What to do in the garden in November – Sarah Raven’s top winter gardening tips

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Gardening during the late autumn can be a bleak task, with the vibrant colours of summer a thing of the past. While many of us shy away from the piling autumn leaves and empty branches, few of us realise the importance of getting out in the garden before winter arrives. Express.co.uk spoke to gardening expert Sarah Raven to find out what she’ll be doing in the garden this November and why you should do the same.

Preparation is key when it comes to sustaining a full and vibrant garden right the way through the year.

While it can be tricky to achieve a colourful display through the frosty autumn months, Sarah Raven says we shouldn’t take a back seat when it comes to gardening this November.

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Sarah said: “The garden undergoes a lot of change in the winter months; colours begin to fade, and it becomes a little less productive than it was in late summer.

“However, there is plenty to do to prepare for next year, and still much produce to savour and enjoy throughout the cold season.”

Sowing and growing

With the October harvest a thing of the past, the rich orange hues quickly fade to green as we edge further into winter.

Replacing autumnal vegetables like pumpkins and squash with green peas will set you up for a strong crop through spring and summer.

Sarah explained: “November is the perfect time to start sowing sweet peas for next year – be sure they spend the winter under cover.”

Sarah’s top tips for growing vegetables in November

Planning next year’s vegetables will allow for a good rotation of crops, but it’s important to grow different varieties each year, says Sarah.

  • Avoid planting the same type of crops on the same ground each year
  • Recurrent planting can cause a build-up of pests and disease
  • Move crops around each year to prevent the same group from congregating in one area for more than one season

You can group certain types of vegetables to create colourful and diverse growth in your garden.

  • Roots, brassicas and legumes can be grouped together
  • Potatoes, onions and tomatoes can be grown together too

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Sarah told Express.co.uk: “Some annual crops such as cucurbits (courgettes, pumpkins, squashes, marrows and cucumbers), French and runner beans, salads (endive, lettuce and chicory) and sweetcorn can be grown wherever you have space, just avoid growing them in the same place too frequently.”

The Sussex-based gardening expert and esteemed author added that she will also be sorting through seeds this November.

She recommends taking time to sift through damaged or outdated contenders for future crops, before washing them and storing them to dry out.

Bulbs and tubers

There are also still bulbs and tubers (corms) to plant in the winter months.

Sarah said: “By the middle of November, plant ‘Paperwhite’ narcissi ready to flower in time for Christmas.

“Forced bulbs should be brought to a cool windowsill when they have approximately 3cm growth.”

  • Check up on your stored summer bulbs for signs of rot or mould
  • Remove any affected bulbs or separate them to contain the spread and prevent it from spoiling any more


Remove most of the year’s growth from roses and get rid of large, woody stems to promote healthy spring growth – don’t forget to cut back peonies in November too.

In the rare instance of snow in the late months, remember to shake the snow off trees and shrubs, as the weight can damage branches and stems.


Wildlife can do with a helping hand during the autumn and winter when food sources are scarce.

Sarah said: “It’s important to leave food and water out for birds in the winter months, as they require more nourishment to survive the colder nights.

“Regularly wash and disinfect birdbaths and feeders, as many birds die each year from harmful bacteria that can grow on these surfaces.”

Allow berries to grow on plants such as holly and rosehips.

Seed heads are great for wildlife, says Sarah, who added: “Make sure you save some for yourself first for Christmas decorations!”

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