In November daylight hours are short so it’s difficult to fit in every gardening task. Use your time carefully to prepare the garden for the winter months ahead. The most important job this month is to prune deciduous trees and shrubs. Pruning during the dormant period minimises sap loss and also reduces the risk of infection. Once the leaves have fallen from the tree it will give you a clearer view of how pruning will affect the overall shape of the tree and expose any damaged or diseased wood.
Prune newly planted trees to balance the shape of the canopy and maintain a central leader. Damaged, weak and lop-sided growth can be removed from established plants but consult a tree surgeon before tackling anything substantial and ensure the tree does not have a preservation order before you start. Unless absolutely necessary, never prune more than 25% from the crown as excessive pruning risks fatally damaging your tree. Tree branches grow from stems at nodes; these are separated by a lip of tissue called a stem collar which grows out from the stem at the base of the branch. All pruning cuts should be made on the branch side of the stem collar. This protects the stem and any other branches that might be growing from it. It also allows the tree to heal more effectively. Trees naturally close wounds that result from branch removal; however there are some circumstances when the wound should be sealed with a latex paint such as ‘prune and seal’. In particular, on trees that are susceptible to damaging insect infections such as birch, oak and elm. Also, if the weather is particularly dry a pruning sealer will help the tree retain moisture. Buddleia and roses are vulnerable to strong winds which rock the plant to expose the roots. This can severely damage or kill plants so these should be pruned back by a third. Frosts are likely to penetrate the pruning wounds causing die-back but don’t worry as spring pruning will remove any damage. There are many different types of pruning tools, however the three main types are:
- Secateurs. Suitable for cutting pencil sized twigs. There are two types of secateurs. Bypass secateurs operate similar to scissors except that they only have one blade that moves. The disadvantage of bypass secateurs is that very hard branches might deflect the blade so that material either binds between the blades or even levers them apart. Anvil secateurs have a single blade that closes against a flat surface. Their main advantage is their ease of use making them ideal for people with impaired grip. They are strong and are less likely to jam with fibrous material. However they crush the branch which can leave an untidy wound that is vulnerable to infection.
- Loppers are mainly used for pruning tree branches with a diameter of less than 5cm. Some loppers have telescopic handles which can be extended to increase leverage and to reach high branches. Certain loppers have gears, ratchets or lever systems which increases the force applied to the blades. Top Loppers are also available; these have a special head that allows the cutting of branches from the underside of a tree or shrub to give a straight, clean cut.
- Pruning Saws are ideal for cutting larger branches and most are designed to fit into narrow gaps to remove branches without damaging nearby branches. If you have tall trees, opt for long reach saws as these can be used without the need for ladders.
Other jobs for November include:
- Place grease bands around fruit trees to protect them from winter moths.
- Net Brasicas and gooseberries to prevent damage from birds.
- Plant tulip bulbs.
Rachel Sobiechowski BSc (Hons) P&R Garden Supplies, Fengate Drove, Brandon 01842 814800 www.p-rgardensupplies.co.uk