Gardening Tips with Charlie Albone


How to shape trees and shrubs

Pruning is one of the key tasks to be during in late Autumn and right through Winter for a number of reasons. Firstly, once the growth from the warmer months has slowed and the leaves start to fall, you’re able to see what you’re cutting, making the job much easier and safer for you.


Another benefit to pruning during the cooler months is allowing more sunlight into your garden. This is important given the hours of sunlight are heavily reduced at this time of year, so your plants and lawn below will be happy with the added boost.

This is also a good opportunity to identify and remove branches that are crossing over, or rubbing. Doing so will prevent open wounds that can lead to an infection in the plant.

When pruning, I use a three-step cut method to prevent tearing of the bark. Torn bark makes it difficult for the tree to repair the ‘wound’ which can also lead to infection. Aim for a clean cut to keep your tree healthy with the following method:

Step 1: Start at the underside
Start your first cut on the underside of the branch away from where your final cut will be – but not too far away. You want it to be able to maintain excessive weight and avoid a tear in the bark. For this first cut, you are cutting upwards towards the sky but only go a maximum of 2/3 through the branch, before the weight of the branch traps the blade of the saw.

Step 2: Finish the cut
The second cut is close to this first cut on the top side of the branch, away from the main trunk of the tree. As you cut through the weight of the branch will tear the timber and bark down to the previous cut giving you the look of a step.

Step 3: Tidy it up
The third and final cut is the one where you want a clean-cut. By having a single flat surface, you minimise surface area of the cut, decreasing the possibility of pathogens and diseases entering the tree.

The first thing to do is to remove any dead wood or dead branches. Focus on removing the three D’s – dead, damaged and diseased. To maintain the health of the upper branches, remove any “suckers” – these are the new vertical shoots growing from the base of the tree. Be sure to clear away unwanted branches from buildings, guttering or pathways that could potentially pose a risk in windy weather. While removing limbs from healthy trees might not feel right, it’s a smart way to avoid damage to your home and your family in high traffic areas. It also promotes healthy and dense growth, and will help to keep them to a manageable size so you can continue to maintain them for years to come.

Under-pruning the tree to expose the trunk is also an important part of tree maintenance. This has a few advantages, including removing any dangerous or eye-height branches that could strike you in your face. Exposing the trunk also gives a tree a lovely natural form, with a clear definition between the trunk and canopy. It will also allow any plants of lawn below acess to ample light, airflow and rainfall.

Make sure you have the right tool for the right job – and always wear protective equipment. For pruning jobs below shoulder height, the STIHL MSA 120 C-B battery chainsaw is lightweight, quiet and very easy to use. It’s ideal for those thicker limbs.

For pruning anything higher than shoulder height, stay safe and use an extendable pole saw like the new HTA 50 battery pole pruner. Extremely powerful, quiet and with little vibration, make light work of pruning back branches at heights safely without the need of a ladder.

For additional versatility when pruning trees or shrubs, as well as for cutting up garden waste, I recommend the GTA 26 battery garden pruner. Specifically designed for two handed operation, its non-slip control handle makes for perfect ergonomics. It’s also incredibly light, quiet, and quick.

And lastly, we know that collecting firewood is a year round task, so use this opportunity to build up your wood stack. If you need some tips on firewood storage, check out my post which has everything you need to know for a warm and toasty winter.

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