One of the great benefits of living with someone who has a degree in oenology and viticulture (fancy titles for winemaking and vineyard management) is that he is a wiz at pruning. Pumpjack really understands how things grow and what to do when. He is my mentor and has taught me why it’s important to prune tree suckers.
Vineyards are just organised gardens
I learned to prune in our vineyard, learning when and how to cut away branches and when to de-bud. That education has now moved into our own garden.
Pumpjack has taught me how to prune plants, bushes and trees, and I have to say I love it! There is something so, so therapeutic about cutting away dead wood, or knowing you are invigorating a plant. Giving it new energy.
Pruning is generally done when plants are dormant. That is, when it’s cold. Why? In a simplistic nutshell, sugars, nutrients, etc, within the plant retract into the roots as the cold weather comes in and become carbohydrates. It is the carbohydrates that give the energy, come spring, to bring forth the budding leaves. So pruning takes place in late autumn into winter, before buds begin to show on the tree or plant.
Pruning tidies up the plant, but also, as you take away dead, dying or excess branches, it focuses the returning energy of the plant more vigorously into where you want it to go. If you think about it, say a small tree has 20 branches, that’s 20 branches dissipating the tree’s energy. If you prune away the weak, lower or excessive growth, the energy has fewer places to go and so will be stronger where it is most wanted.
Do you Prune… Suckers?
One often neglected area of a garden, I think, is its trees. So much information on gardening is focused on planting vegetables or flowers. As a tree is really a larger plant, it too requires attention. A tree will tell you whether it is healthy or not in a few ways. Suckers is one of the more noticeable.
Suckers are shoots (small branches or foliage) generally found near the base of the tree, but can also grow from the sides and further up. If you see them, they need to be cut away. They are weakening the tree, takings its energy. A tree that is struggling against disease or bugs does not have the energy to combat suckers, so they will start to invade. If you prune suckers, you give your trees a chance to be healthier. (And should also take the opportunity to see if there is disease or bugs, whilst you are at it.)
Pruning suckers is easy. Get yourself a good set of secateurs, the best you can afford as they are a must, must, must-have in any garden. I also recommend a good sharpening stone, as well sharpened secateurs make pruning much easier.
Prune suckers from the tree as near to the tree or root as possible, and cut away all suckers and foliage. Clear away around the roots so no stray suckers hide from you.
I recently worked on a tree that hadn’t been tidied for at least over a year, possibly longer. The poor thing was inundated with suckers at its base and up its side, so much so you couldn’t even see the base of the tree!
It can be overwhelming when confronted with so many suckers, but take it slow and work your way in. I simply began cutting the outer ones, using cutting shears (or lopers) for the larger suckers that were beyond my secateurs capabilities. With those gone, I then tackled the smaller ones, until all were gone.
Now that your tree is cleared of suckers, it’s just a question of keeping an eye on it. Should a new sucker rear its head, like a weed, get rid of it. If I see leaves trying to show themselves on a trunk, I simply wipe my hands over them, tugging them away or ripping the foliage so they won’t continue to grow.
Prune suckers any time of year, but if you have a tree that is inundated, it is best to cut as early as possible in spring. Ideally cut before buds begin to show themselves. But it’s more important to get rid of the suckers, than wait.
See, the maintenance of a healthy tree is easy. You and your tree will enjoy it!
Gardener Gifts from Our Shop
Because I am a keen gardener, I like to be sure there are some nice garden-themed gifts in our Shop. Here’s a taste…
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