001-Pruning 101:
The Pruning Basics From A to Z

| Care, Podcast

I’m starting off our new podcast series with this episode dedicated to pruning 101 – the pruning basics from A to Z because when it comes to pruning, there’s more to know than just taking your shears or loppers to a plant whenever and wherever you want. A lot more if you want to do it right.

Even though I’ve been pruning for years, removing perfectly healthy stems and branches to make it grow more always gives me pause. While I understand the science of why we cut to stimulate new growth, to this day it is still completely counter-intuitive.

In this episode, we address the following topics and more:

Why we prune:

  • To remove dead or diseased foliage
  • To reduce size
  • To improve overall structure or growing conditions
  • To stimulate new growth

But knowing when to prune is just as important as knowing where to prune. There’s the best time (late winter/early spring). There’s a next-best time (early/mid-summer). And there’s a time you shouldn’t prune (fall – unless you’re just cutting dead or diseased branches. Then any time is fine).

And then there’s the issue of when to prune certain flowering shrubs. It depends on whether it blooms on old or new wood. Cut them at the wrong time and you risk not having any new flowers the following season.

Bypass and Anvil Style Pruners

Bypass pruners (L) are best for cutting live plant material vs. Anvil style (R) which is best for cutting dead wood

Having the right equipment to make the right cut matters a lot. Anvil or bypass pruners? It depends on what you’re cutting.

Then there’s the matter or where to make the cut, and how much to cut when you do.

Conifers have unique issues that require you think a bit differently when pruning or cutting them back. They don’t respond the same way and they bleed a lot when you do cut them, at least during their most active growth phase.

Pruning basics - my worst nightmare: Tree Topping

And lastly, I rant about tree topping. It’s extreme pruning of healthy trees and it’s the biggest crime against horticulture I know. On the list of felonies, this is a capital offense.

While the inevitable consequences of doing so may be unintentional, the outcome is inevitable. It’s usually a slow death of formerly healthy, beautiful majestic trees, especially when the same tree is subjected to the chainsaw several years in a row. Suffice it to say, I hate tree topping! And I write about why tree topping is harmful here and even included a segment in my television show on why tree topping needs to stop.

If you want a summary article on Pruning 101; The Pruning Basics From A to Z, I’ve got you covered. You can even watch this short video that helps illustrate the points as well.

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About Joe Lamp'l

Joe Lamp’l is the creator and “joe” behind joe gardener®. His lifetime passion and devotion to all things horticulture has led him to a long-time career as one of the country’s most recognized and trusted personalities in organic gardening and sustainability. That is most evident in his role as host and creator of Emmy Award-winning Growing a Greener World®, a national green-living lifestyle series on PBS currently in production of its tenth season. When he’s not working in his large, raised bed vegetable garden, he’s likely planting or digging something up, or spending time with his family on their organic farm just north of Atlanta, GA.

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