Fine Gardening Project Guides
Expert advice on where, when, and why to trim your plants
Whether you're a novice or advanced gardener, pruning can cause anxiety like no other task. Cut the right branch and your prized Japanese maple will be healthier and happier. Cut the wrong branch and you could cause irreparable damage—or even kill the tree. As many experts in the field of pruning like to say, "You can't glue branches back on." So why take the risk? The answer is simple: Many plants benefit greatly from proper pruning. It enhances the form and stability of trees and shrubs. It can help stave off pest and disease infestations. It can keep the size of a plant in check. But timing and technique are critical when it comes to pruning. Throughout this guide you will find detailed explanations and instructions on when and how to prune your plants. Following this expert advice will allow you to avoid common mistakes and instead get the beautiful plants of your dreams.
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The first step in pruning your plants is understanding a few key terms. If you've ever wondered what the difference was between a heading and a thinning cut (or what either of those things means in the first place), we have your answers in this chapter. Next, we'll be sure that you have the right tool for the job. Not every plant can be pruned with the same type of shears, so we'll get you up to speed on which plants need which tools to do the task right. Finally, a bevy of experts will walk you through basic techniques of where to cut your plants, how to make that cut so that your tree or shrub heals quickly and doesn't die, and even what time of year you should prune to avoid injuring your plants.
We've all been there. You plant a beloved shrub, say a ninebark, and watch for a few years as it grows into the plant you always wanted. It's robust, it flowers beautifully, and it plays nice with all of the surrounding plants. Then you wake up one summer and realize that the same shrub is trying to eat your entire garden. It happens to the best of us. But what to do? Should you cut the entire shrub to the ground and let it rebound the next year? Will it rebound the next year? Pruning is one of the few tasks in gardening that needs to be done at just the right time and under just the right conditions to ensure success. This chapter goes into all the nuances of pruning many popular types of shrubs, including hydrangeas, roses, and, yes, ninebarks. Read on to learn how and when to make your cuts so you'll never have to watch a shrub swallow up your beloved coneflowers (or walkway) again.
Trees are likely the biggest plant investment you make in the garden. Regardless of size, they generally have a much bigger price tag than any perennial or shrub. Therefore, you don't want to do any inadvertent damage to your trees by pruning them at the wrong time or in the wrong way. Deciduous trees are often pruned in dormancy, which helps you see the branching structure better without foliage obstructing the overall picture. Conifers, on the other hand, are a tricky group of trees that can sometimes be pruned during active growth periods. But first you will need to identify exactly what type of conifer you have. Luckily, the experts in this chapter have tips and techniques for helping you understand how to determine when—or if—your tree needs a haircut.
Whether you're struggling to bring an old apple tree back to life, or wondering what the best way is to get a rambunctious blueberry bush in check, this is the chapter for you. Although pruning your fruit trees and bushes is important for their health and overall habit, there is one other critical reason to prune these plants: productivity. If you want your peach tree to produce bushels of mouth-watering fruit each year, pruning is essential. Surprisingly, as our experts outline in the following articles, sometimes this means making drastic cuts. But as with all pruning, timing is important, more so with fruit trees and bushes than with any other kind of plant. Read on to find out when and how to trim your plants for the biggest, healthiest crops.