Autumn gardening jobs

Posted: Monday 28 November 2011
by Adam Pasco

Many years ago our weather appeared to follow more defined and predictable seasons, and this dictated what gardening jobs should be done when.

I'm no weather forecaster, but as a keen gardener I always keep one eye on the elements. Many years ago our weather appeared to follow more defined, predictable seasons, and this dictated what gardening jobs should be done when.

Look at any month-by-month guide to gardening, or my own 'What To Do Now' pages in Gardeners' World Magazine, and you'll find practical advice on what needs to be done during the month ahead. While some jobs can be completed when you have time, others really do depend on the weather.

Here I am at the end of November anxious to lift and store my dahlia tubers. Surely by now we should have experienced a hard frost that would blacken their foliage, providing me with a sign that the tubers are now ready to lift and store. But 2011 isn't a normal year, and despite a touch of frost on November 23rd, the leaves of my dahlias are still looking green.

By this time I would usually have collected all of the autumn leaves. But although leaves have been falling from my silver birch, those on my neighbour's oak tree (which always fall into my garden) haven't started yet. Perhaps this autumn job will become a Christmas one instead (and an excuse to escape the washing-up).

One brave and hardy outdoor tomato plant is still clinging on to some green tomatoes, months after I would have expected it to give up the ghost, and greenhouse chillies continue to crop well. Patio tubs of busy lizzies and pelargoniums still carry flowers, and these would normally have been emptied onto the compost heap in October to make way for planting spring bulbs.

Although this weather has disrupted some of my usual autumnal routine, milder conditions have their benefits. Green manures sown on the veg plot just a few weeks ago have germinated well, and garlic and shallots planted outside have grown strongly, establishing before the onset of winter. Also, the warm soil is ideal for autumn planting.

I can't send my mower for servicing yet, it's useful for picking-up leaves and shredding them for composting and the grass is still growing.

Perhaps our gardening seasons have always fluctuated like this. I'll admit it does keep us on our toes as we tailor our 'To Do' list to the real conditions outside rather than to what we've read in the books.

Now, what's next on my list?

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Gardeners' World Web User 29/11/2011 at 09:51

Not only what seems to be going to be a record breaking November weather wise for me but a change in gardening philosophy too, Adam,as I am bowing to the confines of age and going over to the No-dig way of gardening. Different kind of lists for me now. I have to restrain myself from putting cardboard out for recycling as it will all be needed on my raised beds. I compost everything possible and only let the green wheelie bin have bramble roots and yucca which will not rot for me as I don’t want the expense or environmental guilt of having a shredder. But I do find it interesting at my time of life to try new things and such variable weather patterns will no doubt keep all of us gardeners on our toes.

Gardeners' World Web User 29/11/2011 at 16:27

Funny old world we live on,The first week in December 2007 we had daffs in flower,2008 it was Christmas week,2009/2010 none until February because of the snow,I have been lifting the leave’s under the bushes only to find the daffs coming through 2″ tall snowdrop’s 1″ tall,Mother nature has got it all wrong again Or should that be Gardener nature, We must be P/C about this.

Gardeners' World Web User 30/11/2011 at 10:18

My self-seeding annuals have given three crops this year – three lots of forget-me-nots, love-in-the-mist, poached egg plant,all making the garden look so colourful. Spring flowering shrubs and small perennials like primroses, cowslips, walflowers, have given a show as good as they did in the spring all over again. This was due to the warm September and October, no doubt, and the plentiful rain in the summer. But what has gripped me most is the autumn display of colour. I seemed to have it in two stages and the one just coming to a close now has been the best I have ever seen. Not just the acers but the tulip tree, ginkco biloba, euonymus alatus, spindle tree, hamamellis, all surpassed themselves. The sun is out in Bristol again today so am on my way, pruning as I go, to gaze through the yellow leaves that are left on the tulip tree up to the cloudless blue sky. Strange weather we have had but, when such sights are the result, you will hear no murmur of discontent from me.

Gardeners' World Web User 30/11/2011 at 12:57

Very interesting observations, but just as some things appear to have been thrown completely out of sync others are spot on their usual timings.

I wonder what other people have found in different parts of the country?