Garden Pruning in Spring


Roses need annual pruning to:

Encourage growth of new shoots

Shape and restrict size

Control habit

Ensure plenty of flowers

Maintain a healthy youthfulness by encouraging basal growth.

With the exception of ramblers, most roses are pruned in March when the sap is just beginning to rise. Ramblers are pruned later in the year, after flowering.

Use very sharp secateurs when pruning to ensure you make clean and not ragged cuts. Always cut immediately above a growth bud that is facing outwards, away from the centre of the bush. The cut should be made at an angle, away from the bud.

The first stage in pruning is to go over the plants and remove ruthlessly any diseased or damaged wood. Then cut away any dead wood, and any stems which are rubbing, or crossing the centre of the bush. Very thin or weak shoots should be cut out. You will now be left with only strong healthy shoots, which in turn must be pruned.

Hybrid tea or large-flowered roses are pruned hard back to encourage new shoots to grow from the base of the plant. Do not cut back into old wood, rather, only into wood produced during the previous year and which still has dormant buds. Cut back to leave two or three buds on each stem.

Floribunda or cluster-flowered roses do not have to be pruned back quite so severely as hybrid teas. Cut back the stems to leave five or six growth buds.

Standard roses. A standard or half standard rose, whether a hybrid tea or floribunda variety, is pruned in the same way as the ordinary bush form. Indeed, a standard is simply a bush on a tall stem. In general, try to ensure all cut-back stems are of the same length to give a symmetrical head to the plant. Weeping standards are rambler roses grafted, normally, onto 1.8-2.1m (6-7ft) stems, and are pruned accordingly.

Climbing roses. Prune climbing roses by cutting back some side shoots to six or seven buds, and others, the weaker ones, to two or three buds, leaving the main stems unpruned. The only exception is where the main stems have dead or frosted tips.


Several popular garden shrubs should be pruned in March to ensure plenty of new growth and flowers. These are the shrubs that flower on wood produced in the current year. A good example is the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii).

The previous year’s stems are cut back almost to the base, to leave one or two growth buds. Other shrubs pruned in this way are hardy fuchsias, deciduous ceanothus, caryopteris, Hydrangea paniculata and tamarix. Shrubs which are grown for the beauty of their bark are also pruned in March in the same way. Examples are red- and yellow-stemmed dogwoods or cornus, and the red-stemmed willows.

Some shrubs which bloom in early spring are pruned immediately after flowering. The main example is forsythia. The oldest stems are pruned hard back every year.

Winter-flowering heathers can be given a light trim with garden shears after flowering to remove the dead flower heads. On no account, though, cut into the old wood.

Some clematis can be pruned in March, particularly C. x ‘Jackmanii Superba’ and other hybrids that bloom late – from July onwards -on the current season’s stems. Cut back the previous summer’s growth to within a few buds of the base. The winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is pruned as soon as it has finished flowering by cutting back hard all the side shoots which have flowered, leaving the main stems. Some of the very old main stems can be thinned out if growth is becoming congested.

Growing Plants from Seed in Spring

Buying plants from garden centres and nurseries is not exactly a cheap exercise, although, to be fair, most offer good value for money, especially long-term plants such as hardy herbaceous perennials, trees, shrubs, and alpines or rock plants.

But have you ever considered raising any of these from seeds? It is quite easy and works out a lot cheaper. Take a look through any good seed catalogue and you will find a wide selection of these plants. Spring is the time to sow them, and sowing can take place out of doors.

Seed bed preparation must be done thoroughly. Remove all weeds during digging and incorporate a little general-purpose fertilizer a few weeks before sowing. Break down the soil into a fine tilth and incorporate peat, especially if the soil is heavy or inclined to dry out rapidly. The seed bed should be in a sunny part of the garden.

Sowing is best done in drills or shallow furrows taken out with a draw hoe or a pointed stick – use a garden line to ensure straight rows. Do not sow too deeply (check with the seed packet) and be sure to water the ground well after sowing.

Spring bedding plants can be raised in the same way and are generally sown in May to flower the following year. Try subjects like forget-me-nots (Myosotis), wallflowers (Cheiranthus) and double daisies (Bellis). Biennials for early summer flowering can be sown in May, too: sweet williams (Dianthus barbatus), Canterbury bells (Campanula medium) and foxgloves (Digitalis).

Transplanting is necessary to give the young plants more room to grow. They are transferred to a nursery bed prepared in the same way as the seed bed. Seedlings of perennials, rock plants, spring bedding plants and biennials are trans-planted when they are 50-75mm (2-3in) high. Seedlings of trees and shrubs are best left until the following autumn.

Set the plants in rows about 300mm (12in) apart, with about 150mm (6in) between the plants.

In the autumn the perennials, rock plants, spring bedding and biennials can be moved to their final positions in the flower garden. Trees and shrubs can be moved to their final sites as soon as you consider they are large enough. They are best moved in autumn or early spring.


Spring is the main season for sowing vegetables. Many people make the mistake of carrying out one large annual sowing of individual vegetables such as carrots and beetroot, which become old and tasteless before they can all be used. It is far better to make small repeated sowings throughout the season (successional sowings), a practice assisted by catch cropping – sowing crops that mature quickly between rows of those that occupy land for a long time.

Globe beetroots and short-rooted carrots can be sown at intervals until the end of July. Peas can be sown at intervals until the third week in July using first early dwarf varieties such as ‘Kelvedon Wonder’.

Dwarf French beans can be sown in May, but if a second sowing is made about mid-July beans will be available until the first frosts.

Salad crops such as endive and lettuce can be sown now, but further sowings can be made after earlier subjects have been cleared. Salad onions such as ‘White Lisbon’ can be sown in small batches from April until late August.

Radishes can be sown in succession in between other crops or in odd corners as long as there is full light and the soil is in good condition. Winter spinach and spinach beet may also be sown in summer. Turnips can also be catch cropped and are greatly appreciated from early autumn onwards, when many vegetables are becoming scarce.

The secret of successful catch cropping and successional sowings (which are intensive forms of cultivation) is to prepare the soil well and ensure it is highly fertile. Vegetables should be regularly fed and kept well watered.

Lawn Repairs in Spring

All lawns at some time suffer damage – a broken edge, a worn patch or a bump or hollow that has resulted from the ground settling after initial turf laying or seed sowing. These troubles are not difficult to rectify, and should be dealt with in the spring.

Broken edges are easily repaired by removing a section at least 150mm (6in) wide and reversing the turf so that the damaged edge is on the inside. Be careful to keep the spade flat when removing the slice of turf and cut the shape first by pressing the spade into the grass against a straight piece of timber.

Grass seed can be sown in the bare patch caused by the damaged edge. Match this with the existing type of grass. Alternatively a small piece of turf can be inserted in the space.

Bumps can be levelled by lifting the turf and taking out the surplus soil, then returning the grass. For a small bump it may only be necessary to peel back a small area.

Hollows can also make mowing difficult. Fill any depressions by first cutting a straight line through the centre of the depression, then two parallel lines at each side, like a capital H. Roll back the two freed pieces, putting extra soil beneath them and firming well.

For very large depressions it is best to remove the turf in strips, fill with soil and then relay the turf.

Bare patches can be reseeded at this time of the year. There are available small proprietary packs of grass seed, especially for dealing with small areas. These are readily obtained from nurserymen and garden centres. Follow the instructions on the pack.

All you need do to prepare the bare area for reseeding is to lightly prick it over with a fork, while at the same time removing any weeds. Then firm it by treading with your heels. Finally rake the surface with a steel rake to ensure a really level surface with about 25mm (1in) of fine loose soil in which to sow the seeds. Finish off by drawing the rake in one direction across the patch to give a series of mini-furrows in which the grass seeds will drop. After sowing, lightly rake the soil at right angles to the furrows, so that they are filled in and the seed is’ covered. Keep well watered if the weather is dry. To prevent birds from eating the seeds, stretch some strong black thread over the sown area supported on short canes or wooden pegs.


In the spring the lawn should be fed with a proprietary lawn fertilizer. Also, any weeds present must be eradicated as they will compete with the grass for food and water, and could smother the lawn so that it dies out in patches.

A convenient way of feeding and weeding lawns is to apply a combined lawn fertilizer and selective weedkiller. However, do not use a combined product unless your lawn is weedy. For feeding, an ordinary lawn fertilizer is all that’s required. To help you apply fertilizers and weedkillers evenly, stretch string at metre or yard intervals across the lawn, then space wooden battens or canes at the same distance apart across these ‘rows’ to give a square grid. As application rates are generally given by the square metre or square yard, the grid will help you to apply the correct dosage; alternatively, use a proprietary fertilizer spreader, which will give a very even distribution. On no account apply more fertilizer or weedkiller than recommended by the manufacturers, as the lawn could be severely damaged.

If just a few weeds are present, hand weeding may be more efficient. A daisy grubber is useful for removing daisies, plantains, dandelions and similar rosette-forming weeds. Alternatively, use a proprietary ‘spot weeder’. This is simply a small canister of weedkiller fitted with a pad, charged with the chemical, which is dabbed on the centre of each weed. Some spot weeders are available in aerosol form.

If moss is a problem, apply a proprietary lawn moss killer – normal lawn weedkillers, designed for killing such things as plantains and daisies, have no effect. When the moss is dead (turned black) rake it out with a wire lawn rake.

14. August 2013 by admin
Categories: Featured, Garden Management, Top Tips | Comments Off on Garden Pruning in Spring


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