Although the weather is feeling decidedly chilly for the time of the year, during May the threat of frost will pass and, with spring well under way, David Coton is in no doubt that this is going to be a busy month in the garden.
Pruning involves the selective removal of a branches from a tree or plant to improve its health and shape, encouraging it to grow, flower and fruit. Many gardeners find pruning baffling, so here's an overview by David Hall of a subject that can get over complicated.
Pruning includes jobs as large as cutting off tree limbs to deadheading flowers, some plants will thrive with only limited pruning while others need hard pruning. All we are doing is accelerating a natural process.
When pruning we also have to bear in mind that the result needs to be attractive, i.e. the gardener needs to balance appearance with keeping the plant vigorous.
Shrubs need to be a well balanced and shaped, with sturdy new shoots replacing old ones.
Although initial pruning may be little more than cosmetic, eliminating crossing or weak shoots, before starting serious pruning you need to understand the plant's flowering habit and growth pattern.
Naturally you are reluctant to remove healthy growth, however in the long term most trees will benefit from early training and pruning to create a strong framework of branches, especially if they are grown formally.
Disease and pests usually see their chance to strike when a plant is in poor condition, so it's important to prune out all damaged, dead and diseased wood, the '3 D's' as the RHS book calls them.
Cut back to healthy wood, preferably a growth bud, from where replacement shoots can grow.
Clearing out the centre of a tree to rid it of weak shoots is important to increase air circulation and allow healthy ones to develop unhindered.
Awkwardly placed shoots may upset the symmetry of many shrubs and trees, these should be cut out. Sometimes plants become unbalanced due to one portion growing faster than the remainder, in this case lightly prune strong shoots but cut weak shoots back hard.
Always remember the mantra 'weak growth, hard prune, strong growth, light prune.'
As I've already mentioned, knowing fruiting and flowering characteristics is vitally important, whether it takes place on the current year's shoots or on ones that are more than a year old. This clearly governs if and how often you prune.
Knowledge of the plant's life cycle will also determine when to prune, generally pruning should allow the maximum growing period to produce flowering shoots or growth that will flower during the following season.
Once you understand the importance of pruning and why it is vital for healthy growth, you can go on to discover its intricacies, and that might take a lifetime!
If you're interested in carrying out your own Autumn pruning then you can visit our plant care products page.
There's no doubt that television provides gardeners with inspiration, tips and good ideas, that's why we're all looking forward to new programmes and the return of old favourites during 2019.
The InternetRetailing Growth 2000 Report was published last week and the great news for GardenSite and our customers is that we are now listed as one of the UK's top 1000 retail websites.
Although snow has arrived at the garden centre, we will be receiving new stock during February in readiness for spring which hopefully is just around the corner, and David Coton suggests the jobs you should be tackling in the garden this month.
Wood burners and open fires that require a good supply of dry, well seasoned wood, have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over the past few years. Log stores have therefore become increasingly essential and David Coton explains the differences between the many that are now available.