Gardening Tips

Battening down the hatches! Grow-how tips for November


Whoa!  We have all had some VERY rough weather this autumn, haven’t we!  I hope your outdoor spaces have survived the onslaught of wind and rain.

There are tasks we can do to make our gardens more resilient against wild weather so let’s get on with cutting back roses and other shrubs, as well as sorting out our labels and moving fruit trees amongst other jobs…

Protect roses and shrubs

I hope I’m not too late with this advice! I know the usual time for rose-pruning is late winter/early spring but with these bad storms around, it is a great idea to reduce this year’s long stems now in autumn, by a third to a half. Even once the leaves have fallen, strong winds can rock the whole plant. This is particularly dodgy for the roots which get loosened in the soil and will therefore be less efficient at taking in nutrients to feed your rose bush. 

Lessen the height of your shrub roses to stop them rockin’ and rollin’ in the winter winds

Cut back the long shoots on shrub and bush roses now, to give you a better chance of a great show again next summer.  Take the opportunity to clear away any crossing, weedy or dead stems too, and cut out stems that are coming straight up through the centre and clogging up the air passage through the plant.

With climbing roses, cut all the sideshoots back to within about two buds of the main framework.  Don’t be tempted to do this with any rambler roses though, because their new shoots made this year will carry next summer’s blooms – chop them off now and they will be flowerless! After rambling roses have bloomed in the summer, cut out the old flowering stems and tie in the new ones that will carry the following year’s display. If these new stems have made a lot of growth over late summer and autumn (and ours certainly had!) you may need to tie them again now.

Tie in branches of climbing and rambling roses ahead of rough winter weather

I’ve made a short video on this subject – the link is at the bottom.

Other shrubs could benefit from this treatment too – buddleias, lavateras and abutilons can all suffer in autumn gales, and shortening all their long top-shoots makes them much less susceptible.

I’m lucky enough to be able to grow abutilons outdoors but they would benefit from pruning in autumn to lessen damage from the wind

Along the same lines, check ties that you have got on trees, particularly young ones, and loosen them a little if necessary. If you’re planting young trees, position the stake so that the tree will be blown away from it and keep the stake low so that the branches can move while the stem and roots are held still. I think rubber tree-ties are the best to use (if you have them) though I’ve found that old tights make a very good substitute! The point is to use a tie that doesn’t cut into the bark as the tree grows – NEVER use wire around a tree-trunk.

Old tights make nice soft but strong tree ties

Use a spacer on the tie between the post and the trunk to stop them from rubbing together in a gale and wearing away the precious bark. If you’re using tights as your tie, twirl the two ends round each other a few times before attaching it to the trunk, for the same purpose.

Labels to last

We have rightly become SO aware of how much plastic we use in our lives. The gardening world is as prone as any to an accusation of plastics overuse, and most of us are trying hard to cut back or re-cycle.

Ever since I started gardening decades ago, I’ve used white plastic labels for my plants. I have experimented with lots of other kinds of label, and I know they all have their champions – black metal ones with white writing, dymo-tape, wooden lollipop sticks (I found these DEEPLY useless – the writing was unreadable after a month)….. But I always came back to the simple white ones.

A very low-tech solution to the problem of plant-labels

BUT they are very much part of my re-cycling routine. The thing is, I always use a pencil (an HB is best) on them rather than a pen. And once that veg crop is over, or that particular plant has got established in the garden – or died! – I retrieve the label. I don’t like a flowerbed to be sprinkled with little plant-labels, anyway. So each November, I sit down with all the plant-labels I have used during the year. 

I love reflecting on the story each one tells; I’ll maybe make a note of where that plant is in the garden, or what a total failure those potatoes were, etc. etc. And then I just wash and dry them, rub out the writing with an ordinary eraser, and stack them ready for use next year! They do eventually become brittle and too discoloured to re-use but I’ve used many of the same labels for donkey’s years. Not high-tech, but it works for me, and it may for you as well.

Gardening shorts

  • I adore my Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus)!  Great clumps of small pink and white daisies in early summer, a cut back in early July and then whoosh!  Off they go again – and they’ve still got a few flowers on in November.  But it is time to cut the whole lot back to the ground, because each clump (certainly in this garden) becomes a very popular spot for overwintering snails and slugs.
Time to cut the Erigeron right back to ground level
  • Autumn is a very good time for moving fruit bushes and trees, or planting new ones – as long as the ground is not totally waterlogged (good luck with that!)
  • Still on the subject of fruit, if you have been putting away your apple crop for storage through the winter months, do remember to check them regularly, and take out any that are showing signs of rot before it spreads to others – remember the old adage about ‘One bad apple…..’!
If you’ve stored your apple harvest, do check them regularly!

Here is the link to my video on pruning roses in autumn.

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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

4 replies on “Battening down the hatches! Grow-how tips for November”

Elaine, I chop up old yoghurt pots, etc. The inside white side make excellent recycled plant labels. You can even chop one end into a point…

In this weather I wonder whether we shouldn’t be tying ourselves down preferably above flood level!


Excellent use of old yoghurt pots, Janie! I tried this too, but I did find it harder to write with pencil on them because they were smoother than the custom-made labels. Let’s keep re-cycling EVERYTHING we can! All the best, Elaine

Re. labels. I snapped the back off covid tests following a Facebook hack. At least some of the mounds of plastic they must have generated is put to good use!

Genius, Anne! All those billions of plastic materials used during the height of the pandemic was yet another concern, wasn’t it. It’s good to hear that someone was trying to re-cycle some little bits of it. Thank you for writing in, all the best, Elaine

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