Pruning - Any Questions?

Q.  I have a two-year old grapevine in my greenhouse. I know that I should take off any grapes whilst still young this year, but how do I prune it? When I bought it, someone talked about cutting off leaves after a certain joint, but that person is no longer available for advice. Grateful for any information.

A.  You need to tie-in the leading shoot so that your vine develops a good strong leader, allow it to grow unchecked. Any laterals that grow from this should be pinched back to five or six leaves and their side-shoots to one leaf.

In the winter cut the leader back by a half to two thirds of total length leaving only brown ripened wood. Laterals should be cut back to a single bud if it looks strong, to two buds if the lateral bud does not look so strong.

Q.  I have just bought a house with a lovely old wisteria growing over the rear porch, it has been quite severely pruned in the past as the trunk is about 8" thick and it only extends about 12' across the roof however the porch itself badly needs painting, can I cut it right back to about 4'-5' of trunk without any damage in order to get to the woodwork?

A.  Yes they can be cut back drastically, but it will be several years before it's back to its former glory. Depending on practicalities, you may be able to detach it and lean it away from the wall supported by wooden props, a ladder or similar, do what you need to do and then tie it all back again to avoiding cutting it so much.

Q.    I want to trim back my flowering Cherry, how close to the main trunk am I supposed to trim it? And is this a good time of the year to do it? Or can you give me any advice as regards the trimming?

A.    Midsummer is the best time to prune flowering cherries, when they are in strong growth after flowering. They generally don't take well to any but the lightest pruning and are best left alone. If you feel you need to make drastic cuts, then only make those that you see as absolutely necessary as they will harm the plant and may result in a wound that never properly heals and is permanently unsightly.

Q.    We have a (neglected) plum tree which fruits very well, though the tree is so high that most of the fruit cannot be picked even from a step- ladder. I understand it should be pruned in July to avoid silver- leaf. How drastically could it be pruned without killing it. I would like to reduce it as much as possible, but still end up with a viable healthy tree.

A.    I prune my plum tree in September after the fruit have been picked and it's survived ok. Drastic pruning should be carried out over a period of 3-4 years depending on the size of the tree. Too much in one go results in rapid growth of "water shoots" that are as useful as they sound. Many die off and the tree ends up congested and still not an ideal useful shape. You should get away with pruning cuts to 5-6 feet above ground level in this manner.

Q.  When is the best time to prune flowering crab apple trees for shaping and improved flowering beauty...thank you kindly.

A.  Treat in exactly the same way as normal apple trees. Prune when dormant when the leaves have fallen off, anytime soon to early spring. They don't take too well to drastic pruning, if there's a lot to do it needs to be spread over 2-3 years.

Q.    I have moved into a property with a hawthorn "hedge" that has not been cut for at least 15 years. It is more like a row of 30-foot high trees.

My tenancy agreement prohibits me from REMOVING the hedge, but allows me to cut it. Will it regenerate if I cut it down to less than 6ft (even to ground level) or do I have to live with the dense shade it throws?

A.    Hawthorn responds well to hard pruning, however I have never lopped quite so much off in one go. I would guess that you could cut them pretty much to ground level (say 1 ft above) and get good strong regrowth - but wouldn't guarantee it. To 6ft shouldn't be a problem at all. What's on the other side? I'd be wary of cutting it down too much as you might find out too late how useful a barrier it is.

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