Pruning in Winter

July in Australia is deep winter – a time of the year when your landscape becomes quite stark, much less complex and with gardening activity slowed down to almost a crawl. Often, at this time, due to rain in the previous month, the soil can become quite wet, cold and not ideal for planting until spring. However, there are some still things you can tackle in winter around your garden – like pruning. While winter can be the perfect time for pruning many plants or trees in your garden, only prune if you have good reasons for it and choose plants or trees that will benefit from pruning in winter.

Pruning is done for plants that are dormant during this time. These plants/shrubs/trees have already shed their leaves and are basically getting ready for their next season. There are likely many overgrown stems and branches on them which would greatly benefit from a good pruning. Good pruning encourages good shape and promotes good growth. It also stops disease from taking hold later.

Plants suited to winter pruning

Some of the plants that benefit from a good winter pruning include roses and some fruit trees. Most deciduous fruit trees benefit from a structural prune in winter when you can see what you’re working with. The general rule is to reduce each branch by a third to a half. The other option is to shorten lateral branches only (those growing laterally from the main branches), leaving the main branches intact. Apples, pears, cherries are all spur bearing trees that benefit from such lateral branch pruning. When pruning flowering plants like roses, cutting just below spent flowers is wise to create gorgeous blooms further down the stems. If the plant has stems with singular flowers, you can cut the stem to the base of the plant.

If you’re planting new grapevines or have inherited an overgrown “grapery”, it’s important to prune them in winter while they are fully dormant. Grapevines produce fruit on one-year-old wood. The primary goal of pruning is to maximize the amount of one-year-old wood on each grapevine without encouraging the plant to produce too many grape clusters. Dense growth of wood causes them not to fully ripen because it produces relatively little “fruiting wood” each year due to poor air circulation and fungal diseases. Expect to remove 70 to 90 percent of the previous year’s growth each winter.

Pruning must be done with some knowledge of tree biology. Improper pruning can create long-lasting damage or even reduce the life span of a tree. When pruning is done properly, it encourages mature trees to produce fruit that is of better quality and size. This is because pruned trees are not over-crowded and as a result of being pruned in time, these trees have increased sunlight and air circulation among them which results in a better quality of fruit even if their overall yield may be lesser.

How to prune trees correctly

First, look for dead, diseased or broken branches and remove them promptly. Make thin cuts into healthy wood when pruning dead or diseased branches.

Use a disinfectant like ‘Lysol’ or ‘Listerine’ or ‘rubbing alcohol’ to disinfect the tools you use for pruning between each cut.

Second, use the right pruning tools. Depending on the tree/shrub/plant that requires the pruning, you should select the appropriate pruning equipment – secateurs, loppers, long reach pruners, tree pruning systems or saws. There are also specially designed scissors for use in the garden which can be used to cut flowers or plants with thin stems. Choose the right equipment for your job!

Finally, do not waste the wood from pruning, put it to good use. This leftover fruitwood can be air-dried and used as kindling, as fuel or to provide a lovely fruity fragrance to wood-fired ovens and traditional wood-fired barbecues. Imagine smoked-apple pork, yum!

If you’d rather stay warm inside your home in winter, sipping a cup of hot tea or hot chocolate beside your log fire, then get a professional like Top Cut Lawn Mowing to take care of your pruning or other gardening needs in the midst of Winter.