November is tulip planting time. It’s important that tulip bulbs go in the ground after a cold snap as this helps to kill off fungal diseases and viruses in the soil which could infect your new bulbs. Remember that tulip bulbs do not like to be waterlogged, so if you have heavy soil, add some grit or organic matter to the hole to help improve drainage. The same applies if you are planting in a container, make sure that you use a free-draining mix. You can tell by the clothing that it was pretty cold when we were planting tulips last November. (By the way chickens aren’t very helpful planters).
The results this spring were well worth the cold fingers last autumn.
You can also keep on planting all the other spring flowering bulbs and may find that you can pick up some serious bargains in end of season sales, even if the choice at this time of the autumn is a bit more limited.
It’s also a good time for laying new turf or renovating lawns. The critical thing is to make sure you prepare the area carefully (raking, treading and levelling) before positioning the turf. The better the preparation, the easier it will be to lay the turf in the first place and the better it will look in the long run. When you are laying the turf, use planks to walk on so that you aren’t putting pressure directly on to the new turf and butt up the edges (remember that the turfs will shrink if they dry). Once the turf is down, water well and regularly, it is odds on that you’ll get some helpful rainfall at this time of year, but new turf will take a few weeks to establish, so don’t allow it to dry out. Finally, stay off it and don’t be tempted to mow until next spring.
If you have dahlias or cannas, the first frosts will have knocked back the foliage and this is a sign that it is time to lift, clean and dry them before storing in a frost free place over winter. Don’t forget to label things, especially if you’re planning to take cuttings next spring.
In our neck of the woods (Berkshire) you may not need to lift dahlia tubers if you have relatively free-draining soil. The tubers will tolerate some frosts, but cold/damp conditions will cause them to rot off, so you may have the choice of whether to lift or not. We do lift dahlia tubers and after cleaning them up, pot them up in new multi-purpose compost and leave them in an unheated greenhouse over the winter. We start gentle watering as the temperatures rise in the spring and find that the plants come back into growth quite a lot earlier than those left in the ground, so we get a longer flowering period.
And finally, if you have a shrub which needs to move to a new home, now is the time to do it. The soil is still warm enough to help the roots establish in their new position. When lifting it, make sure that you retain as much of the root ball as possible and cut back excess top growth to reduce the strain on the roots. Prepare the new planting hole well and use mycorrhizal fungi on the roots. Firm the shrub in and then give it a good soak. Remember to keep it watered throughout next spring and summer.