As November ends, gardens gradually enter a dormant phase, and so might your gardening activities. However, it's wise to perform some last-minute pruning to keep your plants healthy and ensure a bountiful harvest next year. Here's a guide based on information by Gardenersworld.no on what you can still prune in November and December.
The Right Time for Pruning
With most trees and shrubs shedding their leaves, gardens become bare, making it easier to see what needs pruning. This is especially crucial for fruit trees and shrubs if you want a fruitful harvest next year. Pruning in November and even December is not too late, provided there's no frost.
Apple trees are best pruned twice a year: once in mid-summer and again during the dormant season, which begins when the leaves fall and lasts until spring. If you can't prune this month, December and even January are still suitable, as long as it's frost-free.
During the dormant season, you can prune aggressively to promote growth and fruit yield. Remove excess, damaged, and diseased branches completely, and shorten long branches by half.
Also, remove as many fruit spurs – knobby shoots with thick heads – as possible by cutting them close to the main branch.
Always prune inward-growing branches of the apple tree and keep the core open for maximum light penetration. Once it warms up outside, the pruning period is over as the tree's sap flow resumes.
For pear trees, cut back the main branches by half. Also, prune the strongest side shoots that grew in the past year back to two or three buds. Finally, remove thinner branches to direct energy to the fruit spurs.
Trim quince branches by a third and thin out weaker branches to open up the tree and reduce disease risk.
If you haven't pruned your blackberry bush this year, now is a good time. Prune almost all stems that bore fruit this year down to the ground, leaving about four strong, new stems tied up.
Prune older gooseberry branches that bore fruit last year to the ground, leaving up to seven young and strong branches.
Prune about a third of the oldest growth close to the main stem. Also, cut back all other side shoots to four or five buds.
Occasionally, it's necessary to thin out the crown of deciduous trees for better light penetration. Remove only a few larger branches from the crown, typically once every three to six years.
While not technically pruning, 'pollarding' a willow tree is similar and best done from November to March. Pollard by cutting the tree back to the knuckle.
Other Shrubs and Deciduous Trees
As long as it's not freezing this month (and next), you can still prune other shrubs and deciduous trees if needed. However, if temperatures drop below freezing, it's better to postpone or skip pruning to avoid damaging the plants.
Some shrubs, like hydrangeas, protect themselves against the cold with their spent flowers. Therefore, research each species to determine if it can be pruned or how to protect it from winter frost.