Gardening Tips: Pruning

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Over the many years I’ve writing articles for the Daily Herald, I’ve written about pruning more times than I can count. In fact, it may be the topic I’ve discussed most frequently. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to convey the strategies of pruning using the written word. For one, there are thousands of different plants that we find in our landscapes, orchards, and forests, and each one needs to be pruned a little bit differently than the next. For that matter, even if you have the same type of tree as your neighbor, you may need to prune them a little bit differently depending on the age, size, and location of the plant. While there are some general pruning techniques, there is as much art to pruning as there is science, so each situation really is unique.

While pruning ornamental trees and shrubs is done mainly to keep the plants healthy and looking nice, pruning for fruit producing plants is really vital for helping those plants achieve a good yield. In fact, there is perhaps no management practice more important for keeping fruit-producing plants productive than annual dormant season pruning. However, many home gardeners struggle to determine when and how much to prune their trees, bushes, and vines. For that reason, I try to host a few pruning demonstrations each year, in order to help people understand what techniques and strategies they should be using. This year, I will be holding three pruning demonstrations, each within the next two weeks.

The first demonstration will focus on blueberry bushes and will be held Saturday March 1st from 9 a.m. to noon at Happy Acres Farm. Happy Acres Farm is located at 210 Wright Rd, off of highway 48, south of Roanoke Rapids.

The second demonstration will be held at Mary Tillery’s home at 1354 NC Highway 481 in Tillery at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, February 28th   Here we will focus on pear trees. Pears are pruned in almost the identical way as apples, so you will benefit from this demonstration if you have either type of tree. Mary also has some young grape vines and while we may not be pruning them, we can look at them and discuss some potential pruning strategies.

The final demonstration will be held at Wayne Short’s farm at 5123 Wright Rd in Littleton at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 4th. At Wayne’s, we will be pruning grapes, apples, pears, and peaches. This will be a great opportunity to see how different fruit trees are pruned in much different ways, as the ideal form for peaches differs considerably from that of apples and pears.

There is no cost to attend any of these demonstrations, however pre-registration is required. To register to attend a demonstration, contact Halifax County Cooperative Extension at 583-5161. Participants may wish to bring their own hand pruners although we will have a few available at each site.

Matthew Stevens is the horticulture extension agent for Halifax County Cooperative Extension. If you have any questions about this article or other aspects of your home gardening, please contact Matthew at 583-5161 or