Learning Pruning Basics

Over the weekend I took a class on pruning basics. Since I put in two apple trees to our backyard last year, I wanted to learn how to properly prune those trees. After taking the class, I realized there are a TON of other plants in my yard I now know how to prune, shape, and help grow better. The gardening classes within our local county park system are always worth the few dollars and hours they cost!

The course instructor, Ruthie, was new to me, but she did an amazing job. Such a wonderful, fun, and energetic teacher. She taught botany as a professor in another state before becoming a Naturalist at the parks. I plan to send in a letter to her boss, because this was by far the most informative and enjoyable gardening class I’ve ever taken. I am taking a few more this spring that I hope she’s teaching, too.

She started really basic to get us all up to speed. Ruthie taught us how plants, trees, and shrubs grow. The parts of the plants to know about (leaf, stem, root, fruit, flower). It was so basic but needed, as there were even Master Gardeners in the room who said she knew so much more than they did.

Throughout the class I learned the right tools to use, when to call an arborist, and how to shape plants in a long term process year after year. Then we took a walkabout outdoors to look at some examples of trees and shrubs in the park and how we might handle the situation to prune.

What I learned was that I want to always prune and take a long step back from the shrub or tree before continuing to prune. Cutting and cutting from right near the tree isn’t useful, as with each cut the shaping changes as the weight of the tree changes.

You prune in a 3-year process shaping from the high, medium, and low sections of the tree or shrub in order to create that rounded effect we all love. There are other ways to prune she went over, but gave us great ways to get started.

With tools, you never want to use scissors (whoops!) and you don’t want to hack at a tree or shrub. You should be able to use the pruning shears in one snip, or need to move up a tool size. Also, the way the shears are held against the branch matter, as the flat edge could crush the collar of the tree branch you don’t want to cut. There was so much more info that I cannot get into here, but I hope to put together a podcast episode going over my notes so you may learn something new, too!

I’m no longer afraid to prune the shrubs and trees on our property and feel confident I learned how to do it properly. Also, I learned and told Chris that he’s no longer allowed to touch any shrubs or trees, hehe. He was happy about that!

If I had known this information a few years ago, we may not have ripped out our front garden to start over as I would’ve been able to prune and shape the shrubs and overgrowth that were out there. Alas, I can start fresh with the new shrubs we do have out there now.