By Sally Robson
Winter, or fall as they say in America, is traditionally the best time to prune back your plants, shrubs and trees. This is best done while they are dormant and by thinning and clearing old dead sections, the plant is at it’s best, to start to new growth and buds in the Spring. For Southern hemisphere gardens, that time is now. For those living in the Northern hemisphere, get ready and learn a few tips.
There is actually something therapeutic about the task of cutting back and cleaning up those unruly plants in your garden. Not only do you stimulate growth, but you also get the chance to tidy up and get access to the soil.
Many people are afraid of pruning, lest they damage the plants. This seems to be particularly true with roses and fruit trees. Rule of thumb says it is perfectly safe and simple, but don’t overdo your pruning.
The very best time, theoretically, to do your pruning, if you are in the Southern hemisphere, is the 3rd week of July up to the latter part of August.. If in the Northern hemisphere, this would be around the 3rd week of January, through to the end of February.
All types of rose bush can be pruned, except for the Heritage and Banksia varieties. When pruning climbing rosebushes, first untie the stems, remove the old growth, and carefully reattach and support the stems. Remove any side stems from the main plant. With standard roses, cut back stems and branches to about 2 inches and remove all dead twigs.
I am often asked about the angle of the cut. Don’t worry too much about this. A straight cut is best, but not always easy to achieve. Just remember to keep the thick blade of your cutters, or secateurs, facing up and away from you. Failing to do this, might bruise the stem.
Most roses will thrive on being pruned, particularly if they never performed well in the last summer. For most older rose bushes, a light pruning will be enough, especially if you take this opportunity, to enrich the soil with compost.
After you have pruned your roses, it is a good idea to remove all leaves, especially those that do not look healthy. Contrary to common belief, these do not benefit the plant and only serve to attract pests and diseases.
Hard pruning is the term given to the ruthless pruning of old roses and those planted too close together. You will need to regenerate growth, in these plants. Here, you should cut the stems right back, to about 2 inches above the ground and remove all sideways growing shoots, stems and forks.
Most of the plants in your garden, can be pruned without risk of damage. Roses are probably the most temperamental and delicate of all, so if you use these guidelines, you should be alright.
When pruning fruit trees, look at the tree from all angles and you will see where shaping is required. Pruning helps to keep the trees healthy, vibrant and free from dead wood. Again, the principle is to encourage new healthy growth and in this way, to get the best fruit yield.
Cut away all dead branches and twigs and clean out the central growth. You should also remove all messy, sideways growth. Trim the remaining main growth branches, by about two thirds. With peaches and nectarines, be careful not to remove the new stalks, produced in the last season, as these are fruit bearing. Plums, apricots and cherries don’t need much pruning at all.
Well, that is a quick guide to pruning and should help to invigorate your garden. The only tools you will need, are gardening gloves, to protect your hands, a pair of long handled loppers, to reach the higher branches and to give you more leverage to cut thicker branches and the usual pair of gardening secateurs, for normal use.
Sally Robson is an up and coming, South African internet marketer, with a vision of empowering all fellow South Africans and non U.S folk, to have equal opportunity and success on the internet. She and her husband Derek, have started a string of sites, resources, courses and articles, as part of Dersalsites. She also has a passion for gardening.
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For more articles and advice on gardening topics, visit Sally’s website at http://www.dersalsites.com/gardening/ and her blog at: http://dersalsites.com/sallysgardeningtips/
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