Probably the one aspect of yard care that gives homeowners the most angst is pruning. I frequently hear people comment that they are afraid of hurting or killing their plants. Not to worry! Think of pruning as cutting hair. Yes, you may get a lopsided haircut or cut off a chunk you didnt mean to but, just like your hair, your plant will re-grow. There are a few exceptions of course, but in general, you dont have to worry so much.
Pruning not trimming
Notice I am talking about pruning here, not trimming. Trimming is done to hedges, with shears, when you slice off a layer of growth. This method should only be used on dense hedges, not on all the other plants in your landscape. Ill discuss hedges in another article.
Pruning involves making selective cuts with a purpose in mind. Most shrubs benefit from a little pruning every couple of years. Trees often need pruning when theyre young to develop good branch placement. If they need pruning when theyre taller its worth hiring an arborist. Mature trees add a lot of value to your property and theyre worth taking care of properly.
Start by following these basic rules:
Think about what you want to achieve before you begin pruning
Consider the best time to prune to achieve that result
Make your cuts just above a well placed branch or bud, dont leave stubs
Make smooth cuts by using sharp, well-aligned tools. Invest in new tools if necessary, it will make your job a lot easier.
Use pruning shears for branches less than a half inch thick. Lopping shears (with long handles) are for branches up to an inch thick.
Use a pruning saw on any dead wood and anything bigger than one half to one inch thick.
When in doubt, prune a little this year and see how the plant responds. Theres always next year.