by Janice Anderssen
Plant growth slows down during the winter and there is less chance of infection when trimming – so grab your garden shears and get pruning!
Amateur gardeners are often put off pruning because they don’t understand why it’s necessary and how it’s done. Once you understand that pruning allows you to shape and strengthen shrubs and trees, you will want to perform this task on an annual basis. Winter is the best time for pruning – most plants are dormant and there is less chance of infection on the cut ends.
Make sure your garden shears, secateurs or saws are sharp and well-oiled, and if you don’t yet have these you will find a wide selection in the Garden Centre at your local hardware store. Clean cuts with sharp tools allow the plant to heal faster.
GOOD TO KNOW: If you are pruning a variety of plants, disinfect your tools with vinegar to prevent the risk of cross-infection.
Tips for Pruning
Before you begin, study the shape of the plant as you would like it to be. It’s very much like giving your plants a haircut and you should start off conservatively, trimming off more if necessary.
1. Remove damaged, dead or diseased branches, as well as straggly stems. To check if wood is dead, use a knife to scrape the bark to determine if there is any (green) live tissue.
2. Cut away any branches that cross over or rub against each other.
3. Follow stems back to their origin and cut away neatly where is grows from a large branch, or from the trunk of the shrub or tree. The idea is to thin out the plant for more growth and to let in light.
4. Trim to the desired shape to give plants a strong structure on which to base future growth.
5. Apply plant sealer to the cut edges to prevent the risk of infection of disease.
Use the above table as a guideline for pruning in the garden in both summer and winter rainfall regions. Any pruning should be done before mid-August.