Los Fresnos News

Yes, there is a difference between pruning, trimming & thinning


After experiencing a storm, or the recent hurricane that hit our Valley, we often have to use the terms “prune” or “trim” in our yards. We use these words interchangeably, but there is a difference in their meanings.

Pruning is usually the term used for working with trees. If wind storms have broken branches, you need to prune the damaged limbs to keep the tree in shape and healthy. It is “selective removal of parts of the plant”- like broken or diseased branches, limbs that are hitting the house, or reducing the density of branches to prevent breakage.

Trees should be pruned so that foliage isn’t only on the end of the branch, which would cause the branch to break from the weight. Photos: Ann Johnston / LFN

Suggestion: Make your cut vertically or diagonally with the cut side down to prevent water from sitting on the cut area and rotting the wood. This applies to trimming roses and other bushes also.

Trimming involves shrubs and hedges. In our Magic Valley, it is probably done two times a year because of our year-round growing season. But it might need to be three times in a wet year like this one where Hurricane Hanna brought an excess of rain with 10-16 inches of water. Shrubs and bushes will need to be trimmed “to retain shape and reduce plant size.”

This bush needs to be trimmed to regain its shape after growing fast from our recent rains.

Suggestion: Try to trim flowering shrubs after blooming. This might be difficult this year because the rain has also caused a reblooming on many of our native plants. If there is less rain, keep in mind that there are shrubs that bloom only on new growth.

Thinning is done on seedlings “to reduce the number of plants and allow growth of a select few.”

When trees need to be pruned, make the cuts vertical or diagonal with the cut on the underside to keep water from sitting on and rotting out the wood.

Suggestion: Pulling out unneeded seedlings could disturb the roots of its neighbors. Using scissors to cut off the tiny plants at soil level is the best choice.

Seedlings are thinned out to give the hardiest ones room to grow.

Hints: Don’t cut off more than 1/4 to 1/3 of any plant’s foliage. They need the leave to grow (photosynthesis). Never “top off “ a tree!! Some mature ash trees are murdered by cutting it down to the trunk and stubs of the biggest branches.

Come back to the Garden Gate next week for more suggestions, hints and things to look for in our Lower Rio Grande Valley.