Pruning is one of those gardening jobs that confuses most people. It was the topic that most people wanted to know about when I used to teach beginner gardening to evening class students , but were also a bit scared of. In fact it’s mostly common sense, so here’s my simple guide to pruning.
There’s an easy general rule:
Plant that flower in late summer and autumn, flower on stems that have grown that year, so need pruning in spring. Makes sense really, pruning in spring gives them time to grow new stems for their flowers.
While spring and summer flowering plants make their flowers on last seasons stems, so prune them after they’ve flowered, giving them enough time to grow stems and branches ready for next spring.
Buddleia davidii is pruned in early spring as it flowers on the current seasons growth:
There are lots of reasons but above all it’s to help plants grow strong and healthy. This is especially good for us organic gardeners, and even if you don’t garden organically you won’t need to use as many chemicals to kill diseases if you have healthy plants.
The three rules of pruning shrubs (this includes fruit bushes too) are to cut out:
- and dying wood
Dead and diseased stems encourage all kinds of infection, if you’re not sure if stems are dead, gently scrape back the top layer of bark and if it’s green it’s ok.
Fungus loves damp, airless conditions, so prune to make a nice, open shrub so that air can circulate through it, making it unwelcoming to fungal diseases.
To have as much fruit and vegetables as possible:
Cutting out unnecessary foliage, pruning foliage from grapes means that the plant puts more energy into making fruit rather than fruit and leaves.
How to prune:
- Use sharp tools like secateurs to make a good, clean cut, ragged and torn cuts don’t heal well and are more likely to encourage diseases in to the wound.
- Avoid making the cut bigger than necessary, small cuts heal more quickly.
- Make a sloping cut close to a pair of buds, with the slope facing away from the bud.
Remember that the harder the pruning, the more vigerous the re-growth will be.
The R.H.S. have some brilliant detailed advice about pruning on their website
all images: Jill Anderson