How To Prune
Below is a chapter from The Little Pruning Book, printed in 1917 by Peck, Stow, and Wilcox Company. This slim volume is “An Intimate Guide To The Surer Growing Of Better Fruits And Flowers”, by F.F. Rockwell, and includes beautiful illustrations, candid humor, and excellent, applicable advice for pruning in the garden.
This chapter is entitled How To Prune- The Wrong Way and the Right; and Why the Latter is Worth While.
“We have already said that pruning improperly done is worse than none at all. This applies not only to mistakes in pruning, too much pruning, or pruning in the wrong season, but also to a poorly done job. With plants, as with animal life, any wound is a danger spot, because it is a possible opening for the entrance of various diseases. Unless it is so made and cared for that it will heal quickly, it is almost sure to cause trouble sooner or later.
“Practice alone, in pruning as in all other kinds of work, from dish-washing to piano-playing, can bring perfection. But in pruning there are many mistakes which even the novice can avoid, if he or she is fore-warned. The trouble is that any warning given on a printed page is likely to be forgotten, until it has been driven home by a lesson from that ungentle but effectual school ma’am, “Experience.” Therefore, to save yourself disappointment and loss where it is possible to do so, make yourself thoroughly acquainted with the suggestions given in this chapter, even if you have read it over several times.
As a general rule, the earlier in the development of the plant or limb, or shoot, the pruning required can be done the better.
We have seen that one of the main objects in pruning is to conserve the energies of the plant that are wasted by the struggle for survival among its branches, using it either to increase the general vitality of the plant, or to direct it to some particular part of the plant where it would help along the design or end that the gardener has in mind. Wherever, therefore, it is possible, pruning should be sone with the thumb and finger! In this way none of the plant’s strength is wasted on growth which is merely to be cut away later. Besides this, the wound left is imperceptible and heals almost at once, and the balance between the top and the roots of the plant is not upset. This finger pruning- in some cases called “dis-budding”- should be practiced a good deal more than it usually is. You are doubtless in the habit of removing the buds from your chrysanthemums to get larger flowers and of “pinching out” the surplus shoots on your tomato plants so that they will not attempt to bear more fruit than they can ripen quickly. Exactly the same thing can be done to many other plants, shrubs, and trees, thus saving the plant and yourself a lot of useless work.
“But most of your pruning, even if you are more careful than the average gardener about “nipping in the bud” superfluous and undesirable growth, will be done with the pruning shears. In using them, there are four things which you should always keep in mind. Eventually they will become second nature, but at the outset you should learn them by heart, so that you can check them off on your finger tips any time you ask yourself what they are!