Down to earth advice for Derbyshire’s Gardeners - November

Lift and divide rhubarb if it is lacking vigour and producing lots of thin stems. Split the crown with a spade into sections, each retaining a portion of the rhizome (thickened root) and at least one growing point. Retain and replant sections from the outer, younger part of the crown.

Check houseplants for pests. Citrus trees are often plagued by soft scale, a flat, oval, pale yellow/brown limpet-like creature up to 4mm long, found near the midribs of leaves and on stems. If you eat the fruit, use sprays based on fatty acids to control, if not, use something a bit stronger!

Cover brassicas with netting to protect against pigeons. If white fly is a problem spray regularly with soap based products. Their mode of action is through suffocation and they are very safe to edible crops when being picked regularly for the kitchen. There is no withholding period. Continue to harvest early winter veg- leeks, parsnips and curly kale.

Brighten up your front door with winter containers. Apart from the usual violas, pansies, primulas and polyanthus, consider using shrubs such as skimmia, euonymus or box and also evergreen perennials, grasses and sedges such as heuchera, Stipa tenuissima and carex for structure.

Try taking hardwood cuttings from the current year’s growth of deciduous shrubs (deutzia, buddleia, cornus, forsythia, philadelphus, roses and viburnum), climbers (vines, honeysuckle) and also fruit (gooseberries, figs, black, red and white currants).

Remove soft tips. Cut into sections 15-30cm (6-12in) long. Make a sloping cut above a bud at the top and cut the base straight below a bud. Dip the base in a hormone rooting compound. Insert into prepared ground or pots with two thirds of the cutting below the surface, with a layer of sand in the base. Lift after a year.

Prevent damage to leaves and blossom of fruit trees in spring caused by winter moth caterpillars by placing a sticky grease/glue bands around the trunks and tree stakes by early November. Keep the protection sticky and free of debris until mid April.

What to do about slippery paths? There is no easy answer. Even when treated, if the wet conditions prevail, the problem will return. Prune back overhanging branches to improve air movement and allow more sunshine to reach the surfaces. Brush slippery paths regularly with a stiff broom. In particularly troublesome areas,
consider installing drainage or replacing the hard surface with a permeable material like gravel.

Pressure washers are effective in removing moss and algae. Always wear goggles to protect your eyes. Consider buying or hiring one with a patio-cleaning accessory. These give better results and reduce flying debris and water splashing. 

Try using products based on benzalkonium chloride, pelargonic acid, acetic acid or nitrilo triacetic acid/trisodium salt, that claim to give control.

Path and patio cleaners based on hydrochloric acid or bleach have some effect but are not recommended for use near plants. They can also discolour certain types of stone as well.

Community Web Kit provided free by BT