Five pruning ‘mistakes’ to avoid making – ‘ultimate bad move’

Carol Klein explains the importance of judicious pruning

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When gardeners are pruning the garden, they are cutting back foliage and stems to encourage a stronger plant or shrub. It may seem like an easy task but there are a lot of things which can go wrong including making the wrong cuts or pruning at the wrong time of year. To help Britons avoid making mistakes, experts have shared five common ones to bear in mind this spring.

1. Not pruning at all

One of the biggest mistakes made when it comes to pruning is to not prune at all. This can be due to laziness or fear of ending up doing the crucial job wrong.

However, it can lead to overgrown shrubs or trees which are too tall. It can also result in plants and shrubs dying a lot quicker because new growth isn’t being stimulated.

Eleni Veroutsos, gardening expert at BackyardBoss, said: “One of the most common mistakes people make is not pruning their plants at all. 

“While it may seem like extra work, pruning is essential to making sure your plants are healthy and grow properly.”

Failing to prune plants at all may lead to overgrowth, which could result in the plant becoming unmanageable and taking over the garden.

If you don’t prune your plants, they may not flower as well as they should. This is because plants produce flowers on new growth, which pruning encourages.

2. Pruning at the wrong time

The best time to prune varies, depending on the plant or shrub needing to be pruned, but it typically takes place in winter or early spring.

This is because the garden often enters a dormant period and stops growing in the winter months.

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According to Teo Spengler, a gardening expert at GardeningKnowHow, if you make serious seasonal pruning mistakes and prune a tree in summer or autumn, gardeners may have removed buds, flowers or fruit.

However, some trees are susceptible to silver leaf disease and should therefore be pruned in summer when the risk of infection is reduced.

3. Making the wrong cuts

Making the wrong cuts is an absolute no-no when it comes to pruning plants. A proper pruning cut minimises the damage done to the tree and allows it to heal quickly. 

An improper cut, cutting too close to the trunk or cutting too far from the trunk, can cause serious damage to a tree.

According to Teo, the “ultimate bad move” when pruning is to top a tree. This involves reducing the size of a tree by cutting the top of its primary leader which creates far more problems than it solves.

While each plant and shrub will need to be pruned differently, the aim is to remove diseased and damaged branches to encourage new growth.

4. Pruning too much

Gardening experts at Sutton Manor Nursery explained: “With all the overgrown shrubs from the previous months, it is understandable that you are eager to start getting your shrubs in shape.

“However you mustn’t overdo it. If done too aggressively, it can permanently damage a plant and stunt its growth and make it susceptible to diseases.

“Pruning is simply cutting leaves and leaves are what a plant needs to make food. Therefore, over pruning your plant means it cannot make food.”

If your plant looks stressed or damaged while or after pruning, it may be because you are doing too much.

Gardeners who think they are pruning too much should stop pruning for a while to see how the plant responds. If it starts to recover, then it may have been because it was pruned too much.

Make sure to take it slow when pruning, selecting the branches or stems with care before giving the plant or shrub a haircut.

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