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Take Cover

After reading the title of this months article, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was sponsored by a large finance company, but it’s important to protect tender perennials and take cutting material to over winter as a ‘plant insurance policy’. Although it’s now too late to take semi ripe cuttings (this should be done in July/August) the best way to protect your tender perennials such as Salvias and Pelargonium’s is to lift them and bring them into a greenhouse. If you have a heater, this should be set to the frost setting (or ideally around 5oC) and if you bubble wrap your greenhouse for additional heat conservation, the heater will only need to kick in on those extremely cold days and nights.

Tender bulbs and tubers such as dahlias should now be lifted (once the foliage has been blackened by the frost) and placed in a box of sand in a dry, dark, frost free location.

Borderline hardy perennials which are generally happy to be left in the ground with a little protection such as Agapanthus are best left undisturbed, but with a generous quantity of well rotted compost or bark mulch added to the top. This can be removed from directly around the crown of the plant in spring, and will help retain moisture throughout the spring growing season. Leaving plants like this outside after last winter is a risk, but short of moving the garden into the garage each winter, I figured the line has to be drawn somewhere!

For those hardy horticulturalists who, like me, enjoy working in the garden on a cold crisp day, November sees the beginning of the bare root planting season. Before the invention of the plastic pot, November to March was the only time in which plants such as roses, hedging and trees could be moved and those planted in winter, in my experience do exceptionally well.

 Even though the nights are drawing in, there are a few jobs to do this month:

  •  Spring bulbs should now have been planted, however its not too late if you have them still to do. In particular, tulip bulbs are best left until this month, as the less time they are in the ground the less chance they have of getting a virus called tulip fire blight.
  •  Plant garlic cloves if you have a free draining soil. The general advice is ‘only if you live in a mild area’ but after mine survived last winter in a raised bed, I think it’s probably more to do with heavy wet soils than the temperature.
  •  Dig over the vegetable plot, leaving clods to break down over winter
  •  Finally, leaves should be regularly collected from lawn areas where they will deprive the lawn of what little light we have at this time of year.