WHAT TO DO IN MID NOVEMBER
  • Plant tulip bulbs now to prevent Tulip Fire infection.
  • Plant up a terracotta pot of hyacinth bulbs for a simple but stunning display next spring.
  • Before the birds eat them all, cut a few stems of holly with berries for making Christmas garlands. Stand them in a bucket of water in a sheltered spot where our feathered friends can't take them.
  • Clean out the greenhouse thoroughly. Wash the glass, the floor and the staging with horticultural disinfectant to kill any overwintering pests and diseases.
  • If you haven't already aerated your lawn, there's still time to do it before winter sets in. You can use either a lawn aerator or simply insert a garden fork at regular intervals and lean it back slightly to let air in.
  • Continue to clear fallen leaves off the lawn to keep it healthy.
  • Keep on top of weeds while they are still in active growth. Dig over the soil on a dry day when the ground is not too wet. Mix in plenty of organic matter such as some compost or manure
  • Prune pear and apple trees anytime between now and February. But don't be tempted to prune your plum trees now as they will be susceptible to the silver leaf fungus - wait until midsummer.
  • Cut down chrysanthemums to soil level after flowering
  • Remove pond pumps and filters, wash and store away
  • Plant new fruit bushes and cane fruits
  • Cut down Jerusalem artichokes then dig up and store tubers in buckets of dry compost
  • Prune side shoots on gooseberries back to about 5cm

Did you ever wonder why plants have their own unique scent or why they have red flowers or white flowers?  You would be forgiven for saying I have a sad life! But you would be mistaken if you assumed plant colour or scent happened by chance.  Everything in nature is highly organized and plants have evolved in their own distinctive ways of ensuring their survival.  Most plants must attract insects and bees to transfer pollen from one plant to another.  Some use bright colours others use scent and some feed their pollinators. This is all very interesting but what does this mean to us gardeners!  Plants that flower in winter when insects and bees are not abundant have to do something a little bit more special so they tend to produce highly scented flowers which is as attractive to insects as it is to us.  Everybody likes scent in the garden and the following winter flowering shrubs are among the best at doing so.  As well as having good scent they are usually very bright colours and stay in flower for months on end.  Mahonia Charity or Winter Sun will shortly be in flower with its long racemes of highly scented golden yellow.  It’s quite easy to grow and thrives in light shade.  Viburnum bod. Dawn which flowers throughout the winter on bare branches is also a favourite.  Jasminum nudiflorum makes an excellent climber with its yellow flowers all winter.  Daphne in all its varieties is sought after for its scent.  The dwarf evergreen variety called Daphne retusa is one of my favourites.  Sarcococca humilis (Christmas Box) is a worthy choice.  It’s a multi tasker, been evergreen, low growing  2-3 feet with the most fantastic  scent in winter, is an excellent groundcover plant, makes a stunning low hedge, a good choice for a winter patio container, will grow in sun or shade, is quite hardy and inexpensive, what more can you ask for?  By the way it smells like hyacinth and branches taken off the plant brought indoors to use in flower arrangement will continue to fill a room with scent.

Anybody who has ever grown a pot of hyacinths will testify to the strength of their scent.  It’s so easy, plant a handful of bulbs in a pot now, put in a dark cool spot for 3 weeks, thereafter leave them on the windowsill where they will develop and reward you in mid winter with flower and  scent for as  little as €3.  Nature takes advantage of the shortening days, it would be remiss of us not to partake.

Winter can be a tough time for garden wildlife. In winter, wild animals and insects hunker down in log and leaf piles, nestle into tree bark, or bury themselves in compost heaps or mud. We all feel like hibernating in the winter however,  some species such as birds and squirrels, don't hibernate, but struggle to stay alive - using up fat reserves just to stay warm. Birds are more likely to visit gardens in autumn and winter, as they rely on bird feeders when their natural sources of insects and grubs dry up. Birds need calorie-rich suet, sunflower hearts and peanuts to maintain fat reserves on frosty nights. Our gardens our becoming increasingly important places for wild animals and especially birds. By providing a regular supply of food and water, we can help birds survive the challenging winter months. If you haven’t already done so clean out any used nesting boxes as many birds will use them as shelter over the coming months.  Birds can be quite choosey so the type of food you leave out will determine the species in your garden.  Robins are ground feeders and they don’t like bird feeders, they like mixed grain, just sprinkle a bit along by a hedge or shrub bed.  Sparrows, blue tits and finches love peanut feeders.  Goldfinches are quite fussy and they will only come into your garden in any number if you hang up a feeder with a niger feed, this is a very fine seed so you need to use a feeder with very small holes, well worth doing as goldfinches are the most highly coloured species in Ireland.  If you have a problem with larger birds stealing all the food, you can use feeders with a protective mesh which only allows the smaller birds to feed.  Fat balls are a very good source of energy and if hung from very light twigs will only be accessible to the smaller birds.  If you don’t have a tree near a window to observe you can now get feeding stations that you can just strike down in the lawn outside your kitchen window.  A lovely idea as a Christmas gift. Remember if you start feeding birds in your garden it is important to continue doing so until spring as birds become dependent very quickly.

November