Are you taking care of your trees and pruning suckers? | PumpjackPiddlewick

Since living in France, I have become a dab hand at pruning. France is quite an agricultural country, and it sort of comes with the territory that you learn how to prune. Pruning suckers of energy from trees,shrubs, roses and even vineyards is a much each year.

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.

When to Prune?

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.

Why Prune?

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. When 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.

This is really quite a serious concept to get your head around in pruning. It helps you understand why pruning ‘hard’, eg taking the plant back to few branches, can be beneficial. Though pruning hard is not done every year, pruning in general is.

Tree Suckers

Along the same lines of the dissipating energy is an often neglected area of a garden. It’s 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.)

How to?

Are you pruning your tree suckers? If not, here's a how to from PumpjackPiddlewick
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Pruning 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.

Low maintenance

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!

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More Gardening

If you enjoy gardening, or simply like to read about gardening, please check out my other Garden Findings.

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