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To prune or not to prune? That is the question. Well, it depends on how confident you are. Pruning is a great way to encourage new growth and keep plants looking at their best. But you do need to know what you’re doing. So here’s a beginners guide to cutting back in the garden.
Where to start?
There are two main reasons for pruning plants – health and balance. A plants health is improved by removing old and damaged stems, because it promotes healthy new growth which increases its production of flowers or fruit.
To reduce the amount of pruning needed, try planting shrubs the right size for your border or pot, so pruning is not required to restrict the size of the plant.
If shrubs show signs of neglect, it’s a good idea to prune one third of the plant right to the ground in early spring before the growth starts. This can be done by using a pair of secateurs.
Pruning shrubs to remove diseased branches
When pruning a shrub, start with the three D’s:
• Diseased branches.
Remove any of the above as you see them. This will help keep the shrub healthy, and make any pruning afterwards easier, because you’ll be able to see any lop-sided limbs, or congested areas. Remember, hard pruning (cutting right back) promotes more vigorous growth than light pruning.
Some shrubs also benefit from pruning to ensure an abundance of flowers – generally the safest time to prune these is directly after a plants flowering period. For more information on this take a look at How-to get more flowers
Cut above buds with secateurs, loppers or pruning saws
Congested shrubs can suffer from moulds and fungus because of a lack of airflow through the stems. To prevent this from happening and to keep the plant balanced, prune shrubs as soon as you see them getting out of shape.
To do this cut just above an outward pointing bud, as this is where the growth will start, giving a more natural look to the shrub.
Important: The secret to pruning well is to make sure the tools you’re using are sharp. If the tools aren’t cutting the branches cleanly, either sharpen the blades or move on to a larger tool like loppers or a pruning saw. If the cut is ragged and torn, infection and pests can easily enter the plant – so take care.