Real Men Sow

Pruning by the Seat of my Pants!

Pruning has always been rather a dark art to me. I’ve shied away on the basis that it seemed scary and technical. Y’know, something that the pros do, not someone like me, with a few fruit bushes on an allotment.

I understand the reason and theory, such as shaping, removing dead bits and maintaining health etc, but the actual action of hacking away at a plant terrifies me. There seems like such a tiny margin for error, and my productive fruit bushes are just too precious to mess around with.

Maybe it is because my information-packed but ever so slightly daunting RHS Growing Fruit book has a subtle expert undertone. Words and phrases like ‘lateral’ and ‘leader’, and ‘outward’ and ‘inward’ facing buds confuse me, and make me want to run a mile.

Burying my Head in the Pruning Sand
Instead, I’ve done the typical male thing and buried my head in the sand. We’re good at that, us blokes. Ignore the thing that needs pressing attention, and get on with something we’re proficient or comfortable with.

Subsequently, I have a motley crew of odd shaped fruit bushes that I’m now trying to transplant into my Patch from Scratch. I have never pruned them in the four years that they’ve occupied space in my allotment fruit patch. I’ve been too fearful of taking the plunge.

Transplanting, as I did with a couple of gooseberry bushes at the weekend, simply highlighted their irregular shape. Due to my disregard, they have grown as they wish and unfortunately they’re short and wide where I’d like them to be tall and slender.

Taking a Flyer at Pruning
So, I just kind of had a stab at pruning at the weekend. I threw caution to the wind, and pruned by the seat of my pants. With gay abandon, I set about the bushes with no care for consequences. My only plan was to tidy the bush up as much as possible, starting with the dead branches, and then the ones that were crowding out others. I didn’t worry much for laterals and leaders, but simply dived in two footed. That’s how we learn, right?

Well, maybe. Or maybe not, if my bushes don’t respond to my reckless pruning. ‘They’ve got two choices,’ as my mum would say.

Fortune favours the brave. And somehow, I don’t feel so scared any more.

P.S. This is not a tip post. I do not recommend pruning in this stupid fashion. :)

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  1. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening!October 30, 2012 at 9:43 pmReply

    My take on pruning is if it really needs to be done regularly, that shrub isn’t meant for my garden. Similarly, if pruning it wrong can harm it, it isn’t meant for my garden. I’m not a big fan of pruning.

    I expect you’ve done just fine.

  2. JelliebabeNovember 1, 2012 at 10:53 amReply

    Precisely my school of pruning – specially the gooseberries! Apparently they should be goblet shaped with a good bit ot of the middle to aid air circulation, but I try and snip the ones too close to the ground and which are crowding each other or REALLY obviously dead. I think they make it sound scarier than it is – my gooseberries are non the wiser! Still get truck loads! :D

  3. Claire BensonNovember 3, 2012 at 8:58 amReply

    Well the basics of pruning is to remove dead material and thin out the centre to ensure light can get to all branches easily so I think you went the right way about it. When I worked in a nursery my boss used to tell me to aim for a wine glass shape. I like that one as its not overly complicated!

    But you’re right pruning books are usually complicated, enough to put us off the act altogether so some simple rules of pruning with no technical language would be nice.

    I also feel sure your fruit bushes will be fine. At worst you’ll be waiting two seasons for fruit.

  4. Real Men Sow » Blog Archive » Divide and PlonkerNovember 5, 2012 at 8:44 pmReply

    [...] Pruning by the Seat of my Pants! [...]

  5. Gooseberry Fools | VegetablismSeptember 7, 2013 at 12:09 pmReply

    [...] read Jono’s blog recently about pruning and was a little inspired. On 33 we have 4 gooseberry bushes that were there [...]

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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