Pruning Tips and Advice


Why prune?

pruning tips and advice There are three basic reasons for pruning trees, shrubs and fruit: it improves their shape; it encourages flowering and fruiting; and it keeps them vigorous and healthy. It is this last reason which makes attention to pruning particularly important in an organic garden.

Pruning cuts

Cuts to shrubs or fruit should always be made just above a healthy bud or pair of buds, and should slope away from the buds so that rainwater does not collect in the cut and cause rotting. When removing small branches from trees, cut close to a healthy branch or the trunk, cutting from above and angling the cut slightly away from the trunk or main branch to avoid creating a large wound.

With bigger branches, reduce the weight of the branch by cutting it back in stages until you are left with a stub about 30-45cm (12-18in) long. Then make a small cut underneath this stub, close to the trunk of the tree. This will prevent the bark from being torn as you cut from above and the stub falls away.

Always keep pruning tools sharp so that cuts are made cleanly. Never leave a stub or snag as this will almost certainly die back and form an entry point for disease.

Provided the cuts are made properly and in the right place, woody plants have a remarkable power to heal themselves and wounds do not generally need painting. If you do paint a wound, you must do so immediately after cutting as it only takes seconds for infection to occur. The wound paint acceptable to organic gardeners is a solution of the fungus Trichoderma viride (see Garden Pests and Diseases – Pesticide Sprays), which is sold as a wettable powder by specialist suppliers. This fungus is able to overcome decay and disease fungi on the surface of the wound.

If your only reason for using a paint is to disguise the wound, rub the cut surface with earth or manure instead.

Pruning for shape

Pruning can sometimes put plants under stress: they have to grow new wood and leaves, and every pruning cut is a site where disease might enter. It therefore makes sense to keep this

Remove any dead, damaged or diseased wood, cutting back to healthy growth, then take out crossing or weak shoots. The shrub type of pruning to a minimum where possible, with the aim of simply helping the plant to achieve its natural shape. If you find yourself pruning a shrub vigorously each year just so that it does not outgrow its space, think of replacing it with one that is more suitable. However, most ornamental trees and shrubs benefit from pruning to train them into shape whilst young, and this is particularly the case with fruit trees and bushes.

Pruning for flowers and fruit In order to prune at the right time it is essential to know the plant’s growth habits, the time it flowers, and whether it is the current year’s shoots or older growth that produces blooms.

Most formative pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs is carried out during winter. However, there are exceptions. Plums and cherries should not be pruned in winter because of the risk of silver leaf disease (see Pests and Diseases of Tree Fruit). Early-flowering shrubs such as Ribes sanguineum should be pruned immediately after flowering so as not to reduce the number of blooms it will produce the following year. Late-flowering shrubs that flower on the current year’s growth such as Buddleia davidii should be pruned in mid-spring. Should contain only healthy wood and have -an open structure, allowing good air circulation and helping to prevent disease.

Pruning to encourage fruiting of gooseberries, redcurrants, whitecurrants and trained forms of apples, pears and plums is carried out in summer. The leading shoots are left unpruned, but unwanted lateral shoots are cut back to five leaves in the case of gooseberries and currants, three leaves in apples and six or seven in plums. Removing shoots at this time of year reduces the vigour of the plants and stimulates the formation of fruit buds for next year. It also gives the ripening fruit more air and light, improving its quality and making picking easier. Sometimes summer pruning can directly remove the source of pests or diseases — currant blister aphid on redcurrants and mildew on gooseberries, for example (see Pests and Diseases of Soft Fruit).

Pruning for plant health

This type of pruning can be done at any time of year: act as soon as you spot any problems. First remove dead and damaged wood as this can be a point of entry for disease. Similarly, remove diseased wood, cutting right back into healthy wood. Finally, remove any crossing or weak shoots, especially in the centre of a bush or shrub. This allows in air and helps to prevent fungal diseases.

03. February 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Pruning | Tags: , | Comments Off on Pruning Tips and Advice


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