trees reflected in water, wakehurst place

November in Your Garden – Tree Care, Pruning and Planting

How many of us accept that trees provide us with oxygen and soak up greenhouse gases, yet still treat them as expendable?

Or worse, ignore their presence in our gardens until we’ve let them grow so big that the pleasant dappled shade has become a total eclipse and then demand to have them removed?

Let this November be the month that you start to understand how important trees are in your garden and for the planet as a whole. November in Your Garden – Tree Care, Pruning and Planting is here to help you.

But before you start planting new trees in your garden, it’s a good idea to review what you already have.


November in Your Garden – Tree Care – firstly, what trees grow in your garden?

Do you know what species all the trees in your garden are?

You may have been the person who planted them or have a planting list from the previous owner. In which case its fairly easy to walk around the garden with your plan and check the trees off. In theory anyway; you may need to look some of them up first!

If you have to guess, carrying around a reference book or iPad as you walk round the garden may help. if there are lots of trees take photos to compare online. Or you may like ask Plews to come and help identify the trees for you.

garden acer in winter, deciduous tree, acer palmatum

Do any of your trees have Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) on them? If you live in a Conservation Area or National Park there are likely to be legal restrictions on what you can and cannot do with your trees. We can advise you with that too.

Do you have fruit trees, deciduous trees, evergreens, conifers, specimen trees, an orchard or small woodland?

And importantly, do the trees in your garden give you pleasure?
If not, why not? Perhaps there’s a less dramatic option than total removal. It may be that a bit of TLC is all that’s needed…


November in Your Garden – Tree Care – Maintaining the trees you have

It is a common misconception that trees don’t need attention. Wrong!

Young trees

Newly planted trees and young trees need regular watering until they’ve established. This could be up to three years, or even longer depending on the weather and the species. The size of the tree when planted can also affect the amount of extra care needed / length of time to fully establish.

Staking a new tree is done to provide initial support until the roots have developed sufficiently to anchor the tree in the ground. There should be some movement to encourage the tree to put out roots. This is often accomplished by allowing the crown of the tree to move freely in the breeze whilst supporting the trunk.

Mature trees

Mature trees should be checked, at least annually, preferably quarterly, for signs of ill health and disease. An otherwise healthy tree can tolerate some pests (like we can usually cope with a cold).

This year’s long hot dry spell caused many people to think their trees were dying as leaves went brown and fell off. This was actually the trees’ response to the extreme weather. By losing leaves it reduced the area through which water evaporated; in other words, trees were conserving water.

metasequoia, deciduous conifer, winter garden

November in Your Garden – Tree Care – Pruning

Most trees need to be pruned if they are to be a garden asset, we do not all have acres of land to allow them to achieve their full height and width! Ideally, of course, you’ve chosen your new tree with the size of your garden in mind. But we often inherit trees with a new house, and they may not have been so carefully chosen or pruned.

Basic pruning rules

  • Know your tree, its growth habit (shape), when it flowers and fruits
  • Remove dead, diseased and dying branches first
  • Spend more time standing back and looking at your tree than you do making cuts
  • If you’re not sure what you’re doing ask an expert for advice on how to prune, and possibly ask them to show you how
  • For larger trees requiring a chain saw for pruning, use a qualified and licensed tree surgeon or other gardening professional.
  • Do not use a chainsaw yourself without wearing the proper protective clothing. Saving £200- 400 is not worth losing an arm for!

The general pruning rule is that deciduous trees should be pruned when dormant, i.e. leafless. However, some trees, for example, Prunus species, including ornamental cherry, need to be pruned in leaf.

Fruit trees require special pruning as they may need to be winter pruned, summer pruned or both. And you need to know how the tree fruits, or you may prune off the fruiting branches!

pear tree, blossom, city garden, fruit tree, edible garden

Evergreen trees that are not being grown as a hedge, are usually pruned in mid-late summer, but pines are best pruned in early spring.

If you’re planting a new tree for National Tree Week, then you’ll be able to keep on top of the pruning regime from the start.


November in Your Garden – Tree Care – Planting

Of course, there’s planting a new tree but also digging up, moving and re-planting an existing tree. Both of those options are whole articles in themselves, so I’m just mentioning some key points.

Choosing a new tree

Before you plant it, you need to have chosen the right tree for the garden location. There are suggestions in various other blogs – see links below. How to choose a tree will be the subject of a blog in the next few weeks. If you can’t wait, or would like the bespoke service straight away, do get in touch for a design visit

Your new tree may be a container / pot grown tree or a bare root tree. Container grown trees can be bought and planted at any time of year. I recommend a read through of the blog Bare Root Plants for how to choose and plant a bare root tree.

olive tree, plant nursery, container grown tree

Planting a new tree – Checklist

  • Is the location right for this tree species? Bear in mind the ultimate height and width
  • Soil improvement is almost always necessary. Do not skimp on this or your tree will struggle
  • Larger trees will be a 2-person planting job
  • The hole should be approximately twice as deep and wide as the root ball
  • You may like to add mycorrhizal fungi to the planting hole
  • Do you need a tree stake?
  • Many container grown trees are in special pots which prevent roots from spiralling. These roots won’t need ‘teasing out’
  • On windy days keep the roots covered up to prevent them drying out
  • Water well after planting
  • Mulch the soil around, but without touching the trunk

bare root tree, straw mulch

November in Your Garden – Tree Care, Pruning and Planting

Although the above information is relevant for a large part of the year, this blog is inspired by the annual British National Tree Week.

autumn trees, noon, deciduous trees

National Tree Week UK began in 1975 and is an annual celebration of our trees at the end of November / beginning December. It is timed for this point in the year as this coincides with the beginning of the bare root tree season. In 2018 National Tree Week UK runs from November 24th – December 2nd.

If you would like a Garden Consultancy Visit for an assessment of the trees you have and suggestions for new planting, please get in touch.


Related Gardening articles you may enjoy from our Award Winning Blog

Plews Potting Shed blogs –Plants / Trees Category

When to Prune Roses
Late Autumn Gardening Checklist
5 Grow Your Own Foods to eat with your Thanksgiving Turkey
Celebrating Trees for National Tree Week