Pruning trees and shrubs is an important part of garden maintenance. Without it, you won’t have a good harvest, and you won’t keep your trees healthy. Therefore, a sharp pruner and a handy garden saw should be a gardener’s best friend and always be in a state of readiness. In this article, you will learn how to prune plants in the fall.
TYPES OF PRUNING
Generally speaking, pruning can be divided into three main types: formative, hygienic, and rejuvenating. Each of them has its own purpose and is carried out according to certain rules and at a certain time.
Formative pruning aims at shaping the tree and is more often applied to young plants. But not only that, but It also includes pruning and thinning. It increases the light penetration inside the canopy, improves its aeration, controls growth, and stimulates the development of fruit and lateral branches.
In most cases, it is used in spring, but for some shrubs, it is recommended to use it in autumn. In addition to the above, it can include the removal of shoots that grow into the canopy, droop towards the ground and intertwine with each other.
Sanitary pruning includes the removal of diseased, broken, and dry branches. It is performed regardless of the season (spring, summer, and autumn), since the quality of the harvest and the development of the plant, and sometimes the length of its life, depending on the timeliness of the applied method.
The purpose of rejuvenation pruning is to stimulate the growth of new shoots and free the plant from shoots that have lost their flowering potential. It varies from crop to crop. It is usually done in spring. In autumn, it should be done only in the south and in berry bushes.
HOW TO PRUNE PLANTS IN AUTUMN
As mentioned above, autumn pruning is not acceptable in all regions. Winter conditions in the northern and central regions are quite harsh, so if trees there are pruned in the fall, the wood in areas cut during a sustained frost will dry out, and the bark will freeze, which has a detrimental effect on the entire plant. One and two-year-old seedlings are at risk of dying.
However, sanitary pruning, including removing pests, diseases, dryness, and damaged branches, can also be done in the fall in these areas.
In the South, not only is fall pruning not contraindicated, but it is recommended for spring stress relief. However, if miniature areas are exposed to longer frosts and temperatures below 23 °F (-5°C), you should postpone the work until spring.
WHAT CAN I PRUNE IN THE FALL?
More or less tolerant of pre-winter pruning are frost-resistant and low-growing fruit varieties. Recommended crops for fall pruning include gooseberries, currants, honeysuckle, raspberries, blackberries, grapes (in shaded areas), lemongrass, mangosteen, and cranberries.
Fall pruning of gooseberries and currants
Some people prefer to prune gooseberries and currants in the spring, but these crops bloom early, so pruning in the spring is risky for them.
Fall pruning of gooseberries and currants involves removing branches that bend to the ground, grow inward, and have outlived their reproductive age. If the plant has been badly neglected, rejuvenate it in the first fall and finish its formation the following fall. An important rule is not to remove more than a third of the branches at a time.
When rejuvenating currant bushes, remember that it is better not to exceed 4-5 years for fruiting branches of black currants and up to 8 years for red currants. In the latter case, it is possible to partially rejuvenate them by transferring them to the part of the branch that still can produce a crop.
Gooseberry branches can bear fruit in 10 years, but only young branches can produce large fruit. Therefore, if the bark of a branch is very dark, cut it off to make room for new branches. To obtain high yields, everything older than 5 years should be removed from the gooseberries.
When cutting gooseberries and currants, check the plugs carefully – if you find black middle parts on the twigs, cut them off completely and burn them, as this is a sign of an infestation of current grass.
Fall pruning of raspberries and blackberries
Fall pruning should also be done on raspberries, but only if the raspberry trees are not cleaned up earlier for some reason. Shorten new shoots, remove old knotty shoots and shoots that thicken the bush.
In cold climates, it is not uncommon for all parts of some varieties to be removed. However, modern recommendations direct gardeners to more convenient and productive methods of shaping the crop in summer and spring.
On the other hand, blackberries need to be pruned in the fall. After harvest, they are pruned with no more than 10 branches per bush, clearing out the fruiting shoots, pruning out the stems with immature wood, and shortening the rest by 30% for the next year to stimulate peduncle formation.
Autumn pruning of grapes
The autumn pruning period is mainly recommended for northern regions. Pruned grapes are easier to cover in the winter and easier to care for in the spring.
After the first light frost, you can reduce weak perennial branches, shorten mature annual branches to 2-6 buds (depending on variety, branch thickness, and growing area), and form a replacement. Allow young plants to form in the spring.
Prune lemongrass and kiwi in the fall
Fall is also the best time to cut back on lemongrass and kiwifruit. During this period, they are thinned, peeled, and shaped.
Fall pruning of honeysuckle
Honeysuckle is also pruned in the fall. They are thinned, and shoots older than 7 years are removed – leaving a stump of about 2 inches (5 cm) for regrowth.
Fall pruning of snowberry
If you have laurel in your garden, you can also prune it in the fall. Dry, damaged, and stunted branches are removed.
Fall pruning of fruit trees
Although it is recommended to prune fruit trees in the spring, you can still do some pruning in the fall. First, this involves cutting off dead branches. Second, branches that are heavily shaded have a poor crop.
Such branches are hard to find in the spring, but they will be easier to see in the fall when the fruit is harvested. However, considering that new wounds are conductors of cold, living but non-fruitful branches should be pruned into spikes about 6 inches (15 cm) high, which should be completely removed in spring.
FALL PRUNING RULES
Before you decide to do fall pruning, you should wait until the sap flow stops, easily recognized by the falling leaves. But you can’t put it off too late.
If restorative techniques have been implemented on berry trees since the fall, they should receive special attention in the spring.
GENERAL PRUNING RULES
There are also some general rules of pruning which, if applied, will ensure correct pruning of the branches, overgrowth as quickly as possible and make the gardener’s job easier.
- Pruning shears and saws must always be kept sharp and disinfected.
- When removing large branches, cut them into rings, leaving no stump at the cut, but cutting evenly and cleanly along the trunk or scaffold branches without affecting the rings.
- When cutting thick branches or twigs, first make a felling notch below the planned cut and then file down the branch from above. This not only makes the process easier and faster (the branch deflects under its own weight, helping the blade to penetrate deeper), but it also prevents the bark and wood layer under the cut from being torn.
- When cutting old or thick shoots at the roots, hold the secateurs at the proper level with one hand, parallel to the ground, and with the other hand, keep the branch strictly perpendicular to the direction of the cut.
- When caring for trees, do not make more than two large cuts at a time.
- Trim the cuts with a saw, smooth them out with a sharp knife, and apply garden varnish.
- When pruning, remember that the harder you cut, the more new shoots you will get, and vice versa.
- If several branches compete and develop in the same direction, the weaker branches should be removed and the stronger ones guided to develop evenly in the space already provided.
- Pruning work should be done only during the dormant period, but at a temperature of at least 17 °F (-8 °C).
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