THE gardener’s year is almost over but never really stops - a continuous cycle of life.

What is the winter to come? An English country saying says: ‘Onion skin, very thin, Mild winter coming in, Onion skin thick and tough, Coming winter cold and rough.’

It’s November and there’s plenty of tidying up to be doing in the garden. It’s a time to burn garden waste, as long as it’s not wet! Dahlia tops and other vegetation may harbour pests and diseases. But make sure that there is no hedgehogs which like to hibernate in there.

I’ve often thought wouldn’t it be nice if humans could hibernate and wake up in spring!

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Peter Fawcett's book, Gardener's DelightPeter Fawcett's book, Gardener's Delight (Image: Peter Fawcett)

Leaves can be raked on to the soil in between shrubs where the worms will pull them down - thus increasing the biodiversity providing winter food for our friends, the birds. Fertility of the soil will also be improved. It’s a mistake to rake them off - rake them on.

I visited Lister Park where the gardeners were giving the grass a final cut before the winter sets in. One gardener I found was Ben Pearson. Ben was enthusiastically mowing when I asked him about his work. He told me he finished his apprenticeship in 2021. He was doing a great job with his final cut. So make sure yours is cut soon.

Tulip bulbs can now be planted, if planting between spring flowering plants such as polyanthus and wallflowers. They are best planted with a large dibber or trowel, twice the depth of the bulb is a good rule to go by.

Wallflowers can be planted from pot grown but, if planting bare-rooted wallflowers, soak the roots in a bucket of water overnight to freshen them up and give them a good start.

There is another way to spring colour, by planting hyacinths 6in deep to provide a good colour at ground level, tulips can be planted amongst the hyacinths to provide vibrant colour above. Other bulbs such as blue Muscari and Scilla siberica can be used for base planting, the list is endless. If you want a really early show, then look no further than Daffodil Tete-a-Tete.

It’s time to think about planting a hedge, which is much more sustainable than fencing that has become populist these days. Unlike a fence a hedge can last many more years than a fence, and will support over 500 plant species, 60 species of nesting bird, many hundreds of invertebrates and almost all of our native small mammal species have been recorded as being supported by hedgerows.

A hedge can serve many purposes. It can be knee high with Common Box, which which can be used as a border, are readily available these days. Or a hedge to provide privacy like Laurel or Photinia red Robin.

You may want a hedge to provide security then there is Hawthorn. Beech is also forms and impenetrable barrier once established.

But if you wish to get really tough, then Rubus cockburnianus, the white-stemmed bramble, has vicious 10ft aching stems full of thorns that grab hold of you when trying to prune. They are the bane of the gardeners life, and will deter and burglar. They are easier to plant 3ft apart is sufficient to provide an effective barrier to and intruders.

For all other hedgerows a trench a spade depth should be taken out and manure or compost should be forked into the bottom of the trench along with bonemeal. The whips can be planted in a double row 18in apart. This job can be done from now until late winter.

Talking of winter, now is the time to protect tender shrubs such as Hebe, Yuka and Cordyline palms that are popular these days are susceptible to the east wind. I wrap them in a wind resistant material. This keeps off the worst of winter’s chill.

Insert a cane beside the plant to add stability, and then hold the leaves of the plant so not to crush or damage. Then wrap the material around to get coverage, and then the gently tie round to hold in place.

Finally, think of spring and planting those spring flowering bulbs. It’s something to look forward to.

* Peter Fawcett worked for 45 years as a gardener in parks in Kirklees.

His book, Gardener’s Delight, is published by Elgar Books Limited.

ItGet is available from Peter Fawcett, 34 St Peg Lane, Cleckheaton, BD19 3SD or by emailing, or from Spenborough Stationers, Albion Street, Cleckheaton. Call (01274) 873026 or email

The cost is £10 plus post and packing at £2.