November in the Garden

Author: JM   Date Posted:6 November 2018 

November in the Garden main image November in the Garden image








For most Australian Gardens late- spring is their high point  but with a little planning they can continue to delight all the way through until autumn.

  •  For those wishing to orchestrate their borders so that they flower a little later (away from the worst of the summer heat and when they are not on their summer vacation)  many perennials can be cut back by a third to a half in order to delay flowering but it must be done this month and  well before the plant shows signs  flowering. The 'Chelsea Chop' as it is known has become a popular way to concentrate the flowering of perennials into a set time  frame rather than have  gaps emerging from ugly 'cut-downs' interspersed across the border all season.  Once it is done the gardener can relax over December and January  knowing that the  late summer border will be fresh, full with perennials and annuals and chiming in together for a season finale.
  • As perennials rise in height this month and next  thrust  a few  stout well branched  twigs in around the base of your most vulnerable specimens to prevent toppling during late spring squalls. We keep a pile of winter prunings near the compost  just for this purpose.
  • Any last minute planting will need to be done now before the spaces in the border close over with burgeoning foliage, make sure new introductions have their own temporary palisade as protection from overshadowing.
  • In areas which are cold enough Oriental poppies are a glory just now but they do present a problem a little later as they retire from the heat. Put aside a few pots of tender perennials or annuals to fill in the gap in a month or so.
  • Bearded Iris present a similar predicament with the added problem of resenting overshadowing for the rest of the season. We have found the light structure of Salvia microphylla and greggii  hybrids useful in the regard as they allow some light through.


  • November is Dahlia planting time. Even if you didn't lift your clumps in autumn it is still not too late to lift and divide them. Young plants are always more reliable in their flowering so it is worth the effort.
  • Make sure a sturdy stake is driven in at planting time or if this is going to be too obtrusive push a marker stake in where the larger one will go later in the season so save skewering the tubers.






Pruning of shrubs after flowering is an ongoing  necessity  from now until autumn.

  • Lilacs will have mostly gone over by the end of the month, so it is a good time to quickly dead-head the old flowers , particularly on the double varieties  which hold onto their flowers heads  in a not-so-pretty way through summer.
  • Most gardeners do not appreciate how brutally Rhododendrons can be pruned. Old specimens that have out-grown their allotted space can be cut to ground . Within a season they will have reclothed their stump and be on their way to making a nice compact bush. If a small sinuous tree  would look good in your garden pruning up your plant is an easy task.
  • Early-spring flowering shrubs such as Osmarea burkwoodii, Chaenomeles  and Chimonanthus   can be cut into now , removing old flowers and improving shape in one operation. New growth will come away quickly whilst ground moisture is still present.


  • Towards the end of the month the first of the hedges will need a trim over before the worst of the summer heat arrives. If done during a cooler spell and with newly sharpened trimmers a minimum of scorching can be achieved. Watering hedges well before trimming will also minimise the possibility of scorch.




  • Liquid feeding of lawns is a necessity at this time of year  to compensate for the constant removal of top growth. A seaweed base product with added humate and nitrogen is good or you could make a compost tea and apply this using a venturi hose spray.
  • Healthy lawns stave off weed invasion but even they have a hard time dealing with clover. If dealt with early rather later a weaker solution of a proprietary herbicide can be used.
  • Di-kamba , the  active ingredient in most proprietary broad- leaf herbicides  is particularly toxic to English Box -  be careful with its use near them.






    Half the fun of summer gardening is experimenting with the endless combinations of easy  tender annuals that it is possible to grow over the warmer months.

    •  If not already sown all of the tender annuals ( Zinnia, Cosmos, Celosia, Gomphrena, Torenia, Tagetes, Tithonia etc) will need to done so this  month. Their future homes can in the meantime be topped with a layer of compost  whilst the  young seedlings are developing and as spring bedding goes over and is removed.




     Summer brings the opportunity to indulge in a few plants that are less than hardy in the garden and pots of them are the most convenient way to secure their future.

    • Regular liquid feeding of pots is a necessity to produce a good show over the warmer months.
    • As pots fill with roots watering becomes more pressing. If pots are grouped around a central reservoir then a wick system can be implemented ,not a substitute for a good soaking but certainly it will alleviate disastrous drying out on hot days.
    • American seed companies are producing ground covering Zinnia varieties which should prove useful for summer colour in pots, our trials of them  this season  will be interesting.
    • To avoid skewering lilies in pots we place a small stake next to the bulbs when potting them up, we then replace this with larger stakes a required up until flowering.
    • Old pots of Fuchsia will be ripe for a prune and re-pot - completely bare the roots and pot into  potting mix amended with extra peat or compost to make sure they don't dry out in summer.
    • Pots of scented Geranium that have been over-wintered can be re-potted into fresh soil this month  ready for another season of delicious scent.
    • Pots of Hippeastrum will be starting into growth , dose with a liquid feed and keep well-watered and protected from snails and slugs

    Cutting Garden


     All of the preparations earlier in the year will be paying dividends this month.

    • Young Chrysanthemum plants should be in their flowering  positions by the end of this month. Pinching back   when about 30cm tall will encourage more flowers.
    • In cooler areas  spring planted Sweet Peas will be getting a go on,  a  fortnightly  feeding with compost tea from now on will ensure a bounty of flowers.
    • Apart from the many trays of seed sown for the nursery , October is the month when we sow seed for our late summer annual display. Varieties of Zinnia, Cosmos , Tagete  and Tithonia are sown a few seeds to a pot or cell  in trays. Duplicate seedlings are snipped away leaving the strongest to grow on. We find this much easier than struggling with seasonal vagaries and predators if sown directly. As long as the young plants are not checked in any way they get off to a fine start when planted out in mid-December
    • Umbels such as Daucus carota Dara, Ammi visnaga, and A. major much prefer a direct sowing though. As much of their charm depends on massed planting as if in the wild,  this is most easily achieved by scattering the seed where they are to flower. It is easy enough to keep a few patches of this kind weed free.
    • Birds of all kinds are at their busiest so any seed sown directly needs a protective mound of twigs to deter grazing and scratching
    • Most particularly  in the southern states and inland low night temperatures persist well into the latter part of November and the odd late frost can bring disaster. Keep young plants going with warmth, liquid feed and regular watering in a protected spot.
    • Deadhead Sweet Peas regularly and keep well-watered, nothing brings their flowering to a halt more than  drought and seed setting.




    Have the following at the ready for winter jobs

    • Potting mix
    • Lime, Iron-sulphate, Potassium-sulphate,
    • Blood and Bone
    • Sphagnum moss
    • Snail bait
    • Stakes and twigs  of all sizes
    • Twisties , string and Jolly Roger soft tie.
    • Netting  for climbers, ( Sweetpeas , Ipomaea, Cobaea, )
    • Tenax netting  as support in the cutting garden
    • Bamboo canes  in various sizes
    • Copper-sulphate  to deal with mossy lawns
    • Slow release fertilizer, tree planting tablets




    For most of us  summer is all about irrigation  and  any neglect of its infrastructure becomes  obvious only too quickly when the weather hots up.

    • Clean filters and remove nozzles . Flush lines whilst they are removed .
    • Have plenty of  'goof plugs' and connectors  at the ready  - an errant garden fork can turn into a flood.



    • A Japanese sharpening block is a handy thing to have on hand to keep the Felcos keenly sharp.


    • As the weather warms so compost bins become more active - a fair bit of break-down of autumn and winters additions will have taken place so jump on top and trample it down a bit to speed things up.  A bit of lime added now will keep things sweet. If the Spring has been dry then a thorough watering of the heap will keep things on the move.
    • I always think separation of bins according to the season sensible - we have started our spring-summer one  which we will empty over the course of  next winter.
    • Keeping a balance of fine and coarse ingredients  is still important at every time of year - make sure plenty of air gets into the heap. In November the coarse of hedge trimmings and the wet of removed spring bedding seems to do the trick.

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