Professional Gardener - Bonfires, repairs, pruning and planting

Flexibility is needed to get the most accomplished with the onset of colder weather, says Sally Drury.

Bonfire Night

This is a good excuse for getting rid of material that you want neither to compost nor to use as mulch, although for many gardens the health and safety implications concerning fires are too great to open them as events to the public.

The key things to remember are that the fire must be more than 50m from a public highway or right of way and that no items can be burned that would cause toxic emissions or a nuisance. You may find that local bylaws stipulate when burning is allowed. And, of course, remember to check for hibernating hedgehogs before lighting the fire.


November and December can be kind or cruel months for gardeners. Work lists need to be flexible so that the better days can be spent outdoors, while some work is retained in the greenhouse, shed or office for the more monsoon-like conditions.


Remove and compost leaves from ornamental lawns before they build up in any great volume.

Many can be collected while mowing on the drier days, but remember to adjust the cutting height so the grass is left longer as light levels fall.

Ornamental lawns can be cut at around 12mm from now on, although really fine lawns can be cut a little lower - say 10mm. General lawns are best left around 18mm and less formal, amenity grass can be left at 45mm to 50mm.

Tidy up and repair

Continue to tidy up around the garden and practice good hygiene by washing pots and trays before storing them for the winter. Clean and preserve the ends of stakes and canes before storing.

Gardens closed to the public for the winter should repair picnic benches, seats, bins and other items of garden furniture as well as bird boxes. Such tasks are often welcomed on the wetter, colder days at this time of year.

It is also a good time to inspect fences and walls with a view to carrying out any maintenance work over the winter period. Timbers such as fence posts and pergolas should be treated or replaced if necessary.

Flower garden

Finish planting tulip bulbs this week. Continue lifting and dividing herbaceous plants. Lift dahlias for storage when the foliage has been blackened by frost. Protect tender plants from the weather.

Irrigation equipment

Do not leave hosepipes out when temperatures are likely to fall to freezing. Drain down any other pipes that may be subjected to freezing temperatures. Check the insulation on pipework in greenhouses and conservatories.

Kitchen garden

Start pruning of apples, pears, gooseberries and redcurrants. Plant out new fruit trees and bushes. Cultivate vegetable ground as it becomes cleared.

Greenhouse and conservatory

Heat when necessary, but remember that good air circulation is also essential. Take every opportunity to ventilate greenhouses and conservatories when weather and temperature permits. Water indoor plants and displays more carefully. Begin pruning of indoor vines.

Fungi watch

Fruiting bodies can be an indication of infection. Now is a good time for an inspection.

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