Everything you need to know to start pruning | Gardening 101 | Gardening Australia

Gardening Tips
Tino demonstrates the basics of pruning and explains when to do it for the best results. Subscribe 🔔 http://ab.co/GA-subscribe
Pruning is a really useful skill to hone, no matter the type of garden you have, and you’ll be doing your plants a favour by encouraging healthy growth long-term. Tino takes us through some key techniques, terms, tools, and timing rules to become a confident pruner.  
There are three main reasons to prune – to train or maintain a desired shape, to remove dead or diseased plant material, and to encourage more growth of foliage, flowers, and fruit.

THE RIGHT TOOL - Always start with clean, sharp tools as they can be a vector for disease between plants. Clean with warm, soapy water after each use to reduce build-up and you can also spray with methylated spirits between plants. Blunt blades can leave more surface area/breaks for disease to get in. Use a diamond stone to sharpen. A good pair of bypass secateurs are the most versatile tool.

TIMING - The general rule is to wait until after the main flowering or fruiting period so that you don’t interrupt the growth cycle and there’s plenty of time for the plant to recover and grow the next lot of flowers and foliage. You can prune dead stems and branches at any time and it’s good to get them out before they attract and spread disease. 

DEAD HEADING - The simplest thing you can start with is deadheading – removing old flowers so the plant can put its energy into more flowers and foliage rather than seeds or fruit. It also keeps the plant looking fresh and clean. This is something you can do regularly with annuals and herbs, and you don’t even need secateurs for small, herbaceous plants if you’ve got sharp scissors or fingernails. Try to cut off the stem just above a set of leaves or a node – the stem will just die back anyway.  

TIP PRUNING - A node is where a leaf connects to the stem and where new shoots will grow from. The end tip is where the plant is growing from – also known as the terminal bud. When you cut this off it directs a plant hormone (auxin) back down the stem to instruct the plant to grow from lower nodes (or lateral buds) in its place. This means tip pruning will encourage more side branching and lead to a bushier plant. 
If you’ve got a large, dense shrub that needs pruning all over, you don’t need to trim each stem perfectly in the right place with secateurs, that would take forever! You can use shears or even an electric hedge trimmer and the plant will still respond well. The reason they are bushy plants is because they have a lot more nodes closer together so you’re likely to get the right spot without trying too hard!  

HARD PRUNE – This means taking a lot more plant material away and may require loppers or a saw when you get to branches more than a couple centimetres thick or there’s a large clump to get through. 
This method is for plants that respond well to having the majority or even all of it cut right back. Grasses and perennials can become a bit sad looking and collapse over winter, but a good haircut will rejuvenate them and they’ll regrow from the base.

FRUIT TREES - For evergreen fruits like olive trees, annual pruning helps to maintain airflow and shape to improve the look, yield, and reduce disease build-up. If you prune from when it’s young, you shouldn’t need to take much off, but they can handle a hard prune if old and unruly. You might have seen people pruning on an angle – this is only important for large cuts where water could actually pool on top and slowly rot the branch. Cut at a 45-degree angle with the lowest point opposite the node/bud. Some people also use a waterproof sealant or fungicide to protect from disease, but if it’s a healthy plant it should be able to heal itself.  

For larger trees, always seek expert advice! There are specialist techniques for removing branches that ensure the safety of you and the tree.  It’s worth doing some research and observation for your particular plants to get the timing, tools, and technique right, but you can start simple and get another skill in your gardening kit! 

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