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Develop A Year-Long Pruning Plan To Improve Appearance, Health Of Your Garden

Pruning is one of the easiest ways to control the size, growth and beauty of your plants, and yet many gardeners either overlook this vital task, or minimize its effectiveness.

According to Vince Rogers of JS West Lumber & Ace Hardware, developing and following an individual pruning plan based on how and when your plants will best respond greatly improves the health of your yard.

The practice of doing all the pruning at one time may have detrimental effects to even some of the most commonly-seen trees and shrubs. While hedging shrubs can be pruned year-round, flowering shrubs are best pruned only after they flower.

Generally, the best time of year to prune trees is during the colder months of the year, when they are dormant. One benefit: the absence of leaves allows you to see where you are working and prune more efficiently.

‘While these guidelines are helpful, there will always be exceptions,’ says Rogers. ‘For example, evergreen trees benefit most when they are pruned in early summer, after they have completed new growth. Fruit-bearing trees, shrubs and vines respond best in late winter, before spring growth starts.’

Here are a few additional tips on pruning taken from the Ames Basic Pruning Guide:

  • Prune away dead, broken and diseased portions of a plant.
  • Prune flush to a main branch or trunk.
  • Cover cuts of 1-1/2′ diameter or more with a protective wood compound.
  • Prune weak plants heavily and vigorous plants lightly as a general rule.
  • Keep tools sharp and clean — clean cuts heal more quickly.
  • Use proper safety equipment when pruning.
  • Do not leave ragged cuts or stubs.
  • Do not prune with dull or improper tools.
  • Never expect pruning to compensate for defects caused by overcrowding, poor soil conditions, improper climate, etc.
  • Never use hedge shears for general pruning.
  • Never do all your pruning at the same time.
  • Never climb trees. The hazards far outweigh the benefits. Call a professional or use a long-handled tree trimmer.

For more helpful tips on lawn and garden maintenance, as well as other home projects, visit JS West Lumber & Ace Hardware or the Ace Hardware Web site at