave them somewhere to rot down. This usually takes about two years.
- It is not a good idea to add lots of leaves to your usual compost bin as it tends to slow the composting process down. Create a separate heap with chicken wire and posts to contain the leaves or you could simply fill large garden refuse sacks with holes punched in.
- Lift and store root veg before the weather gets too cold.
- Erect cloches over the more tender winter veg such as chard and winter lettuces.
- Clean polytunnels and greenhouses, winter salads will appreciate the extra light.
- Start to prune fruit trees.
- Plan for next year – most seed companies have published their catalogues now so spend some time choosing what you want to grow next year.
- Make a Christmas list – ask your loved ones to get you something for the garden; tools, plants, seeds or a new gardening book.
Mature deciduous trees are developing their autumn leaf colours. With the change of weather last week it was noticeable the quantity of fallen leaves on lawns and paths through the garden.
These images of leaf colouration in the herbaceous Paeonia potaninii are a timely reminder that it is not just the arboreal members of the plant kingdom that give us autumn colours.
Enjoy the kaleidoscope of colours that this year’s warm dry summer has helped to produce.