Huddersfield Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE -

OW is your gar­den look­ing, hon­estly? Af­ter the end of sum­mer and the re­cent high winds and tor­ren­tial rain­fall, chances are it might well have got a bit over­grown and windswept.

So now is a great time to get the prun­ing shears out and get it back into shape be­fore win­ter starts to bite.

Prun­ing prop­erly now can have a huge im­pact on how your plants grow next year. It keeps them healthy, vig­or­ous and bal­anced and stops large va­ri­eties from tak­ing over the gar­den.

In au­tumn, plants re­treat – dy­ing back to con­serve en­ergy over the cold months. Even a lit­tle trim will help shrubs and trees come back stronger.

Hope­fully it will also help to avoid them los­ing branches – and shape – when win­ter gales and frosts set in.

Prun­ing also lets you re­move any dam­age or dis­ease be­fore it spreads. And the light it lets into the gar­den dur­ing win­ter will bring ben­e­fit to your other plants.

Your prun­ing tool­kit should in­clude gar­den­ing gloves, a nice sharp pair of se­ca­teurs, prun­ing shears, lop­pers for larger shrubs and a prun­ing saw for the largest branches.

A strong, sta­ble step lad­der on a good base is also vi­tal (and ide­ally some­one to hold it steady for you while you’re up it). Also make sure your tools all have strong, sharp cut­ting blades.

Dam­aged blades will make an un­even cut, with the dan­ger of harm­ing the plant and let­ting in in­fec­tion.

Your lo­cal hard­ware store can nor­mally put an edge on tools that have be­come blunt over time. To avoid spread­ing any bac­te­ria around the gar­den, clean blades prop­erly with Jeyes gar­den dis­in­fec­tant af­ter use.

For tall plants and shrubs that have softer branches, you want a pair of shears with long han­dles to ex­tend your reach.

The real key to suc­cess­ful prun­ing is to plan. Don’t just jump in and start hack­ing away – that’s a sure­fire recipe for bare spots, wonky trees and dis­ap­point­ment next year.

Be­fore get­ting to work, have a good look around and take stock of the gar­den and what needs prun­ing.

It’s best to al­ways check prun­ing for your spe­cific plant but as a gen­eral rule, de­cid­u­ous trees and shrubs need a light prun­ing ev­ery au­tumn. Ev­er­green trees rarely need much prun­ing but the end of sum­mer gives a good op­por­tu­nity for you to re­move dead and dam­aged branches.

A few va­ri­eties – roses for ex­am­ple – pre­fer to be pruned in late win­ter.

If you’re un­sure, search on­line for the best prun­ing time for your plant. Try to de­cide on an over­all shape be­fore you start, so you know where you’re head­ing and when to stop.

I aim for a wine glass or gob­let out­line with trees, and a sym­met­ri­cal shape with shrubs. If all else fails, work with the nat­u­ral out­line of the plant and aim for a bal­anced shape that suits the space it has avail­able.

Re­move one branch at a time and reg­u­larly step back to check your work. Once you’ve made the cut it’s too late to change your mind!

If you’re re­mov­ing a whole branch, don’t cut it flush to the trunk – cut next to the branch col­lar (the swelling where the branch and trunk join).

If you’re short­en­ing a branch, you should al­ways cut just above a healthy bud, pair of buds or side shoot.

This is be­cause new branches will grow from the next bud below the point where you cut. Aim for a gap of 0.5cm be­tween your cut and the bud.

If you cut too close you may dam­age the bud – but if you leave too large a gap then the ex­cess branch may rot and ex­pose the plant to in­fec­tions.

When cut­ting back a plant, the rule to re­mem­ber is the “three Ds” – you need to re­move any­thing that is dead, dam­aged or dis­eased.

Try to prune back to an out­fac­ing bud – if you choose one that faces in­wards, all the new branches will grow to­wards the cen­tre of the tree, mak­ing it look tan­gled. If you can, make the cut at a 45 de­gree an­gle to stop mois­ture col­lect­ing at the wound. This will help it seal faster.

And be­fore you start, check for birds’ nests and be sure to avoid branches car­ry­ing them – they might not be in use at the mo­ment but many species re­turn to the same nests year af­ter year.

Lots of gar­den­ers ask if it is nec­es­sary to use “wound paint” af­ter prun­ing to seal the spots where branches have been re­moved.

Most trees will seal quickly and safely, es­pe­cially if the cut is clean and wa­ter can’t col­lect on it.

The ex­cep­tions are plum and cherry trees – these are vul­ner­a­ble to in­fec­tion and should be treated.

As ever, if you’re un­sure it pays to ask for ad­vice at your lo­cal gar­den cen­tre.

To get the best re­sult, first re­move any branches that are weak, rub­bing, grow­ing in­wards or cross over each other. Then cut back over­grown branches to bal­ance the shape.

Prun­ing is a sim­ple au­tumn task that will pro­tect plants through win­ter and help to keep your gar­den dis­ease-free and your trees and shrubs will be safer in win­ter gales. And the fruits of your labour can help in another way too – use your pruned branches to cre­ate a log pile, pro­vid­ing a haven for in­sects and at­tract­ing wildlife into your gar­den.

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