‘Best way’ to prune for healthy plants – ‘prevents disease’ and makes job ‘much easier’

Monty Don shares tips for pruning fruit trees

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One of the main contributing factors to maintaining a healthy and beautiful garden is pruning. The act of pruning plants can be physically demanding, but it’s the mental preparation and planning that is key to the success of this crucial skill. Pruning is the practice of selectively removing plant parts (branches, buds, spent flowers, etc.) to manipulate the plant for horticultural and landscape purposes.

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Kate Turner, Miracle-Gro’s gardening expert, exclusively explained to Express.co.uk the importance of pruning and the “best way” to carry out the task.

She said: “The autumn is a good time to tidy your garden and give your plants a nice shape. 

“Evergreens should be pruned in mid-summer, but if they have grown over a path or a lawn, then the months of September, October and early November are a good time to trim your plants back and give them a nice shape again. 

“If you have ornamental trees like acers and rowans, check for damage, old branches or limbs which are too big. 

“Once the leaves have fallen and there is no risk of the tree bleeding sap, you can cut out any problem areas to avoid further damage in the autumn winds.”

The gardening pro noted that gardeners can also take out any inward facing buds that might cause congestion. 

The aim is to create a goblet shape that allows nice air flow through the middle of the branches.  

Pruning kit list:

  • Heavy duty gloves  
  • Secateurs 
  • Pruning saw  
  • Shears for thinner shrubs  
  • Disinfectant  

Kate highlighted the importance of using well maintained secateurs in order to make the job “much easier” and involve “less effort”.

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She said: “The best way to prune is to use clean, sharp secateurs and cut above a healthy bud at a 45-degree angle. 

“A sharp blade will minimise damage, help prevent disease and is much easier and less effort.  

“Don’t be tempted to use a wound treatment, just leave the cut surface to the open air to heal itself.”

It’s also worth using a spare cloth to wipe the blades with disinfectant or even spare hand gel between pruning each plant.

The expert added: “If you are cutting out a diseased branch, make sure that you thoroughly clean the blades before touching any other areas of the plant to avoid spreading the disease.

“Always make sure you’re wearing gloves to protect yourself when you rub down the blades with disinfectant.”

Autumn is known as the perfect time to prune fruit bushes and trees.

Kate explained: “Autumn is a great time to prune fruit bushes such as gooseberries, redcurrants and blackberries. 

“They will benefit from being cut back hard – and this is a great opportunity to take cuttings.”

To do this, just pop a shoot into the ground and let it take root. 

However, gardeners should ensure that they use heavy duty gloves as some of these plants can be sharp.  

The gardening guru warned against “touching soft fruits such as plums, cherries or peaches” in the autumn as they are “at risk of  a disease called silverleaf”. 

These should be pruned in the summer unless there is an overhanging branch or other damage.  

Once gardeners have finished pruning, they can mulch their ornamentals to help keep the moisture in and keep them warmer in the cold weather. 

Kate advised: “Give them a good drink and put on some Miracle-Gro® Peat Free Premium Border Booster Soil Improver 40 litres or Miracle-Gro® Peat Free Premium Fibre Smart™ Mulch 40 litres. 

“Place the mulch around the base and be careful not to go right up the stem. 

“Never mulch onto dry soil as you will actually stop moisture from getting in.”

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