The GHS Guide to Pruning: How to Prune Your Garden Trees

Tuesday, 18 September 2018 15:02:49 Europe/London

Every garden looks better with a large majestic tree that provides you shade, while you peacefully read a book and enjoy the fresh air. But sometimes trees can outgrow their space and cause problems. Depending on how long it was left unattended, unpruned trees will pose danger to both your well-being and your property’s.

The worst that can happen is for an old branch to break off and fall, which can cause structural damage to your property, your car, or even worse, to you or others. That’s why maintenance is so important, and by that we mean regular pruning.

Whether you’re thinking about pruning roses or other plants, we have compiled a useful guide for you:

Proper Tree Care is a Must

Yes, forest trees do well on their own, but that’s not the case with the type of trees found in most UK back gardens.

Landscape trees require a specific approach when it comes down to upkeep and care. Being aware of tree biology is the key to a healthy plant. Equip yourself with the right set of tools for pruning; snapping random branches without the right know-how or training increases the risk of causing long-lasting damage or even shortening the lifespan of the plant.

So, What Kind of Trees is Pruning Suitable For?

When a tree becomes obtrusively big, sooner or later, you’ll have to decrease it in size. The longer you leave a tree to grow, the harder the task of pruning will become. You can risk hindering the recovery process of your trees or even stop it overall by pruning inadequately.

If you spot any unhealthy signs that the plant is in a bad condition, such as dead, diseased, crossing or half-amputated branches, then it’s time to act. The best solution is, of course, to keep an eye on your landscape so plant life doesn’t occupy most of the space. However, more often than not that isn't as practical as it sounds, especially in cases of inherited overgrown gardens in a newly purchased home.

But Why is it So Important to Prune Your Trees?  

First of all, you eliminate the chance of getting hurt by a falling branch. If you get rid of dead or dying branches via a good trim, you will stop further decay and you’ll ensure that no risk is involved. Don’t forget: a healthy tree is a happy tree.

Regular pruning improves the overall appearance and structure of a tree. The crown will often get “tangled” due to broad or weak branches. If you have fruit trees, you can improve the size, quantity, and quality of the produce by pruning. By doing that, you’ll expose the plant to more light, especially through the colder months, and more sun means juicier fruits next season.

When is it a Good Time to Prune My Plants?

You can give your trees a branch-cut practically throughout the entire year without having to worry for negative consequences, but pruning in March is advised. The growth and wound closure process does better if the trimming is done before the spring growth flush.

If you want to guide how and where the tree grows, you’ll need to slow down those branches that don’t fit in your plan. The best time to do this is in the summer. This way you will reduce leaf surface and cut sunlight; the less light a branch has, the less it will grow. Basically, you put the plant on a diet, so it doesn't get any bigger.  

An important piece of advice from Fantastic tree surgeons is to never prune branches that provide shade during the autumn months. This is the time when fungi responsible for decay spread their spores profusely and might slow down the healing process of any trimmed branches.

Winter pruning apple trees is also advisable due to the leaves being off the tree; aim to remove 10 to 20 percent of old wood per winter to stimulate new growth.

The Basic Pruning Techniques You Need to Know

To keep your smaller and evergreen trees healthy and good looking, you should do an all over trim during either the spring or summer months.

You only need to perform the task once every one or two years, it’s up to you. If you want to save yourself the back pain, hassle, and stress, it’s worth to invest in a long-handled hedge trimmer for smaller flora. However, if you have a special, old and wise species, regular pruning may be mandatory.

Below we have listed the basic terms and techniques you need to know when pruning apple trees and other plants, so you don’t amputate your loved apple donor:

- “Cleaning” means to get rid of any harmful dead, dying, diseased, weakly attached, and low-vigour branches from the top or crown of the tree that can harm you or the plant.

- The term “thinning” suggests branch removal. It improves the overall shape of the plant by increasing the penetration of light within the crown. It also gives the tree “more room to breathe” by stimulating air circulation. If the thinning procedure is done correctly, the foliage of the tree will open, and the weight of the heavy branches will be reduced to a minimum.

- As regal as it sounds, “crown raising” only means to cut the lower branches. People tend to do it to have extra parking space or just to reduce the chance of getting facial injuries.

- Pollarding is done more from an aesthetical point of view. The technique is used to remove the entire “head” of the tree and it’s visually attractive when done to smaller trees. You won’t benefit from functionality, though. The process needs to be repeated so you can keep the pleasing form of the plant.

- Reduction means to reduce the size of a tree, often for utility line clearance. Reducing a tree’s height or spread is best accomplished by pruning back the leaders and branch terminals to secondary branches that are large enough to assume the terminal roles (at least one-third the diameter of the cut stem). Compared to topping, reduction helps maintain the form and structural integrity of the tree.

- Pruning when dormant is done to shorten side-branches all over the tree so it appears smaller. This way light enters easier and makes the tree resistant to wind damage and to trim off any damaged wood. You need to work very slowly and precisely by carefully picking out the branches that you want to cut.

If the branches that you want to remove have a wider diameter or a ladder is involved, we advise you to call a professional tree surgeon for safety reasons. Pollarding, crown lifting, and crown thinning are also tasks that you would want to leave in expert hands.

How Can Young Trees Benefit from Pruning?

If you want your newly-planted tree to grow up nice and strong, it’s vital for you to prune it on time. Just as with children, the more care you invest while your plants are young, the lesser corrective measures you need to apply when the tree matures.

You have to establish a good regime; small and wonky limbs will eventually grow up as massive branches. You can actually “train” your tree, so it grows a strong structure that will need less maintenance in the future. Maintain a single dominant leader growing upward and never prune the back of it to let other branches outgrow it.

Don’t Top Trees!

The worst thing you can do to a tree is to “top it”. The procedure involves cutting whole branches into stubs that aren’t large enough to take the terminal role. This is the most harmful practice in trimming and any well-experienced professional will tell you that it’s a bad, bad idea.

Topping can remove 50 to 100 percent of a tree’s leaf-bearing crown. This way the plant will be stressed, and its survival mechanisms will be triggered. The dormant buds activate and force the abrupt growth of multiple baby branches in each stub. The tree does this so it can develop new leaves and to not starve to death. Also, when a tree is stressed out, it’s more prone to pest or disease infestations as well as decay.

Topping a tree practically seals its fate for the worse. There are many alternatives to the procedure like simply cleaning it or thinning its crown.

What are the Most Common Problems You Can Encounter?

A common mistake that many people make is to give their tree an all-over trim without trimming side-branches. This results in vigorous tufts of regrowth, which misshape the entire tree. Those branches need to be thinned so the attractive shape of the tree is restored.  

You can damage your tree by removing too much even though you’re doing it once a year. Badly cut branches are easily infected by Coral spot.

Sometimes no matter how good your intentions are, your hand might slip. A branch cut the wrong way can result in an open wound that could be easily contaminated. Diseases work fast and your tree could start to decay before you notice it. In situations like these, it’s much better to just remove the plant and replace it with another species that is more appropriate for your garden. In any of these cases, we advise you to get a professional tree surgeon to handle the matter.

Expert knows where, what, and how to cut, leaving you with a healthy and good-looking tree. So, have a careful and happy pruning! Get in touch with us for all your gardening supplies and gardening gifts - we’re always happy to help.


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