Your outdoor landscape and plant life is an important part of your home’s exterior aesthetic, and seasonal maintenance is necessary to ensure its natural beauty and well being. Proper pruning is a way to do so, although the average homeowner may find the task a bit daunting. And while you may choose to hire a professional, educating yourself on the basics – knowing when and how to prune – will provide the confidence you need to perform much of the work yourself. Seasonal pruning improves the overall health of your trees and shrubs, and keeps your outdoor area looking neat and properly cared for as well.
Why is Pruning Important?
It’s worthwhile to understand the reasons why pruning is important. First and foremost, pruning removes weak or crossing branches, promoting the growth of healthy and strong ones. This added strength helps the plant survive during storms and high winds. Pruning also removes diseased and dead wood, stimulates new growth, decreases the likelihood of the plant succumbing to disease.
When Should Pruning Occur?
Timing depends primarily on what you need to prune, and you may want to consult an arborist to determine the best times to prune the various plants in your landscape. However, there are some general guidelines you can follow for the trees in your yard. Fruit trees, and any trees that flower during the summer, should be pruned in the late winter. Trees that flower in the springtime should be pruned once they’ve finished flowering, and summer is the best season for pruning any trees which produce sap.
What Tools are Needed?
For light pruning and basic plant maintenance, a homeowner should invest in a small variety of tools, including hand pruners, loppers, a saw, and hedge trimmers. Yearly cleaning and sharpening of these items will increase their life and make your job easier too. For removal of large limbs or a diseased and dying tree, consult a professional.
Key Pruning Terms
While there are quite a few terms that are useful to know when pruning your plants, below are some of the most important.
- Crown: Also known as the canopy, this refers to the upper part of the plant or tree. There are many different techniques for pruning a crown – you can raise or reduce it, thin it out to improve air flow, or clean it by taking off dead or diseased sections.
- Heading back: This technique involves taking branches back by up to half of the original length with the goal of reducing their overall size and promoting a natural shaping.
- Shearing: Hedge trimmers are used to remove outward growth, primarily on formal hedges and shaped shrubbery.
- Structural pruning: Focus is to give a young tree a strong and attractive shape.
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