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Scott Smith has plenty of November gardening jobs to keep him busy

Removing leaves from the lawn is just one of the jobs that needs doing at this time of year because as pretty as they may look, they can cause problems if left.

Anne, Claire, and Margaret cleaning and sorting dahlia tubers.
Anne, Claire, and Margaret cleaning and sorting dahlia tubers.

Autumn’s festivities are done; Halloween and Guy Fawkes over. Boo hiss!

No more dressing up, treats, bonfires, fireworks or other goodies. Guess that’s us on the countdown to Christmas then.

Well we’ll just have to fill the void. Thankfully there are plenty jobs in the garden that will help out our idle hands prior to gift-wrapping time.

Where to start then? Well, what better way to write than by simply stating what I’ve actually been doing in the garden myself!

Sounds obvious but writing a gardening column does tend to be much easier on the old noggin’ when you can share what you are doing for real!

Writing and real gardening

I might not be the finest horticultural wordsmith you’ll cross but I take comfort in at least knowing what I share with you, sitting there in your dressing-gown sipping a nice cuppa, is some real gardening.

The soil from the job(s) I’ve just done and am now talking to you about is still partially evident under my nails.

Autumn leaves in a garden, various shades of green, orange, red and brown
Enjoy autumn leaves before they need picked up!

Never ending leaves

The never-ending supply of leaves fluttering down in their inimitable swirling patterns make for many hours’ sweat.

As beautiful as the various shapes, sizes, colours and textures are, the leaves take work!

We can be forgiven for leaving a few piles or layers of leaves around the periphery of our garden for wildlife, as is the zeitgeist nowadays. Leaves on the lawn however require lifting and removal. Every two to three days when they are really coming down.

The primary reason for this is that large mats of leaves on the lawn can lead to damage to the sward.

A tree with beautiful red leaves
Acer rubrum – a beautiful autumnal show of colour.

Thick layers of leaves block light from reaching the grass which naturally leads to less energy thus weakening it.

Lying leaves also block air flow which can lead to fungal issues when wet.

As always though, one person’s waste is another’s treasure. Gather up those valuable leaves and make a pile like you would with compost.

In a year or two they’ll break down into a fine hummus. You’ll be left with extremely valuable and versatile garden commodity, leafmould. It can be used as a mulch on beds. It can be used in potting mixes.

It can even cure the common cold! Just checking you’re paying attention still. It can’t really cure your sniffles unfortunately, but it is beautiful, useful stuff.

Dahlia lifting

We’ve had a couple of heavy frosts here now. The once highly vibrant colours and shapes of inflorescence that make dahlias so fun are now a tatty brown.

It is the perfect time to lift them now and start prepping them to store for winter.

frosts dahlias needing uprooted during a November gardening job
After a couple frosts dahlias are ready to lift.

As usual you’ll carefully slip your fork under those tubers being careful not to spear them.

Same idea as when you lift tatties. Once the tubers are safely out we can begin the process of cutting the foliage off to get chucked onto the compost heap.

We usually place a label with the name of each cultivar and ensure all cultivars are put into their correct trays.

It helps ensure your grand design plans are easier to keep to next year.

Avoid mix-ups

Nothing more annoying that having a beautiful smattering of red dahlias like ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ only for a rogue yellow ‘Glorie Van Heemstede’ to stick out like a sore thumb as it has been placed in the wrong tray last year.

Once the trays are filled and no dahlia tubers remain left in the ground to rot away over the cold, wet north-east winter; we get cleaning them.

Down to the shed with all the trays where the end of a nail is used to gingerly tease all that excess bits of soil not already shaken off during the lifting process.

Autumn at Beechgrove Garden, with a variety of trees
Autumn at Beechgrove Garden.

The next stage is to let them dry out. We use our handy nail in the stem to allow it to fully open (if it’s not already) then turn those tubers upside down so all moisture within the tuber can drip out naturally.

In a week we’ll come back and give them a final clean up once the remaining soil left on the tubers has dried can be easily brushed off. The tubers then get wrapped in newspaper and left in their crates in a cool, dry, dark place.

All individually labelled, and ready for a rest until spring rears and we start the cycle of growing them again.

Well that’s just two of jobs I’ve been up to this week. Plenty more to share but they’ll have to hang fire for another week.

dahlia tubers being lifted from the ground
Lifting the dahlia tubers out the ground.

In the meantime don’t let the weather or the darker nights get you down!

It can take a wee bit of will power but I promise you’ll feel better for getting your coat and gloves on and heading out into the garden for a spell.

Take care and happy gardening!

Tubers during a november gardening job
Tubers being cleaned and labelled.