Autumn is a good time to start thinking about landscaping projects you might like to do over the winter ready to enjoy next spring.
Grass will continue to grow in temperatures above 5°C (41°F). Don’t cut the grass as short as you would in the summer to avoid damaging the lawn
Rake fallen leaves off lawns – they will block out the light and stop moisture escaping from the grass – increasing the chance of moss and algae
As the soil isn’t waterlogged, in mild parts of the country you can still carry out autumn lawn care i.e. scarification, aeration and top dressing
Don’t feed the lawn with left-over summer feeds. These contain too much nitrogen, which stimulates lush growth which will be vulnerable to diseases. Use an autumn lawn feed, which contains more potassium and phosphorous and strengthens the roots
It is too late to sow grass seed, but if the weather is not too cold, new lawns can still be laid from turf
It is too late to apply lawn weed killers. They work best when the weeds are in active growth
Established meadows can be cut the same as normal grass over the winter, but don’t cut them as short as you would your lawn. Recently planted meadows will not need mowing until the middle of spring
Toadstools often appear on lawns at this time of year – most are harmless saprophytic fungi but are best removed if small children are present. Watch your lawn for signs of water logging. You may be able to remedy this with some maintenance
Algae can be a problem on lawns where there is poor drainage, excessive shade, or under the drip-line of trees
Fusarium patch (snow mould) may be a problem in wet weather and on overfed and lush lawns that have been allowed to grow too long
Remember to drain the fuel from your mower – unleaded petrol doesn’t keep very long.
Professional gardeners often have less work during the winter and will be available for landscaping such as paving, fence building and pond digging
Now is a good time to make plans for garden projects while the garden is in its bare bones
Be aware that decking and stone slabs can become slippery in wet weather – pressure washing will help
If you have not already done so, build a compost heap to collect autumn leaves
Dig new flower beds as the weather allows. Avoid walking on the soil in wet weather as this will compact it
If your lawn suffers die-back from treading during the wet winter, you may wish to lay stepping-stones to allow easy access without causing damage. Stones can be
laid at a low enough level to avoid interference with mowing
Protect exterior water pipes from frost damage.
Greenhouse and Houseplants
You won’t need to water or feed house-plants as much during the shorter winter days
Cacti and succulents will need a period of dormancy over the winter, so you will not need to feed them – just keep the soil barely moist
Pot up amaryllis bulbs (Hippeastrum), and bring them back into active growth with regular watering and feeding
Stand tropical house-plants on trays of wet gravel to keep the humidity up when you turn the central heating on. Grouping them together helps to create a humid micro-climate around your house-plants
Clear out old plants from your greenhouse and then clean and disinfect the greenhouse with Jeyes Fluid or Citrox to kill off any pests.
Trees, Shrubs and Hedges
November is an ideal time to plant roses but don’t plant them where roses have been planted previously or they may suffer from replant disease
Bare-root deciduous hedging plants, trees and shrubs become available this month. They need to be planted quickly so they don’t dry out. You can still order and plant containerised trees and shrubs
This is also a good time to transplant trees and shrubs growing in unsuitable positions if they are less than 2 years old – otherwise you might not dig up enough roots for it to establish again
Tie wall shrubs and climbers to their supports to protect them from wind damage – prune off any growth that refuses to be trained. Check tree stakes and ties to see if they need loosening or tightening
Take hardwood cuttings of ornamental shrubs such as Forsythia, Cornus, Hydrangea, Euonymus, Ilex and Salix
Pruning deciduous trees, shrubs and hedges can start from now and throughout the dormant season. It is easier to see what you are doing when the branches have no leaves. Exceptions are tender plants and Prunus species (e.g. ornamental cherries, plums and almonds – fruit with a stone). Evergreens are best left until the spring. Take this opportunity to check for any diseases
Shrubs such as Buddleja davidii, Cornus alba and Lavatera that are normally pruned hard in the spring can be cut back by half now to prevent wind rock and keep them tidy
If not already done so, Climbing roses should be pruned now at the very latest
Lightly prune bush roses as reducing their height will prevent wind damage as they often have shallow roots.
November is a good time to plant new herbaceous perennials while the soil is still warm but the soil is still moist
November is still a good time to lift and divide overgrown clumps of herbaceous perennials to improve shape, health and flowers and will increase your stocks for you to keep or give to a friend
Plant tulip bulbs this month. Some tulips persist year to year but if you had a poor display this year you will need to treat them as bedding plants and plant more bulbs now
Last chance to plant out winter bedding plants such as wallflowers, Bellis, forget-me-nots, Primula, winter pansies (viola)
Keep cutting down faded herbaceous perennials and add the cuttings to the compost heap. Penstemons are best left as-is (except for dead-heading) until the spring, when they can be cut back further
Ornamental grasses and bamboos can be cut back and tidied up but some have attractive flower heads that will provide some winter interest. These can be pruned in the spring to make way for new growth then
Lift and store dahlias, cannas and begonia tubers planted in flower beds after the first frost (dahlias typically turn black when hit by frost). Only in mild areas can dahlias and cannas be left to overwinter in the ground provided they are well covered by soil/mulch/straw etc.
Begonias should always be brought in, dried out, and stored in a similar way as dahlias
Digging the soil over will expose pest larvae to birds and frosts, as well as improving soil structure; saving you a lot of work next year. Add mulch or compost to counteract nutrients washed away by winter rain. Digging clay soils after autumn rain will be difficult. Mulching clay soils will help to improve and maintain soil structure.
Weeds may still appear so hoe regularly to keep them in check.
Thanks to the Grounds Maintenance team at VPS Grounds Services for this seasonal advice.