You can’t just stop work in the garden, the jobs never end, and November gardening depends on where you live up to a certain point. But there are jobs to be done wherever you live, and you will be glad you did them come the Spring.

When people think of Portugal, they only think of golden sandy beaches and warm weather, but the temperatures in Portugal are not all the same, as altitudes vary. To the surprise of many tourists, it does snow in Portugal, but only in a few areas in mountainous zones up north, and the most common place to see snow in Portugal is in the Serra da Estrela mountains. While it might snow sporadically in other areas, the snow never tends to stick.


It’s a tedious job but raking or sweeping up leaves - especially if they are a bit damp - is a soul-destroying job, as you know next week there is likely to be as much on the ground to be swept up as there is today. I feel it is a relaxing non-thinking job, brushing leaves into neat piles, and looking behind you, the results are instant. Everything looks so much tidier, all you have to do is cart the piles away - and if it’s free of pests and diseases you can mulch or add to your compost heap.

Northerner or Southerner, there are jobs to be done before the winter, and Northerners have the additional worry of frost or even snow - and it’s not unknown to get a bit of frost in the South of Portugal - so it’s important to get out there and take care of things. It’s a time to perhaps reevaluate the garden layout, check what did well and what didn’t, and learn from your mistakes! You might find this is the time to add ‘hardscape’, evergreens or drought tolerant plants to improve the look of your garden.


Bring in your garden tools for the winter, and clean, sharpen, and oil them first. Keep removing weeds – it’s easier to see them now that the garden plants have died back, and now is a great time to get rid of any perennial weeds that might have popped up during the summer. They are dry enough to pull up easily right now, and again this makes the garden instantly tidier.

Although we would normally expect rain in November, if we don’t get it, keep up some gentle watering, particularly those trees and shrubs you might have just put in the ground this autumn. Collect water in buckets when it does rain or use ‘grey’ water from inside just for this purpose. November is generally a cooler month – great for those late-season tourists, and a good opportunity for us to prune hedges, ornamental trees and shrubs.


In some areas, now is the time to plant spring bulbs, so check planting times in the store as you are buying them for guidance. Autumn is also the perfect time for sowing wildflower seeds in those out-of-the-way areas where the hose doesn’t reach! The seeds will not have to deal with a hot, pounding sun right away, and when they do sprout in spring, hopefully there will be plenty of rain and moderate temperatures for them to thrive unaided.

Protect rose bushes for the winter - Mound up soil around the crown and cover the bud union. Tie down the canes of climbing roses so that high winds do not whip them around.

There are always hungry mice around, so protect the bark of any new saplings from gnawing mice by wrapping tree guards around the lowest parts of the trunks.


Tips for grass – mow less, aerate, and weed vigilantly. Don’t fertilise too early, as the grass is dormant during the winter and won’t absorb any of those valuable nutrients - all you will be doing is feeding those ever-hungry weeds.

One of the most difficult things for gardeners to get used to when moving from colder climates to here is knowing what to plant and when. The weather in Portugal is not set in stone, so neither should your planting programme be!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan