Tend to your garden like an expert with this pruning guide and checklist

From roses to shrubs and trees, our handy guide will help you to primp and prune your garden like a green-thumbed expert


Your July gardening checklist with bonus pruning tips

+ Gardens are just as much about editing as planting – a shrub may grow wider than you planned or a tree might block out light. To move shrubs and trees, dig a wide circle around the plant so you leave plenty of soil around the roots, and keep the root ball well wrapped until it’s ready to go back into the ground.

+ When there’s less foliage in the garden during winter you can more easily assess the condition of structural features such as fences, walls, paths, terraces, pergolas and ponds. Do they need cleaning or replacing?

+ Once you’ve planted cineraria, you’ll always have them as their seeds spread easily. However, that’s a small price to pay for the colour of their blooms in winter – divine shades of purple, mauve and pink. They flower for several weeks and work well under trees and in other shady spots. Don’t worry if they do stray into areas they shouldn’t as cineraria are easy to pull out.

+ Spring is not far away and those hard-working bees will need plenty of food. Sow seed for spring flowers in trays indoors and they’ll be ready for planting out when the weather warms up. Easy annuals to sow from seed include aquilegia, alyssum, calendula, cornflower, cosmos, delphinium, lobelia and sweet peas. Fill up pots, planters, window boxes and hanging baskets to brighten up decks, porches and balconies.

+ Spread compost and other organic matter (pea straw, sheep pellets, stable manure) over bare areas in the garden during winter when there’s less growth. Come spring, the soil will be full of the goodness plants need.

+ Indoor plants in heated rooms are vulnerable to sap-sucking insects such as scale (brown or yellow) and mealy bug (tiny white insects with a waxy coating). Rather than resorting to sprays, try removing them with an old toothbrush and soapy water.

Top tips for garden pruning

  • Winter is the best period for pruning as the growth of deciduous plants slows while they are dormant, so pruning has less impact than when they’re in leaf. It’s also easier to see what you’re doing.
  • Pruning is not just about reshaping or controlling growth, it also helps to keep plants healthy. Removing damaged, diseased and dead plant limbs makes pests and diseases less likely to take hold. Pruning also makes trees and shrubs grow more vigorously.
  • For very large trees, unless you really know your stuff, it may be better to hire a qualified arborist.
  • Conifer hedges should only be pruned lightly. Make sure you leave some foliage on branches as conifers often won’t form leaf buds on old wood.
  • Wait until after flowering before pruning trees and shrubs that bloom in spring such as azaleas, forsythia, hebe, manuka, crab apple, flowering cherry, viburnum and weigela. Pruning now means you’ll lose flower buds.
  • Pruning roses is vital if you want plenty of flowers. Start by removing dead, diseased and old branches, then shorten the rest, making an angled cut just above (about 5mm) an outward-facing bud. Slope the angle of the cut away from the bud so that water won’t run into it. You’re aiming for a vase shape with bush roses.

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