The month of July announces that spring is slowly creeping up on us and that it is time to start preparing our plants for the growing season that is just around the corner.

The best time to prune is just before spring when the flow of sap in the plant is still somewhat limited by the cold, and the danger of frost is nearing to an end – just before the plants start sprouting in spring.

When is it the best time to prune?

In a similar manner that we cut our hair to keep it neat and tidy, pruning has its advantages. Many gardeners are too scared to cut their plants and often cause more harm than good in the garden. Especially fruit bearing and flowering deciduous plants benefit tremendously from pruning, as it will increase the quality of the fruits and flowers. 

The best time to prune is just before spring when the flow of sap in the plant is still somewhat limited by the cold, and the danger of frost is nearing an end – just before the plants start sprouting in spring. Many gardening literature suggest July as the best time for pruning, but with the strange seasons we have experienced, pruning (or the cutting back of plants) can be postponed a little. Pruning stimulates new plant growth and if the danger of frost is still threatening, it might damage the performance of the plant in the growing season to follow.

Easy steps to follow when pruning

First of all we need to remove any dead and diseased plant material as any existing infection might spread to other healthier stems. It is advisable to sterilize the pruning equipment between pruning different plants as plant pathogens may be spread from plant to plant in this way.

Too many branches often cause poor air circulation in between the branches. This is an ideal breading ground for certain insects and diseases that might attack the plant. The thinning out of the plant will allow the stems to “breath” more freely and make plants less prone to pests and diseases.

Too many branches often cause poor air circulation in between the branches. This is an ideal breading ground for certain insects and diseases that might attack the plant.

The shaping of the plant will be the next step whereby one prunes to have branches evenly spread for a good and balanced structure. Pruning in July/ beginning of August is made easy on especially deciduous shrubs as they have no leaves and the plant skeletons are nice and visible.

Advantages of pruning

One of the biggest advantages of pruning is the rejuvenation of the plant where older branches are cut back or removed to allow younger more productive branches to take over. This is especially advisable on both fruit and flower bearing plants.

Pruning does not only reduce the amount of flowers, but also allows more sap flow to the remaining branches, making the plant more productive with bigger fruits.

When certain fruit trees are left unpruned the result of the harvest will be one with many smaller sized fruits. Pruning does not only reduce the amount of flowers (that will eventually form the fruits) but also allows more sap flow to the remaining branches, making the plant more productive with bigger fruits.

More specialized pruning can be done to stimulate the abundance of flowers and even fruits. Certain plants flower on the current season’s growth while other plants will only flower on last year’s growth. Understanding how a specific plant flowers will guide us in the correct way of pruning. Incorrect pruning periods may result to plants not flowering, and therefor not producing successful crops.

Understanding how a specific plant flowers will guide us in the correct way of pruning. Incorrect pruning periods may result to plants not flowering, and therefor not producing successful crops.

Important pruning aftercare

In order for plants to remain healthy after pruning, their wounds can be sealed with a waterproof sealant specifically formulated for plant use.

In order for plants to remain healthy after pruning, their wounds can be sealed with a waterproof sealant specifically formulated for plant use.

In horticulture, Lime sulfur is used to control fungi, bacteria and certain insects after pruning.  As this chemical formulation burns leaves, it can not be used on evergreen plants and is best sprays on deciduous plants when the plants are dormant when no leaves are present. After pruning a plant, the entire deciduous plant can be sprayed with lime sulfur.

Do you need help with pruning?

For professional pruning, please contact David Viljoen from Mercury Designs to book a pruning session for your garden.

Tel: 011 894 2430 / email: forkandrake@gmail.com