Get your tree pruning done now
Give your winter bedding a liquid feed
Sarcococca confusa, will fill your garden with scent
With springs seemingly getting ever earlier it is a good idea to get any tree pruning work done as soon as possible now in January.
With the sap already rising in trees any cutting performed will lead to what is known as bleeding from the wound. This is effectively sap, a trees food and water source, seeping out. While this is seldom a fatal problem it can be stressful and cause the tree to weaken and become more vunerable to diseases and infections. In particularly if major surgery is required to a large tree. The more dormant the tree in general the less bleeding will occur.
Before you decide to prune any tree there are some considerations to bear in mind. Firstly, is it a job that needs a professional to carry it out, safety must be your first objective. With large trees you really should employ a qualified tree surgeon, particularly if the tree is near public spaces or other houses. Check that your tree surgeon is fully insured. A large tree will mean the use of a chainsaw which requires some training to use safely, even more so if the work requires climbing. Other considerations are why you are pruning.
All trees can be pruned but unless there is a reason they are best left alone. Reasons for pruning include the removal of dead or diseased wood. Branches that are crossing or rubbing. Controling the size and shape, this can be helped by the correct choice of tree when planting. If you have inherited a large tree it may need to be reduced in size to let in light and to open up the crown. Low branches sometimes need removing for access.
If you need to prune a tree winter is considered the best time for deciduous species. Without leaves this makes the task easier as there is less volumn to deal with and you can get a good clear look at the trees structure. There are exceptions however. Cherries and Laburnums are suseptable to a fungal disease called silverleaf that can cause branch dieback and death. They are best pruned not at all but if required do so between April and July when the spores of the silverleaf fungus are not airborne. Evergreen trees should be pruned in late summer to allow them time to heal over before the onset of winter.
Before pruning any tree take a step back and look at what you want to achieve, shape, height, open crown. Always remove the dead, damaged and diseased wood first then have another look. You can't put a branch back. When removing a branch first make a small wedge cut underneath close to but not tight to the stem point. This will stop bark tearing and stripping. Then a little further out from the undercut point cut down through the branch which will then break at the undercut point. Tidy the stub that is left close to the stem with a slight angle to allow water to run off. It is generally considered unnecessary to use wound paints as they are not considered beneficial in either keeping out infections or speeding healing.
Once you have completed your pruning you may be left with a considerable amount of wood, branches and twigs. The twigs and small branches can be mulched and used in amongst grass cuttings to absorb some of the moisture as it breaks down providing you with a usable compost rather than a mush. Also they can be used if neatly stacked in an unused garden corner as a wildlife habitat encouraging insects, birds hedgehogs and invertebrates. Only one percent of insects in Irish gardens are considered pests and hedgehogs, birds and invertebrates can feast on your slugs Wood and branches large enough can be cut up and used for firewood although some trees provide better timber than others, ash trees being the best for burning.
There is a lovely poem by Lady Celia Congreve written in 1930 called 'The Firewood Poem' to long to recount in full here but it gives you poetic account of how woods burn. Starting 'Beechwood fires are bright and clear, if the logs a kept a year' and finishing with 'But ash wet or ash dry a king shall warm his slippers by'.