A Little Known Secret to Successful Outdoor Gardening ……Pruning

Outdoor gardening is so much easier when you know how. Outdoor gardening is much more enjoyable when you know a few secrets. Much of the enjoyment of outdoor gardening comes from the care and proper maintenance of the garden. Not many plants will look their best without some help, and pruning is one of these techniques considered essential to outdoor gardening if plants are to flower and fruit well, and to keep pests and diseases at bay. For those inexperienced in outdoor gardening, pruning can often be a reason for concern. Questions may arise, such as when is the best time to prune, and how, and where. We prune our trees and shrubs mainly to increase flowering and fruiting, to control diseases, or to change the size or shape of the plant. Some shrubs such as Forsythia need an annual prune of their older wood to help maintain vigor and to produce new flowering shoots. These new shoots are produced from the base of the plant. If Forsythia was left un pruned it could soon become overcrowded, allowing little room for new shoots to grow and flower. I recommend that after flowering each year you cut out a good quarter to one third of the old wood around the base of the shrub. A number of shrubs can be encouraged through pruning to develop larger foliage with no flowers. This is usually done in late winter or early spring. The shrub is either cut back to the ground, or cut back very hard whilst removing dead wood and twigs. Some trees are suitable for this type of pruning, and this can totally change the appearance of these plants. Ornamental fruit trees will produce much more flowers and fruit when pruned correctly. As a rough guide for outdoor gardening the plants that flower early in the season should be pruned as soon as flowering has finished,whilst late flowering shrubs can be done at the beginning of the growing season. Many shrubs are grown for the color of their stems, and will need to be pruned at frequent intervals if the color is to be kept. A technique called “coppicing” where the shrub is pruned hard close to the ground is usually involved. Coppicing is also used for the production of wood suitable for fencing. In outdoor gardening however, it is used most often to stimulate fresh new growth in the colorful stems of trees and shrubs. The shape of trees and shrubs in the outdoor garden can be changed by pruning and crossing branches that are close together. The object here is to construct a natural open shape so that air can circulate freely. If some of your older shrubs are getting a bit woody and ugly you could try cutting the plant back hard whilst trying to keep some leaves on the lower branches, before deciding to pull them up. It’s worth giving the plant a feed and mulch at this time too. What pruning tools will you need for outdoor gardening? For outdoor gardening you will need secateurs for soft shoots and small branches, or loppers for branches that are too thick to be cut with secateurs, and a saw for even bigger branches. Always use good quality tools and make sure they are sharp. It is essential to the health of your plants that you prune correctly. Cut out all diseased, weak and dead growth. Always cut back to healthy wood, free from the staining of infected tissue. Generally when pruning cuts are made on trees and shrubs it should be made to a bud, which will then grow away without leaving a dead stump. You should choose a bud that is facing the direction you want the branch to grow away to, then make a slanting cut about 2 inches above the bud. If the plant has opposing buds, then cut straight across. A good tip for creating cleaner, easier cuts on lighter stems and branches with secateurs is to hold the stem in your free hand and bend it slightly with light pressure before cutting. To remove a branch from a shrub or tree, you first need to cut the branch back to about a foot from the trunk. This will help to prevent the branch tearing. Don’t however cut the remaining stub flush with the trunk, but leave a small swelling which can heal on its own. Pare off ragged parts left on sawn surfaces. Collect all your prunings and compost them if soft and healthy, but burn them if woody or diseased. Enjoy your outdoor gardening by pruning successfully. Make the right cut to improve your outdoor gardening skills.
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