Summer Pruning Tips
How best to care for fruit trees, berries, and flowers in the warm months
Many people associate pruning with winter and the dormant season, which is true for most trees and bushes, but summer isn’t time to ignore your perennials completely. The maintenance you do in the warmer months will increase yields and make the rest of the year easier for you.
Fruit trees should be pruned twice a year, but the goal of the two prunings are different. In winter, when a tree has lost its leaves, the overall structure is easy to see and you can prune for shape and balance. In the summer, when a tree is leafed out, you can see how the foliage growth may be shading out fruit and prune for sunlight and airflow, which will help prevent fungal diseases. Summer pruning will always be a lighter version of pruning—think of it as an opportunity to make corrections and fine tuning.
Summer pruning should take place in July or August—any later and the tree will be shifting out of active growth mode for fall and winter. Look for interior branches that may be creating too much shade for fruit to ripen, weak growth, or any wood that has been damaged. As always, cut at an angle, sloping down from an outward facing bud. This is also a good time to evaluate overall size of your tree and to trim back branches that may be getting lanky. Even dwarf trees can get overgrown without some maintenance.
For hand pruning fruit trees, these Ratcheting Hand Pruners are recommended, as they give a bit more power than other clippers and have a blade that can be easily replaced for ideal sharpness. These Bypass Pruners are another good option. Any corrections that require more than a hand pruners should be left until winter pruning when the tree is dormant.
Strawberries are a summer favorite, but they need a little help to provide a large crop of juicy berries. Though this procedure is often neglected by backyard gardeners, renovating strawberries after they’re done fruiting for the season is the best thing you can do to protect them from fungal diseases and will encourage a longer lifespan for your plants and more abundant harvests.
Renovating is a simple procedure. Once the berries have stopped producing, grasp all the leaves of the plant about two inches out from the base of the crown and cut across the bunch of stems. This will allow you to remove the larger, outer leaves, which, over the course of the winter, would wither and turn brown. Cutting them in this way protects the inner crown of the strawberry, where new leaves will sprout. Because strawberry foliage is so prone to infections, do not dispose of the foliage in a home composting system.
Strawberries come in two different types—June-bearing and everbearing. This is important because you want to make sure your berries have stopped fruiting for the season before you renovate. June-bearing plants can be renovated in late July or August, while everbearing plants should wait until September or October.
Many flowers benefit from being trimmed as their bloom season progresses—withered blossoms should be removed. This promotes growth of the plant, improves appearance, and often encourages further blooming. Some of the flowers that benefit from deadheading includes Shasta daisies, Coneflowers, Lupines, Lavenders, Geums, and Phloxes.
This time of year, dahlias are one of the most popular flowers that require deadheading. Dahlias have flower buds all along their stem and, by snipping off spent blooms, the next bud down the stem is activated to bloom. If the spent flowers are left on the bush, the plant will continue to put energy into seed development.
With deadheading flowers, the biggest question is where to cut. A good rule of thumb is to go down the stem to the next lateral leaf and cut just above that. This is not a hard and fast rule, however. With roses, go down to the next leaf with five lobes (cutting above the smaller leaves with three lobes will produce a weak shoot). And with lavender, remove the long flower stalk, but also about an inch of the foliage, trimming the tips and shaping the plant. This will encourage a possible second flowering in autumn (depending on climate).
For deadheading soft stemmed (herbaceous) flowers, pruners such as these Fruit Scissors do a great job. Another option is the spring-loaded Flower Cutter, whose narrow nose is able to access the space between stems easily. For woody-stemmed flowers, these Bypass Pruners, or Professional Hand Pruners have the strength needed for tougher stems like lavender or roses.