How to Prune & Weed Plants

Overview

A clean, tidy yard is a goal of many homeowners. It's often a requirement that neighborhood associations enforce, as well. Pruning and weeding are common tasks that you must undertake to keep your yard looking tidy. If you have large trees, it's wise to hire a professional arborist to tackle big jobs, but you can prune shrubs, hedges and smaller trees with a few basic tools. You can also make your weeding chores easier with a few gardening practices, such as using mulch.

Pruning Shrubs, Hedges and Small Trees

Step 1

Prune most of your shrubs, hedges and smaller trees such as citrus and other fruit trees in winter when they are dormant. Start by cutting off all branches that are dead, diseased or damaged or that rub against another branch. Use loppers for smaller branches and a tree saw for larger branches. Always cut as close to the main trunk as you can without cutting into the branch collar, which is a bulbous area where the branch grows from the trunk.

Step 2

Cut water sprouts, also known as suckers, to the base of the tree or shrub. Standard garden clippers are often sufficiently strong for this task, but use your loppers if suckers are larger in diameter than about ½ inch.

Step 3

Pinch off the tips of fresh shoots on your shrubs before they become tough and woody. You can use your fingernails or clippers for this task, which will help keep your shrub compact and bushy.

Step 4

Shear hedges with hedge clippers. Use the clippers to cut the ends from most branches or to keep hedges compact and shaped.

Weeds

Step 1

Hand pull weeds with a two-pronged weeding tool if you have a small number of unwanted plants.

Step 2

Hoe weedy areas to remove weeds by their roots. After you hoe, rake the area to remove the weeds.

Step 3

Use a weed-whacking tool for very weedy areas. If you rake up the cut weeds after you're finished, they can make good additions to a compost pile.

Step 4

Lay flattened cardboard boxes over areas that you have weed whacked--this will kill any remaining weeds and the roots of the weeds you just cut.

Step 5

Spread a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch over the cardboard if you want to keep your yard looking its best. You can use any type of compost, wood chips, sawdust, gravel or topsoil as your mulch.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always exercise caution when you use sharp tools.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden clippers
  • Gloves
  • Tree saw
  • Loppers
  • Hedge clippers (optional)
  • Ladder (optional)
  • Weed whacker
  • Hoe
  • Rake
  • Weeding tool
  • Cardboard
  • Compost or wood chips

References

  • North Carolina State University: Pruning Shrubs
  • Texas A&M University: Follow Proper Pruning Techniques
  • Tree Boss: Tree Trimming
  • Living the Country Life: Choosing the Right Garden Tools For Weeding
Keywords: trees pruning, shrubs trimming, weeding gardening

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.