Dreary, drizzly, and destined to rain with a 90% certainty, Saturday morning was not the most inspiring prospect to be outdoors. Nevertheless, a group of hardy and curious Bandstand Beds members assembled in the garden, eager to learn the dos-and-don’ts of pruning.
We were greeted by the enchanting New Zealand accent of our facilitator Patrick, who was there to share his wealth of gardening knowledge with us. Over the course of the morning, we learned all manner of pruning-related expertise: how to sharpen your secateurs, how to tell leaf and fruiting buds apart, how fruit trees are grafted onto root stock to control their size, how to tell the new growth from growth rings, and most importantly – how and when to prune.
Not all plants need pruning every year. The ‘four Ds’ is a useful way of remembering the situations in which you should prune. They are, when your plant is damaged, diseased, deranged or dead!
Some plants though, such as autumn fruit raspberries, are cut right back to the ground each year. This is because autumn-fruiting raspberries flower and produce fruit on the current season’s growth. Whereas summer-raspberries produce flowers and berries on growth that is a year old.
If your plant is experiencing any of these issues, you should prune by removing roughly 10% of the new growth. We also learned how pruning can be used to shape young trees, by removing certain branches to make it grow in the direction you want; and preserve old trees, by removing large and overcrowded branches which are susceptible to high winds or rub against each other.
After the theory of pruning, we were put our newly gained knowledge into practice on some of the garden’s fruit trees – apples and pears. To avoid any mishaps, we tied ribbon on the trees where we thought pruning was appropriate, then waited for Patrick’s assessment – ingenious and decorative! We then practised getting a clean cut with secateurs, shears, and saws.
After the workshop, we soon huddled in the polytunnel with hot, home-made soup, courtesy of David.
All in all, an informative and social morning despite the weather.
Written by Ben Christy. Photos by Kishanth Javegar.
This winter pruning workshop focussed on the apple and pear trees in our garden. The cherry and plum trees will be pruned later in the year, during our late spring workshop.