Martin's Gardening Corner
Here we have our latest article from Martin Roberts, the Head Gardener at Howbury Hall. (Links to previous articles can be found at the bottom of this page)
November, bonfire night fireworks [which seem to go on for weeks nowadays] are behind us for another year and everything is about Christmas. In the garden, there is a lot to do before then. Over at the Hall we are cutting back the herbaceous borders and weeding as we go. I mark were the plants such as Dahlias and Peonies are with wood ash from my wood burner, this stops you planting anything new too close to these spreading foliage wise plants. Fruits trees are due to be pruned, I cut the new growth back to about the third bud or the next one up facing outwards so as to get a more open structure to the tree.
But and this is a big But if your trees are tip producers don't prune until after flowering in the spring, as a general rule pruning in the mid-summer for fruit and in early winter for shape and growth. If you know the type of apple you have, you can Google it to see what type of fruiter it is. If possible give your fruit trees and bushes a good mulch with either your own composted garden waste or bought in compost to a depth of around 8 cm.
Also on the list this month is rose pruning. Floribunda and Hybrid T roses should be cut down to about 30 cm from the ground if the plan structure allows. As with the fruit trees prune to an outward facing bud keeping the plant open. Shrub rose should be pruned more to shape cutting back to strong i.e. the thickness of a pencil and to also remove thin crossed and unwanted branches. Climbing roses are basically very vigorous Floribundas or Hybrid T roses so should be cut back by about a third taking out thin, old or diseased stems. Ramblers are very different to climbers in that they flower on year old wood so you should tie in the new wood. If you can tie it at an angle - the stem that is; this will encourage the buds to break along the stem in spring instead of just at the tip. As with other types of rose take out old thin unproductive wood, if possible de-leaf the plants and place these leaves in the bin thus getting rid of any fungal spores. A dressing of bone meal raked into the soil before you mulch will do a lot of good encouraging root development.
November is the time to plant late flowering bulbs i.e.:- Alliums, late Tulips, Lilies and De Caen Anemones.
If possible give your hedges a tidy up, a quick once over with the hedge trimmer then it will not waste time and energy into new buds that are not needed. Vegetable plot is looking a little bare these days down at the Hall as we are digging over large areas, leaving it rough dug to let the winter weather sort it out, as this allows rain to get down deeper into the soil then it freezes and kills unwanted bugs and opens up the soil structure, which makes for a better seed bed in the spring. Some areas will be sown with green manure crops, down here we use leftover wheat and oats it does the same thing in the end.
If possible collect all the tree leaves you can and if you haven't got a compost bin or heap fill black plastic bin bags, ram full with the leaves, if dry add water and tie up the top put them in a pile at the bottom of the garden. Leave until spring and you should have some good leaf mulch. I know we all moan about the cold and frost but it does a lot of good in the garden.
Martin Roberts M.C.I.Hort
Head Gardener Howbury Hall Estate Renhold