Let there be Light
(10 July 2014)
Winter is a great time to prune trees and shrubs which are blocking out precious winter sunlight in the garden. By judiciously thinning out the canopy and in many cases also lifting the trunk height, you can let in more light without negatively impacting on the overall appearance of the plant or your garden. In fact, doing so in many cases gives your garden a much-needed facelift. Some of the other benefits to thinning out foliage include improved air circulation, a reduction/elimination of fungal diseases, and more rainfall reaching the soil where it’s needed.
What to do with all these prunings, I hear you ask? The biggest challenge is deciding on an option, as there are so many exciting uses for such a nutritious resource. The most efficient and immediate approach is the chop and drop method, which is literally as it sounds – chop the prunings where they land at a desirable size, leaving them to decompose over time to add nutrients to the soil and act as a mulch. Doing so with plants from the legume family (Acacias are one well-known example) has the added benefit of adding the often deficient nitrogen component to the soil.
My other favourite use for prunings is adding bulk to the compost heap. Green prunings are used as a nitrogen component and are ideally cut up into smaller pieces to speed up the process and save room. Ensure you also add a sizeable carbon layer of material though, or you could end up with a somewhat offensive and depleted mess. If you find yourself with a glut of nitrogen material as opposed to that of carbon, you can keep a pile of prunings handy to add when ready, otherwise you could always go on the hunt for more carbon material such as shredded paper and deciduous leaves to speed up the process (my preferred option as you can have never have too much compost).