Look Before You Lop

45 Minutes | All | Outdoors

Treat some trees with a trip to the barbers, as we have a go at pruning some branches and promoting new growth in your garden at home.



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Look Before You Lop

45 Minutes | All | Outdoors

  • Plants to prune
  • Gardening equipment, including pruning shears, secateurs, gardening gloves and a saw
  • String or ribbon, in 20cm lengths
  • Eye and head protection

  1. Before you begin
  2. Trimming or pruning big trees is a job best left to experts
  3. A garden centre worker or local tree surgeon might be able to help you with this, if they’re able to come along and lend a hand
  4. If pruning independently, make sure that you’re doing it at the right time of year for that particular species
  5. A web search, tree app or gardening manual will probably be able to tell you this
  6. Most deciduous trees (that drop their leaves in winter) are pruned in autumn and winter, while evergreen trees (which have leaves all year round) are pruned in mid-to-late summer
  7. Pruning requires some sharp tools
  8. Make sure you have enough experienced adults to supervise when using shears, secateurs and saws
  9. Make sure everyone pruning wears hand and eye protection to protect from dust, pollen and sharp or whipping branches
  10. If cutting high branches, wear head protection too
  11. It’s best to wear sturdy shoes throughout as well
  12. Run the activity
  13. Gather everyone at home who is helping, around the tree or bushes that they’re going to be working on
  14. Make sure there’s plenty of space for people to take a step back if they need to
  15. Explain that everyone will be helping to prune a tree/bush
  16. Describe what this means and explain why it’s an important part of maintaining healthy trees
  17. Pruning should be done at different times of the year, and in different ways, for different tree species
  18. You’ll need to know how and when to prune the species that you’re working with, or you could do permanent damage
  19. Branches thicker than a person’s arm should be left to experts like tree surgeons to handle
  20. Point out that before pruning anything, it’s important to have an idea of what you’re trying to achieve by trimming branches
  21. You might prune a tree to encourage it to grow more dense branches and leaves, or trim bottom branches off to get more light to the ground and encourage grass or ground-growing plants to appear
  22. You might prune it to create a particular ornamental shape, or simply to stop it from growing too large
  23. But whatever you decide, you should always know what the end shape will be like before you begin cutting
  24. When making a tree, bush or hedge slightly smaller, keeping its original shape is important
  25. To do this, it’s important that before cutting, we know where each cut will be made and what effect it’ll have on the overall appearance of the tree, bush or hedge
  26. Here are some other things to consider when choosing what and where to cut:
  27. First, look out for any shoots or branches that look damaged, dead or diseased
  28. Next, look for any branches that look particularly weak or that are rubbing against other branches, trees or structures
  29. When picking exactly where to cut, try to cut just above a healthy bud, a pair of buds or a side shoot, around 0 5cm above the bud
  30. Cutting too close can harm it and cutting too far away can encourage disease in the plant
  31. If you can, try to leave buds that face outwards, as this will stop the branches growing in and colliding with one another
  32. Everyone taking part should take a length of string or ribbon
  33. Each length should be about 20cm long, which should be long enough to tie around the maximum circumference branch you should be cutting without a professional to help
  34. The person leading the activity should demonstrate tying the string or ribbon around a branch that they’ve chosen to cut
  35. It should be tied at the point where the cut will be made
  36. Everyone should take their string or ribbon and tie it where they think the cut should be made on the tree
  37. Encourage everyone to think carefully about the information above before cutting anything, and to take a step back again to picture how the cut will affect the look of the tree
  38. Anyone who thinks no cuts are needed should keep their string or ribbon
  39. The person leading the activity should take a step back and examine what the shape would be if all of the cuts were to be made
  40. Challenge the group to decide where any unsuitably placed string or ribbon could be moved to, if cutting at that point would do damage or fail to achieve the desired effect
  41. When everyone’s happy with the position of each string or ribbon, they can begin pruning
  42. Start at the bottom and work up
  43. That way, if you need to stop and return later, the next cuts will be easier to find
  44. It also makes room for you to work closer to the tree
  45. Everyone should stand well back when branches are being cut, to stop them from being hit by anything and also to give them a better view of the shape of the tree as it’s pruned
  46. Each person cutting needs to be carefully supervised by an adult
  47. Depending on how much equipment you’ve got, people may have to take turns using the tools, even if they’ve used them before
  48. If working on more than one tree, you’ll need leaders or helpers watching anyone pruning with pruning shears, secateurs or saws
  49. Double check that nothing currently being cut will fall on anything or anyone
  50. If there’s any risk of a heavy fall, cut longer branches into smaller pieces, rather than removing the whole branch in one go
  51. Make sure anything cut down is cleared away, either into garden waste bags or into composters
  52. It can also be collected to be shredded into mulch, or left in a pile (a ‘dead hedge’) to break down
  53. Try to avoid burning anything that isn’t diseased
  54. Continue until everyone is happy with the size and shape of the tree

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