Eight reasons to prune in summer

Summer pruning is an often overlooked task, but if anything, it's more important than chopping plants back when they are dormant in winter.

Cutting back plants in summer has a host of benefits, not least in helping to restrict the size of your plants and stopping them outgrowing their allotted space. It can also promote future flowering and fruiting.

Here are eight reasons why you need to prune in summer.


Encourage more fruit buds

Plants that can be pruned:

· apples
· crab apples
· medlars
· mulberries

Key tool:

Why: many types of tree fruit produce their crop on short flowering spurs along the bottom half of branches. These don't need pruning, but you can encourage more to develop - making your tree much more productive - by cutting back strong, vigorous shoots that were made in spring.

How: prune back the strongest upright or 'lead' shoots by two thirds. Cut to just above a bud. Cut back the side shoots more severely than the lead shoots - to two or three buds from the base.

Avoid disease

Plants that can be pruned:

· cherries
· cherry plums
· damsons
· greengages

Key tool:

Why: trees in the cherry family (Prunus) are prone to silver leaf disease. Pruning in summer helps to avoid infection, as the fungal spores are airborne between September and May.

How: cut back all the current season's growth in July - main stems by around one third, side shoots by one half. Use the points of secateurs to pinch out the soft shoots. This is also the time to prune out any branches that are weak, competing or crossing.

Remove old fruited wood

Plants that can be pruned:

· blackcurrants
· jostaberries

Key tool:

Why: after a few years, productivity will decline. Pruning in summer promotes larger crops.

How: remove the thickest, oldest stems at the base as soon as you've picked the currants, leaving a few of the younger, fruited stems and the strongest new growth to crop in the future.

Restrict the size of fruit bushes

Plants that can be pruned:

· gooseberries
· redcurrants
· pink currants
· whitecurrants

Key tool:

Why: left unpruned, fruit bushes can outgrow their space. Pruning back the youngest, current season's growth limits the size of plants and encourages more productive sideshoots to form.

How: cut back this year's growth by at least half, to just above a bud. Prune at the point where the stem colour changes from green to tan-brown.

Cut old canes to make way for new

Plants that can be pruned:

· blackberries
· loganberries
· summer raspberries

Key tool:

Why: with the exception of autumn fruiting raspberries, cane fruits produce new canes each year, which will go on to fruit the following summer. Old, fruited canes can be cut down to the ground to make space for new stems.

How: prune old, darker stems down to the ground as soon as you have picked the last summer fruit. Cut out the thinnest of this season's new shoots at the same time.

Promote better flowering

Plants that can be pruned:

· campsis
· honeysuckle
· jasmine
· star jasmine
· wisteria

Key tool: secateurs

Why: these climbers can be a tangled mess by the end of the season. Pruning in summer removes masses of soft, nitrogen-rich growth, and if repeated every year, will gradually allow flower-promoting potash to build up in the plant.

How: prune trailing stems back, leaving three to four leaves on current growth. Remove one in three of the longest stems, too.

Prevent overgrown spring shrubs

Plants that can be pruned:

· deutzia
· forsythia
· kerria
· philadelphus
· weigela

Key tool: secateurs or loppers

Why: overgrown shrubs produce their flowers high up the plant, where they can't be seen. Anything that flowers from early winter to late spring can be pruned in summer.

How: cut back around one third of the thickest, oldest stems, pruning them right down to the base. Thin out new shoots at the base of the shrub, aiming to leave around eight of the strongest that are evenly spaced and not crossing. Trim off the top third of the remaining older wood to prevent the shrub becoming too large.

Start training shrubs early

Plants that can be pruned:

· berberis
· cercis
· chaenomeles
· deutzia
· viburnum

Key tool: secateurs

Why: early training and shaping is crucial for creating a strong framework of branches and better flowering in the plant's early years.

How: use secateurs to reduce current season's leading shoots by a third and side shoots by two thirds, pruning to just above a leaf stalk. Bend down the stem for a cleaner cut.


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