How Do I Safely and Effectively Prune My Vines, Bushes, and Trees?

We want to help you understand how to prune your vines, bushes, and trees.




And as a quick aside --- we are here to help you purchase a new tractor when the time is right.


Let’s get to it.





Definition


We are going to begin with a quick definition.


Pruning is a horticultural and silvicultural practice involving the selective removal of certain parts of a plant, such as the roots, buds, and branches.



Function


You are basically removing damaged, diseased, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, or otherwise unwanted tissue from your crop and landscape plants.


In general, the smaller the branch that is cut, the easier it is for a woody plant to compartmentalize the wound --- and then limit the potential for any pathogen intrusion and decay.



Timeline


Typically, pruning works best in the late fall or early winter.


Most plants respond well to pruning when they are dormant. Some species will tolerate light pruning during the growing season.


You may want to make any necessary formative structural pruning cuts to your young plants, rather than removing large, poorly-placed branches from mature plants.


Proper pruning will keep your perennial bushes, vines, and trees healthy and attractive while maintaining the beauty of your landscape.



Tools


There are some basic tools required for pruning.




Larger plants require specialized equipment.


Consider this a list of tools that may be required for the most effective pruning.




Here is a list of tools that might be needed for a wide range of pruning projects:

  • Bow Saw

  • Chainsaw

  • Hedge Shears

  • Electric Hedge Shears

  • Ladder

  • Handheld Pruning Shears ("Scissor")

  • Lopping Shears

  • Extension Pole Loppers (Saw Combination)

  • Small (Curved) Pruning Saw


This will help you tackle most of the pruning jobs you encounter.


Lighter hand tools will handle the smaller jobs.


Major pruning of your large tree limbs may require the use of pruning saws or even a chainsaw. Also, the pruning of major tall tree limbs may require the use of a ladder.



Safety


When pruning, always be aware of any electrical lines in the area.


It is advisable and recommended to use only wood or fiberglass poles.


When cutting over your head --- use eye protection to avoid falling dust and debris.


Also, beware of any sharp blades and cut carefully.


Stay safe.



Techniques


Let’s take a moment to discuss a few techniques.


When using “scissored” pruning shears --- make sure to cut the limbs with the thin cutting blade near the main stem or trunk of the tree or bush. This will result in a clean cut.


For limbs larger than a ½ inch in diameter --- use lopping shears. These may be the "scissor" type or the "anvil" type. The scissor-type usually provides a cleaner cut. The anvil-type could crush the bark. This would cause a wound that will take a long time to heal.


When cutting elevated limbs (that are not too large in diameter), it may be better to use an extension pole saw, lopper, or a combination of both. The lopper will normally cut limbs up to 1/12 of an inch in diameter. The saw will cut even larger limbs. Be careful with the larger limbs. You need to avoid tearing the bark from the trunk below the cut.



Large Limbs


Here are some things to keep in mind when cutting large, heavy limbs.




Make the first cut on the underside of the limb --- a few inches from the trunk. The second cut should be on the top of the limb --- a little farther from the trunk. These cuts will avoid limb splitting --- as well as prevent you from peeling bark from the trunk of the tree.


After the limb is removed, the stub can be properly cut flush with the trunk. This will facilitate swift healing.



Major branches of a tree will have a natural collar. This is where the branch originated from the trunk. Limbs should be pruned back to the collar.


Do not cut into the trunk of the tree.


Also, do not leave a protruding stub. This stub will die. Any decay can damage the tree trunk.



Targeted


Pruning methods vary.


Methods change depending on the target species.


For instance --- there are different requirements for roses as opposed to grapes.


There are some basic guidelines in pruning small shrubs or vines.

Make cuts on small branches on a slant, about a ¼ inch above the bud. If the distance exceeds ¼ inch --- the stub will likely die. If the cut is closer to the bud, then the bud will die.


Always remember that the new growth will grow in the direction that the bud is facing. This is not as important for some species. In the case of peaches --- it is very important. By pruning with the buds facing outward, the peach trees can be kept open. This allows sunlight to penetrate.



Fruit


Prune peach trees in a vase shape --- flat on top, open in the center.


This allows light to get into the center of the tree.


Young trees should be lightly pruned to maintain their strength and vigor.


As the trees mature, they will tolerate more vigorous pruning --- but the open, flat top should be maintained.


Apple trees may be cut using the vase method when they are young. The central leader method thereafter. The central leader method means that a dominant center branch will be allowed to remain. The tree will then have a pyramid shape. It provides a stronger tree that will bear a heavier fruit weight and handle the turbulent weather.


Due to the large size of mature apple trees --- you may want to plant semi-dwarf or dwarf trees to suit the more limited spaces. These trees may require a modified central leader pruning.



Shrubs/Vines


Methods vary for shrubs and vines.




The method is determined by the growing characteristics of the plant.


Some are free-standing. Others may require a trellis or must be supported by posts and wire.




Many experts on pruning recommend a four-wire system for grapes. Others have different recommendations. It appears there’s also a three-wire system that is popular.


Much of this comes from personal experience and preferences.



Grapes


Grapes are unique.





They require support using wire.


There are two popular pruning methods.


One method for pruning grapes is the “spur” method (meaning “one” wire).






Here’s a glimpse of how the spur method works:

  • Winter #1: Cut the vines back to three buds. Will not need support.

  • Winter #2: Cut the main stem back at a bud --- just above the top wire. Leave a lateral branch on each side. Cut the smaller branches on the lateral back to one bud per spur.

  • Winter #3: Do the same as winter #2 --- except leave two buds per spur.

  • Winter #4 and Onward: Leave two buds on the strongest cane --- on each spur.


Another method for pruning grapes is the “cane” method (meaning “multiple” wires).


Here’s a glimpse of how the cane method works:

  • Winter #2: Cut through a bud just above top wire. Leave a lateral shoot for each wire (on both sides of the main vine). Leave two buds on each of the shoots.

  • Winter #3: Leave two new shoots on the original lateral shoot. Leave 10 buds on each of the new shoots and two buds on four short spurs on the original lateral shoot.

  • Winter #4 and Onward: The original lateral shoot should be left with four new shoots having 10 buds each --- and two buds on the four spurs left at the junction of the original lateral shoot and the newer canes.


Blueberries


They require minimal attention.


Pruning is mainly for the removal of any dead or excessively bushy growth.


Canes that are over three years old may be removed.


A good indicator for pruning is the size of the berries. If they have become much smaller, it is an indication that they need pruning. They may also need the proper nutrients.


When the berries mature --- you may need to provide netting to protect the crop from any birds. This is true for most berries. Birds love berries and are attracted to them when they begin to change their color.



Final Thoughts


You will want to prune when the weather is right in your area.


Pruning is well worth the effort.


In some cases, it is vital.


Pruning will protect your trees, shrubs, and vines from storms. It will make them stronger.


Regular pruning also will make your plants more attractive. Fruit trees and vines will be more fruitful.


As pruning enhances the appearance of your trees, shrubs, and vines --- it could indirectly raise your home’s value and online/curb appeal.


There is much more to learn --- but this was a good start to better understand the value of pruning.


Hopefully, this brief article has helped you a bit.



If you need any further help or have any questions about pruning, rural living, tractors, or anything else, please contact your dealer, local mechanic, or call us at 602-734-9944. Please ask about our current new and used tractor supply.


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