Pruning is basically the practice of removing specific parts or portions of a tree. It’s a continuous process right from the early development stages of a tree.

There are three major questions that we need to ask ourselves: 1. Why do we prune 2. When do we prune and lastly how do we prune?

Why do we prune

There are various reasons for pruning which include;

  1. It allows for development of more leaves which are the feeding parts of the plant
  2. It increases complex branch network to improve fruit quality
  3. It suppresses apical dominance and induces lateral growth to aid fruit picking
  4. It improves general aeration and light penetration to improve fruit quality

When do we prune

Pruning is a continuous process right from the early development stages of a tree and we prone right about any time for light pruning. However, for heavy pruning it should be done during the dry season. It should be however noted that continuous light pruning is far better than periodic severe pruning.

How do we prune

  1. Always use clean clippers to prune and after, sterilize the clippers to avoid transferring any infection from one tree to another.
  2. While pruning ensure that you use a well sharpened clipper to make a clean cut.
  3. Avoid making the cut parallel to the ground. They should be at a slanting angle to avoid creating water patches onto the tree.
  4. At the early stages, ensure you leave not more than three lead branches.

Types of pruning; (i) thinning (ii) heading

 Fig. 1: Thinning removes the entire shoot or limb.

  1. Thinning removes an entire shoot or limb to its point of origin from the main branch or lateral (Fig. 1). Some shoot tips are left undistributed, so apical dominance is maintained. As a result, new growth occurs at the undisturbed shoot tips while lateral bud development and regrowth is suppressed.

Thinning is generally the least invigorating type of pruning cut and provides a more natural growth form of plants. Important in maintenance pruning, thinning cuts are used to shorten limbs, to improve light penetration into plants and to direct the growth of shoots or limbs.

Fig. 2: Heading removes a part of a shoot or limb. 

Heading removes the terminal portion of shoots or limbs (Fig. 2). By removing apical dominance, heading stimulates regrowth near the cut. It also is the most invigorating type of pruning cut, resulting in thick compact growth and a loss of natural form, as in the case of a formally pruned hedge. Sometimes ornamental shrubs along a foundation overgrow their planting space and are rejuvenated by heading to within 12 inches of ground level.


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