Guide to pruning: take advantage of all the extra growth this summer

Most landscapes and gardens have trees of different types. While trees are quite hardy and resilient when compared to bushes and hedges, they too need a certain amount of care and attention. Most arborists provide customised garden maintenance services that include pruning of trees, hedges and plants on your property. Summer is a great to prune your trees and shrubs.

What are the benefits of pruning?

  • Whether it’s to scale down the size of some excessively grown fruit trees or to add some aussie ornamental grasses to your garden, planned pruning can go a long way in improving the appearance of your trees and shrubs.
  • Diseased branches should be removed before an infestation spreads to the rest of the tree.
  • Broken and dead branches should be cut off before various insects start burrowing and nesting in them.
  • If tree branches are growing too close to power lines or your house, they can be trimmed to avoid serious problems (this major job should be left to the professional arborists).

However, when it comes to smaller projects, if you feel you have the time, interest and inclination to pruning roses and other flowers plants, there are certain things you need to be aware of.

Guide to pruning trees

  • Know your pruning calendar. If you have trees that have started leafing too early in spring, pruning them at that time will only weaken their structure. It’s best to prune trees towards the end of summer as this prevents weakening.
  • If you are pruning fruit trees specifically to improve their form and structure, schedule the task only when the tree starts shedding its leaves and the branches are clearly visible.
  • Dead branches should be removed , a time when you can easily spot the branches.
  • When it comes to pruning roses and berry plants, no major pruning should be scheduled from January to March. Don’t prune during frost as they will likely be damaged.
  • If you are pruning trees to clear the garden space for other projects, such as starting vegetable gardens, you should initiate this task when the branches have sagged to their lowest point.
  • Branches that are in contact with a structure (e.g. house or shed) on particularly windy days should be pruned before they cause any damage. Make sure you prepare the appropriate garden tools.

If you really want to prune trees and shrubs yourself…

  1. Make the cut at a point where the trunk meets the branch. This spot is called the branch collar and has chemicals that help seal the wound faster as it speeds up formation of branch tissue.
  2. Don’t cut too close to the tree trunk as this prevents the wound from sealing quickly.
  3. Don’t cut too far from the tree trunk as this leaves a very prominent stub and becomes an easy entry point for insects. The wound won’t be able to heal till the stub is removed.

The first cut can be the deepest…

It’s best to follow these three steps when removing larger branches:

1)        Make a very shallow cut first with your garden tools, about ten centimetres from the tree trunk, on the branch’s underside.

2)        Now make a cut about five centimetres from the first cut. This cut prevents the bark of the tree from peeling down the length of the trunk, when the branch’s weight causes it to fall.

3)        Remove the remaining stub by making the last cut outside the collar of the branch.

When you prune your fruit trees regularly it keeps them in a good shape and allows them to grow strong and sturdy. When damaged branches are removed it promotes new growth. Regular pruning also goes a long way in preventing the tree from getting attacked by fungal, bacterial and viral infections.

What some common tree pruning techniques?

Some trees are particularly prone to damage from strong winds and stormy weather.  This makes it important to identify these trees and prune them using specialised techniques. Some tree shapes that require special attention are:

  • V-shaped trees- Some trees have branches that connect in a V-shaped juncture; these are the weak points in the tree’s structure and are prone to breaking off in stormy weather. The best way to prevent these types of branches from causing any problems is to shear off one of these branches before the tree matures.

The first cut should be made ten centimetres above the point at which the branches are joined. The finished cut should be made half a centimetre above this point. In the case of larger branches that have been pruned too late, you need to shear off one side back to the lateral branch; this allows the other side to dominate and grow stronger.

  • Forked trunks- These don’t have the stability that a single trunk has. They grow very close together which leaves a cavity in which rot can build up and insect infestations can further weaken the tree’s structure. If one of the trunks break off, the tree will eventually start to split and collapse.

To prevent this from happening, remove any one of these trunks before the tree ages. It’s important to cut as close to the ground’s surface as possible. Ensure you make the cut at a slight angle as this will allow the rainwater to flow off the stump. Take extra care while pruning the tree so that no damage is caused to the rest of the trunk.

How to keep it safe?

You will need to use a ladder when you are pruning trees and it is one of the most important tools you will use. However, it needs to be used correctly. Falls from ladders are some of the most common reasons for hospital visits when compared to any other accident on a residential property.  When you are using a ladder to prune trees on your property, open the legs completely and make sure the hinges are locked in place.  This ensures the ladder is stable and won’t collapse.

If a particularly large tree needs pruning and the big branches at the top of the crown have to be removed, it’s best to hire an arborist for the job. This task involves climbing, and the use of chainsaws, cherry pickers and other heavy saws. It is a specialised job that should be left to experienced and well-trained professionals. It’s never a good idea to compromise your personal safety when pruning a tree on your property.

Click here to find a professional arborist in your area and receive customised quotes

Tips for pruning plants

When hedges are first planted in your garden, the branches will be pruned to boost new growth. However, the hedges and plants need to be pruned at regular intervals after that as well. Once the plant has reached a specific height, make it a point to prune the new growth every time it grows by 15-20 centimetres.

Here’s an easy-to-follow pruning calendar. You should schedule the pruning twice a year, once in spring and then halfway through the summer. This helps keep the plant foliage attractive and lush. When you are pruning hedges, maintain a wider shape at the base as this allows them to receive sufficient sunlight to develop a stronger base.

Regular pruning of overgrown or older plants

Each year, cut up to one-third of the thickest and most mature trunks or stems, up to the ground level. This encourages new stem growth from the plant’s roots. Once the plant has no more overgrown or thick trunks left, you can start pruning flowers and plants as you normally would.

When you prune your plants and flowers in this manner, it can sometimes mean you have to sacrifice the season’s flowers. However, this is nothing more than collateral damage and it helps bring the plants back to their standard shape and size, which is a long-term benefit. When you follow this pruning technique, you will find that the plants assume a natural shape and look like new plantings.

How to choose pruning tools

Using the appropriate pruning tools makes the job easier and helps you prune the plants and shrubs in an expert manner. It’s also important to sharpen the tools regularly and keep them well-maintained. There are a number of tools used for pruning, but it’s best to stick to the most basic ones, such as:

  • Pruning shears- You can use these to make cuts that are two centimetres in diameter.
  • Lopping shears- These are very similar to pruning shears; however, they have much longer handles that offer better leverage when cutting  branches that are up to  four centimetres in diameter.
  • Hedge shears- These are specifically used for pruning hedges and are extremely effective in cutting small or succulent stems.
  • Hand saws- A hand saw is extremely useful for cutting branches that are more than two centimetres in diameter. There are a number of different types of hand saws and you should consider using razor-tooth or tri-cut pruning saws when cutting the larger branches.
  • Pole saws – These have long handles and are used when an extended reach is required. It can be a little challenging to achieve clean cuts with these saws and you should use them very carefully.
  • Small chain saws- This saw can be used for cutting larger branches.

While you can handle small tree, plant and shrub pruning on your own, it’s best to leave larger tree pruning jobs to the professionals. They will use the necessary safety gear, follow the right techniques and ensure the tree doesn’t come to any harm when they are pruning it.