Home & Lifestyle
Shape Up Your Garden
(ARA) - Why Prune? Pruning your outdoor and indoor plants is one of the best things you can do for them. Pruning removes death and disease, increases air circulation and ensures sunlight reaches every branch and stem.
It is the oldest and easiest way to control the size, growth, beauty and health of your plants and to renew or increase their production. This is because plants try to maintain a certain ratio of root to shoot -- so pruning encourages growth because it causes the plant to enthusiastically work towards reinstating its size ratio.
If youíre not sure about when to prune, what tool you should use, what to prune, and where on the plant to prune, the crash course in pruning basics below will bring you up to speed on how to care for all your plants. And, if you make a few mistakes while pruning, donít fret. Most shrubs and trees have so many new shoots growing that they are always ready to renew themselves!
In general, it is best to prune in the plantís dormant period, which is usually in the late winter, but pruning should always be done year-round as needed. Prune spring-flowering shrubs right after they finish blooming. If you prune them before they bloom, youíll remove potential flowers. Prune summer and fall-flowering shrubs from late fall until just before they show new growth in the spring. Roses should be pruned in the late winter or early spring just as the buds appear.
If you prune too early, youíll cause growth to be vulnerable to frost damage, while pruning too late will waste the energy the plant has already put into making the buds and leaves you are removing. Deciduous trees should be pruned after their dormant stage, before they bloom. Evergreen trees should be pruned just before growth starts, in the spring.
Choosing the right tool makes the job easier and ensures minimum healing time for the plant. Use the following tools accordingly:
* Loppers are for cutting old stems to the ground or to snip off stubborn, larger branches and any branch up to two inches in diameter
* A pruning saw should be used if a stem is larger than two inches
* Use a tree pruner on hard-to-reach tree branches
* Hedge shears can be used on all hedges except larger woody branches
* Hand pruners can be used on branches up to 3/4 of an inch thick
* Anvil pruners are suited for cutting dead growth
* Bypass pruners are ideal for making precision cuts in live wood
Make sure your pruning tools are still sharp before beginning. Using a dull blade will make the task take a lot longer and could end up doing damage to your plants. If your tools are dull and/or rusted, it might be a good time to invest in some new tools.
Also make sure the tool is comfortable in your hand. Using a tool incorrectly or one that is sized wrong for your hand can cause hand fatigue, and if youíve got a whole yard of pruning to do, thatís not an option.
When purchasing a pruning tool, make sure it fits well in your hand. Older tools were typically not made with much thought to the true hand size of the average gardener, which today is often a woman. Fortunately, newer designs have become more proportionate. One to try is the Natural Fit Collection of pruning tools from Ames True Temper. The line was created to be easier-to-use with a smaller and lighter design and is ideal for small hands and/or small tasks where there isnít enough room for a standard-sized pruner.
Although the hand grips are smaller to accommodate smaller hand spans, the blades still provide a full-size cut. The lopper in the line is actually small enough that it can be used in lieu of a pruner, for people who lack the strength and need to cut with two hands. All the tools feature soft textured grips and a non-stick coating on the blades to facilitate easier cutting.
If you need to do a lot of close pruning, youíll need a tool that wonít wear out your hand. Most hand pruners put the bulk of the work on your little finger -- one that isnít used to carrying the brunt of anything. If youíve experienced hand fatigue before, you might want to try the Ames True Temper Reverse Pivot Ergo Pruner. It features an ergonomic handle contour and reverse pivot action that places pressure on the userís pointer finger. Its blade has a zero friction coating to make pruning 40 percent easier than with traditional hand tools.
No matter what pruning tool youíre using, always sterilize it before use. To do so, mix 1 and a half cups of bleach with 2 gallons of water. Dip the pruning tools or saw into this solution before starting each cut. When finished with a job, dry the tools off and add a few drops of oil to the blade and joints to extend the life of your pruning tools.
The first thing to remove is diseased, dead or broken branches whenever you see them. A good rule of thumb is to cut back approximately one foot into the healthy wood on shrubs and trees -- which is noticeable by a fresh, light color. Cut off broken branches cleanly instead of ripping them to reduce the woundís surface area in order to promote more rapid healing. Remove any tall or unruly branches that look out of place so shrubs, trees and hedges retain an attractive shape. If youíre pruning a young shrub (one or two years old), remove seed heads that remain after a flower has bloomed in order to give the shrub more energy to make new flower buds. You can do this easily with your fingers by snapping the developing seed head.
With roses, prune dead wood and anything diseased or frost-damaged. Prune in the living cane, which is noticeable by the green color and creamy white inside. Unpruned roses will overgrow and not produce many flowers.
On trees, any branches that cross over another can cause potential damage by rubbing against each other. These should be pruned to remove this threat. Also prune inward-growing branches and get rid of water sprouts -- those straight, rapidly growing vertical branches -- because they prevent light from reaching the interior of the tree. Lastly, cut off ďsuckersĒ (canes sprouting directly from the roots of the tree).
Evergreens donít require much pruning, so donít cut back further than the green growth into the brown twigs, which cannot produce growth.
Always prune a stem in the direction you wish for it to grow. The way that you cut a stem determines the direction new growth will take. Donít cut too far away or too close to a bud. Make your cut just above a bud thatís facing the direction where youíd like new growth and on a slight angle to ensure the healthiest growth.
Follow these simple steps to successfully re-invigorate your plants and encourage new, healthier growth!
For more pruning tips, visit www.amestruetemper.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content