It may seem counter-intuitive to prune your plants in winter; the thought of removing layers and exposing more of the plant to the cold winter conditions just sounds like a bad idea, but the truth is quite the opposite!
Pruning in winter is essential to your yearly garden maintenance routine and promotes plant health, flowering and fruiting, and the ability to retain the aesthetic shape of the plant. Furthermore, winter pruning will allow your garden to burst into sublime, vigorous life in Spring.
When should you start pruning?
As the winter chill sets in the growth of your plants will start to slow and dormancy will take effect – this is ideal for pruning! Over the course of the winter months the extremities of the plants will also begin to die and wither, making them much easier to remove. So, July to August is generally the best time to start pruning so that you’re ready for the flourish of Spring.
What will you need?
The most important element in successful pruning is the tools you use. There are a range of different tools available for the various aspects of the pruning process and these include Secateurs one-handed clippers essential for cutting through stems, branches and twigs, Loppers, very similar to Secateurs but with much longer handles and designed to be used with both hands for much thicker branches, Hedge Shears, specialty clippers designed for use on hedges, Pruning Saws, serrated blade saws for cutting through much thicker plant material, Pole Pruners, essentially Secateurs mounted on a pole with a pulley mechanism for to cut those hard to reach branches, Electric Hedge Trimmers, the Rolls Royce of Hedge Shears for simple and fast hedge shaping, and finally Chain Saws, robust jagged bladed tools for cutting through just about any plant material there is, including massive tree trunks, just watch your fingers!
Ready, set, prune!
Hold on a second, don’t dive right in yet. Before pruning you should have a good idea of the shape you’d like your plants to take and slowly prune with this in mind at all times. When you’re ready, here are 5 steps to the perfect prune:
- Remove dead or damaged branches and scraggly stems. You can check the health of the wood by scraping a little of the bark away, if it’s green the tissue is still alive, if not, cut away.
- Cut off branches that cross over or rub up against one another.
- Trace stems to where they grow from the trunk and cut them off neatly, be sure to cut off stems growing out of large branches or the trunk of the tree. Your objective is to thin out the plant to allow light and air to reach new growth.
- Aim to trim according to the shape you have in mind and provide a solid base for Spring.
- Apply a little plant sealer on the cut edges to protect against infection.