COLUMN: Preparing the garden for winter by Sara Milne

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November is maintenance month in the garden, getting everything ready for winter.

Clearing leaves and cutting back dead growth is the order of the day – which is great news because November is also all about compost, and leaves and garden debris are perfect ingredients.

It’s also a great time to plant trees before the ground gets too hard or frozen.

Trees can be positioned in wet and dry land and they can tolerate acidic, chalky, sandy and clay soils and come in all shapes and sizes.

From flowering cherries and crab apples to evergreen yews and weeping willows, trees offer different leaf size, shape and colour.

There are those that flower magnificently in spring and those whose leaves offer brilliant autumn colour just before leaf fall.

Gardening myth of the month is that young trees should be staked.

Which is not necessarily the case, because when it comes to trees a bit of tough love works wonders. While it may be tempting to secure a sapling to protect it from the wind, stakes can weaken plants.

Saplings should be staked for the first year to 18 months and then the stake should be removed so the tree doesn’t become reliant on it and grows strong and stable.

Research has shown that trees allowed to sway with the wind grew thicker lower trunks than those staked.

With trees come leaves – the basic ingredient for good mulch.

Leaves don’t need the heat of a compost to rot down; you can compost them by filling up bags with leaves to make really good garden mulch.

The best way is to fill biodegradable sacks, then place them somewhere in the garden where they will be rained on and wait. Come spring next year you will have a bag full of nutritious leaf mould compost.

Filling sacks with leaves as part of a general tidy up in the garden is just one of jobs for gardeners in November.

Other tips include:

- Clear up fallen leaves - especially from lawns, ponds and beds

-Raise containers onto pot feet to prevent waterlogging

-Plant tulip bulbs for a spring display next year

-Prune roses to prevent wind-rock

-Plant out winter bedding

-Prepare the greenhouse for winter