Category Archives: Uncategorized

When and why to prune

 When and why to prune

Seasonal pruning, maintenance pruning,  hedge trimming, fruit tree pruning, rose pruning, why to prune, when to prune, right time to prune, pruning and climate change,  confused seasons pruning, gardener Bourne End, Marlow, Taplow, Wooburn Green gardener

When and why to prune is a vast subject, and so this article aims to describe the basic principles. There are several reasons to prune, which have differing degrees of importance to the homeowner and gardener alike.

The main reasons for pruning

Pruning is carried out for these reasons.

  • Maintaining the health of the plant
  • Manage the size of the plant
  • To get the best from a plant, for its beauty, or for its yield
  • Necessary horticultural pruning, or aesthetic pruning
  • Safety pruning, removing material that can endanger people

The very worst thing that can be done is not to prune. Many clients refer to letting the plant grow bigger for privacy, but that often produces unruly open plants that offer very little privacy.

Regular management removes dead, damaged and diseased wood, maintains shape and character, airflow and overall size. And if your plant exists primarily to provide something to your garden, i.e., scent, colour or crop, those values can be enhanced.

Sometimes the horticultural requirement is more important, and sometimes the aesthetics and practicality control what needs to be done. Ultimately, the homeowner – and bill payer – decides whether the size and shape is more important than the health of a plant.

When is the right time to prune

Late winter and early spring are often the best times to prune. There are obviously some exceptions, including plants that can be damaged by cold weather, or that flower early in the year.  Winter is the best option as many plants are dormant. The sap is not rising, and plants will not bleed from the wounds. This allows time for wounds to heal before sap starts rising again as plants come into bud.

Winter pruning without leaves makes structural pruning much easier, leaving maintenance pruning as a lighter task when plants are in full leaf.

Climate change has caused some confusion in the seasons, in that what used to be a fairly know timeframe could now have a much larger – or narrower – window. So “late winter” and “early spring” may not be the same from one year to the next. According to the Met Office,  winter doesn’t start until December 21st, making late winter February 21st through March 21st. Casting our minds back over the last few years, other than late frosts, March has been warm. This uncertainty, or vagueness leads us to conclude that it may be better to prune when we know it is coldest, and plants are most dormant, into January and before the end of February – a much shorter window.

Some plants, such as grape and walnut, are particularly vulnerable to bleeding if pruned in mid- to late winter or early spring, as the rising sap spills out from the pruning cut.

Pruning exceptions

Being aware of these subtleties is what makes a gardener. Knowing to prune before the buds start swelling, but not so early in winter that the plant could suffer winter injury.

There are a large number of plants that flower early in the year, which if pruned early would deprive them of their primary purpose. But that may be a worthwhile sacrifice for a year if the the plant needs urgent or radical attention.

A couple of rules of thumb for pruning. If the plant flowers after midsummer, prune in winter. If it flowers before midsummer, prune after flowering. And as Christopher Lloyd said, it’s OK to do it when you think of it, have time to do it and have the tools to hand, than not do it at all.

Pruning is an art form
The results of not pruning or over-pruning

Objectives of pruning?

  • Cut out all dead, damaged and diseased wood.
  • Thin out crowded and dense limbs.
  • Trim watersprouts from limbs on trees.
  • Cut out all crossing or rubbing branches.
  • Remove weak wood and thin growth.
  • Cut back at least 6″ to healthy wood on any dead wood.
  • Remove suckers.

The plant and its condition dictates the pruning requirements. Most deciduous shrubs will benefit from thinning or heading, or both. Removing old growth at the base of the shrub, and new weak or thin stems will give room for air circulation and light. If a plant requires significant reduction, do it in phases allowing growth to resume between. That way we don’t shock a plant, or reduced it to a pile of sticks. It then has chance to recover and regrow from low down. This is  way a plant to scale back safely over a period of one to three years.

Leaving Pruning Altogether

Not pruning is probably the most common pruning mistake. It is not intuitive to cut something that you want to become bigger.

Thinning shrubs allows light and air to better penetrate the shrub. Removing old wood helps keep a shrub young and vibrant. Pruning can improve the health, vigour, and lifespan of your plants.

A complete lawn care package

A complete lawn care packagecomplete lawn service, lawn care, lawn mowing, lawn treatment programme,  lawn care programme, lawn treatment plan, moss treatment, lawn feed and weed, kill lawn weeds, best lawn cutting practice, how often to cut grass, gardener Bourne End, Marlow, Taplow, Wooburn Green gardener, grass cutting

Over the years we have learned many do’s and don’t’s relating to lawn care.  And since 2017 we’ve tried to make ours better, to bring our clients a complete lawn care package. A totally coherent integrated lawn care service – From the ground up.

Now we can offer a completely connected lawn programme, you can finally say goodbye to disjointed and conflicting lawn services

Whether you require one time grass cutting or a regular complete lawn care package, we have the solution.

We offer a full professional lawn care programme throughout the year. Including mechanical management with mowing, scarification and aeration, and back this up with additional nutrient feeds and weed and moss control.

Lawn care is individual to your garden, and not fixed to the calendar. And it’s also weather and temperature dependent. But we’ll only cut or treat your lawn when local conditions allow. We don’t treat or cut just when it suits us.

But overall, lawn care is broadly grouped into four seasons.

Activity season by season

Winter  – December to March. This is usually the quiet time for lawns. With an occasional mow or treatment of Ferrous Sulphate for turf conditioning or moss control (only if conditions allow). But lawns will start growing earlier if the ground temperatures rise. This happened in the years prior to 2021.

Spring – March to May. Grass growth will usually be under way by now. The first light mowing will be done, becoming more regular throughout the period. And any remaining moss can be treated, by  using liquid lawn treatment and/or scarifying and raking . Conditions are usually better for turf repairs and over seeding around this time. And regular spring fertilising and weed control can start.

Aeration improves lawns
Aeration will usually start in this period, concluding with over seeding, often described as the single best course of action for a better lawn.

Summer – June to August. Regular mowing is important, and your lawn may require a weekly or fortnightly cut, depending on temperature and moisture levels; we’ll try to optimise for the benefit of your lawn and your budget. Summer fertilising and weed control continue as the weather allows.

Autumn – September to November. Lawn growth rates increase due to temperatures moderating. And so regular mowing remains important. The wet and warm period is ideal for scarifying and over seeding. Preparations for the winter begin. These include autumn lawn feed treatment keeping your grass healthier over the colder winter months. It is important to keep fallen leaves cleared up and off lawn through to the new year.

More lush lawns after aerating
After the summer months wear and tear aeration maybe necessary, and is a hugely beneficial treatment.

Putting the garden to bed-or not

Putting the garden to bed – or not   Winter garden, preparation for winter, garden ready for winter, put garden to bed,  gardener Bourne End, Marlow, Taplow, Wooburn Green gardener

Most garden owners are fairly individual about what they want and expect from their gardens. But the one things they seem to come together about is the tradition of “putting the garden to bed”. It’s a tradition that harks back to the days when winters were actually cold. And they may still be in some parts of the country, but where we garden in South Buckinghamshire a proper frost is now a rare thing.

All gardens are not the same

There are pros and cons to the idea. Certainly there are some plants that are a mess and offer little winter structure. There are others that do maintain some order and structure; we used to leave them so they’d look nice when frosted – see earlier point. And there are those that do offer some benefit to wildlife, seed heads or berries for food, or collapsed cover that provides shelter. So the argument for putting the garden to bed is not straightforward.

So while I don’t think that the herbaceous border should be left in its entirety, more can be left than tradition dictates. What this does in effect is spread the task of preparing beds for the spring flush of growth over a longer period.  It also enables better and easier identification when they start growing again.

Vulnerable plants

Those plants most likely to be affected are the annuals, and tender perennials. When it does get cold – last year it was into December – they turn black and a frost of any depth will turn them to mush. Also included should be Cannas, Callas, Dahlias  and Tithonia. But I no linger worry about lifting and storing these away in the shed or garage. Five years ago I was still lifting, but now the tubers thrive in the developed ground, and get a later but stronger start when the ground warms.  Other potential contenders are gladiolus. But where they are left in situ it is worth adding a mulch layer to protect and nutrify.

Putting the garden to bed
Dahlias should be cut back when blackened by frost, and either lifted or left depending on where you are in the UK

Perennials that can be cut back include hemerocallis, crocosmia,, phlox, lysimachia. Amongst those I tend to leave are helianthus, rudbeckia and echinacea.

Points to keep in mind in putting the garden to bed

There is no hard and fast rule I apply in partially putting the garden to bed. I just remove what is contributing little, keep what can make a difference to wildlife, and any relatively strong structure. Mulch where protection is required, but eave the majority of the mulching for when the final clear down is done in January or February, depending on how hard the winter actually was.

Knowing roughly when the last frost is going to be would be useful, but some clever persons has though t of it. You can use this tool to find your location and discover the average date of a last frost. Fantastic!

More important but not on most gardeners list is to add mulch to the borders.  This is more easily done into the late winter or early spring, when you can see where returning perennials are.  And you’ll also any seedlings from last year annuals that can be relocated, or just left to be natural.

  • Clear blackened tender plants, mark location and mulch
  • Cut back anything untidy that does not offer shelter or food
  • Leave plants with seeds or berries that contribute to wildlife
  • Leave anything that maintains structure
  • When it is finally cleared, mulching  the borders will provide a protecting nutrient layer. This will be worked into the soil to improve it throughout the year.

Lawn mowing best practice

Lawn mowing best practice mowing lawn short, correct lawn mowing height, how long to mow grass, how often to mow grass, lawn mowing frequency, best lawn cutting practice, how often to cut grass, gardener Bourne End, Marlow, Taplow, Wooburn Green gardener

Over the years we have learned many do’s and don’t’s relating to lawn mowing best practise.  This gives us a good understanding of how best to keep a lawn healthy, and how to keep client costs as low as possible.

In an ideal world these points should always be applied, but unfortunately life and the weather get in the way.

Most important to lawn mowing best practice is keeping the lawn alive and healthy. Here are the basic facts.

Height of cut

Most contentious if the  height of the cut. Many people want to have a lawn that is very short, like a cricket pitch or tennis court. Of course they mostly don’t have the resources to undertake it.  Cutting turf too low is the most common mistake.  The idea is is to improve the lawn’s appearance, but the result is often the opposite.

After maintaining a lawn too low  for a couple of years, there will be more weeds, more disease, and generally poorer lawn quality.

Lawn mowing best practice
Cutting too low will cause damage.

This is caused partly by removal of too much leaf tissue and subsequent physiological effects on the plant. Mowing cuts newly emerged, highly photosynthetic leaf blades. This means older, less photosynthetically active blades must carry the burden of carbohydrate synthesis for the plant. As a result, the plant weakens and root growth slows as the plant-produced carbohydrates are shunted to produce new leaves. Grass in this weakened state is slow to recover from insect damage and disease, and weeds fill in the space.

Proper mowing height is critical to lawn health because it:

  • Allows for proper food production
  • Reduces stress
  • Inhibits weed growth
  • Reduces irrigation requirements.

In addition removing more leaf material and maintaining a lower canopy, the microclimate is changed. More light reaches into the canopy, increasing turf and upper-soil temperature. Consequently, temperature of lower-cut turf is generally higher than that of higher-cut turf. High temperatures speed up metabolism and can deplete carbohydrate reserves that the lawn needs for growth. In addition, high temperature can interact with pesticides and cause phytotoxicity.

Lawn height against lawn function

Mowing height should be based on the lawn’s main function, with consideration to the lawn quality and weediness. The height of the lawn cut will also affect the time between cuts, and hence the cost.

If a lawn is generally healthy it can be cut shorter on some occasions without major stress. So the plan should be to keep it generally longer, reducing the height occasionally. If the lawn has got longer, because it couldn’t be cut due to bad weather  for example, it may be reduced by several cuts, but still left longer than the usual final height.

Mowing frequency

Mowing frequency is based on the growth rate of the grass, not on a set time schedule. Getting this perfect is easier said than done, as the every lawn grows at it own rate. But it is the lawn mowing best practice.

Mowing frequency varies based on the lawn quality and use. A golf course typically mows its golf greens on a daily basis, while you only may need to mow a roadside several times a year. For most moderately to intensively cultured lawns, the best advice is to remove no more than one-third of the turf height at any one mowing. If you remove more than one-third, you may create an imbalance between aerial shoots and roots, thus retarding growth. Plus, too-frequent mowing can cause less rooting, reduced rhizome growth, increased shoot density, decreased shoot growth, decreased carbohydrate reserves and increased plant succulence. But, that has to be measured against cost, and availability.

So mowing frequency changes as grass starts to grow faster in April and May, slowing or even stopping in July and August, resuming in September through November; more frequently during part of the season and a reduced schedule during other months. Weather conditions, irrigation and fertilisation also affect growth rate.


Clippings are one of the contentious elements of lawn mowing. They do occasionally benefit the lawn, but it won’t look as neat. Collecting clippings also takes longer and therefore costs more. Taking clippings away costs even more,  so best practice is to add to a clients compost pile. We try to explain and encourage  customers about composting and its benefits.

Some of the many benefits of leaving the clippings on the lawn include the return of vital nitrogen, providing up to 25% of the fertilising requirement . Removing clipping removes about 100 to 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre every year.

Leaving clippings on the lawn reduces mowing time by up to 50%. The larger the lawn, and further to the compost pile, the more saving potential there is.

The benefits of mulching mowers

Side- or rear-discharge mowers throw clippings back onto the lawn, but a mulching mower is the best option. These specially designed units cut clippings into smaller and smaller pieces so they will easily fall back to the soil, rather than sitting on top of the newly mown lawn.  These sophisticated machines create adequate suction to stand the grass, cut it, hold it long enough to chop it into tiny pieces and then evenly blow it into the turf without clumping. The subtle design of the individual cutting chambers and the blades inside the deck housing play a critical role in this process.

So when cutting your lawn we consider these factors.

  • Type of grass
  • Height of cut
  • Mowing frequency
  • Area use
  • Total area to be mowed
  • Obstacles present
  • Safety of operator and bystanders
  • Skill required for operation and maintenance
  • Skill level of operators and maintenance personnel
  • Economics
  • Equipment versatility.

We have chosen equipment to provide the best performance and cost for clients, and the wide range of lawn conditions we encounter. And while all clients are most important, lawn cutting tasks usually take priority because the task only gets harder if it is delayed. Cold, frost and wet weather delay cutting, but wet and warm weather is difficult as you can almost watch the grass growing.

Mowing safety

Our lawn mowing best practice allows consideration to client and operator safety when using lawn mowing equipment.  We are aware of hazards on lawns, proximity of people and property.