Pruning Dos and Don'ts
Let’s face it, pruning your trees can be daunting. After all, a little trim here and there can make or break the overall look and health of your landscape! But before you get out those pruners and do irreversible damage to every tree, shrub, and bush in sight, take some time to review these essential dos and don'ts of proper pruning techniques.
When to prune - different plants need pruning at different times of the year
Pruning trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plants is an important part of landscape maintenance. Since it's important to prune at the right time of year for desired results, you must know the proper time for your climate zone and the types of plants in your landscape. For example, in zone 7b where we are, deciduous trees should be pruned for aesthetic purposes in the late winter months before new growth begins. Additionally, shrubs typically need reshaping in early spring. If you are not sure when to prune properly, there are lots of resources available including experienced arborists and local extension offices which can help provide advice specific to your unique plants and environment or stop by and I can share my experience.
How to prune - there are many different ways to prune, depending on the plant and its purpose
Understanding why you are pruning is essential to achieving your dream look. You should first learn which type of pruning you will need to do. Pruning trees is essential for fruit trees because it helps promote vigorous growth and encourages the production of flowers and fruits. To encourage growth, cut just above a healthy lateral bud away from an older woody area. When removing entire limbs be sure to cut back to the trunk with a smooth cut to provide optimal conditions to heal. Leaving a raggedy stump pointing off of the trunk can invite additional disease and damage. For general landscape trees and shrubs, pruning depends on the look that you want to achieve - from a formal style like trimmed hedges to a more natural design. Native species like inkberry or viburnum may not require any pruning at all! With some research into your plants and desired style, applying the proper pruning techniques will ensure you have a beautiful landscape in no time.
What not to do when pruning - some common mistakes people make when pruning
Too often, people make costly mistakes that can damage plants or stunt their growth. A common mistake is to prune trees in the wrong season - covered above, but as a reminder, trees should generally only be pruned when they are in their dormant state unless you are removing dead, damaged, or diseased branches.
Another common mistake is over-pruning. For trees concentrate on smaller cuts that serve specific purposes like crossing limbs. When trees are overly pruned it causes unnecessary stress. To avoid this, never remove more than one-third of the branches in a year, this should give the tree time to recover and heal between prunings.
One of the most common mistakes people make when pruning is not using the right tools. If you don't have the right tool for the job, you risk damaging trees or shrubs - more on that later. Use sharp pruners and focus on pruning dead, damaged, or diseased branches.
Don't neglect ornamental grasses and groundcover plants. Failing to cut back your grasses, vines, and ground cover can result in overgrowth. This can damage your other landscape and restrict new growth the following season or an unsightly dead clump surrounded by new spring growth the following year.
Lastly, don't forget to protect yourself from debris flying from trees and other plants by wearing safety goggles and hearing protection - an essential step when tackling any maintenance task!
Tools for pruning - what you'll need to get the job done
When starting any pruning project, it's important to begin with sharp tools. Sharp pruners and loppers help ensure clean cuts that will heal quickly and reduce the risk of introducing diseases into your plants. Properly sharpened tools also make the job easier, cutting through branches without tearing or damaging the bark. With the right pruners, you can easily and safely make cuts in branches under 1” thick. For larger branches, you'll want to use a saw or pole pruner for better control. If you're tackling large limbs, an electric chainsaw or cordless reciprocating saw are great tools that will help get the job done quickly and safely. Just don't forget to think about where that limb or branch is going to land as you cut it - you don't want to end up on a YouTube fail video or worse yet in the hospital because you were kicked off your ladder making that final cut.
Use safety gear like gloves, eye and hearing protection, and thick shirts and pants when using power tools. This will help you stay protected while you work! With the right tools and knowledge at your disposal, you'll be able to have a beautiful landscape - with minimal effort!
Pruning tips for beginners - how to get started with proper pruning techniques
Pruning can be intimidating for beginners, but with a little knowledge and practice, you’ll be able to tackle most pruning jobs without too much trouble. The best way to start is by focusing on removing damaged or dead branches first and then turning to branches that are rubbing which will create issues down the road. This will help keep the tree or shrub healthy and reduce potential problems from spreading.
It's also helpful to flag dead branches in the summer if you're going to wait for winter pruning. With the leaves removed, a little paint or ribbon added will make identifying the limb to remove much easier when you go back in the winter months. When removing a branch, make sure to cut back to the trunk. I find it helpful to start with a cut on the bottom side about a 1/4 of the way through to avoid ripping and tearing the bark of the trunk when larger limbs break off as you cut.
Finally, keep your tools clean and sharp, so that they make easy work of any pruning job. Cleaning them after each use will help prevent the spread of disease from one plant to another. It will also make them last longer and make the job easier, as sharp tools cut through branches much easier than dull ones.
By following these basic tips, you'll be well on your way to creating a beautiful landscape that is healthy and well-maintained! Good luck with your pruning projects!
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