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By: Jamie Simpson
It's winter and most of the garden has gone to sleep. But that doesn't mean that the gardener has nothing to do. Later winter, after all, is a time when many gardeners prune their deciduous shrubs and trees. Winter pruning encourages new shoots and leafy growth, though winter probably isn't the best time to prune fruit trees, because the new shoots don't produce fruit as abundantly as a few strong branches.

However, some gardeners who live in places with milder winters can garden all year. Vegetables like kale or broccoli actually benefit from a bit of frost. The bugs and diseases are pretty much gone and the need for watering is much reduced.

For the gardener who's still out there in the winter and wants to give their shrubbery a bit of pruning, here are some tools that should be in the garden shed.

Hand Saw
This saw is for a tree with large limbs that have to be removed, either because the limbs are dead or sick or they're rubbing up against each other. A good saw would be about 61 to 91 cm long, with teeth that are about 2.5 to 5 cm. Saws with large, well-spaced teeth cut better and faster than saws with small teeth set close together.

Hand Pruner
Hand pruners are for smaller branches that are about 1.3 to 2.5 cm in diameter.

These are instruments for tackling those tangled, high-up limbs of old or damaged wood. A good lopper has a handle made of aluminum or fiberglass and can be from 41 to 61 cm or 76 cm long. Another, even longer pruning tool would be a pole pruner, which can telescope form two to four meters. It too should have a fiberglass pole, especially if there's any chance of it touching an electrical wire. The head should be cast meal and it should have a chain and gear mechanism.

The best ladder for pruning has three legs for sturdiness and is also made out of aluminium. Ladders should be from two to five meters tall.

Floating Row Covers and Wire Hoops
Very lightweight and synthetic fabrics are used to cover plants in the garden and protect them during the winter. Some of the covers are translucent enough to let in most of the sunlight, so they don't have to be taken down during the day. Water can also pass through these row covers. They protect plants to a temperature of - 4.5 degrees.

Evergreen plants like yew can be damaged from snow and ice. The gardener can guard against this by connecting a heavy twine at the bottom of the plant and spiralling it up to the top and then back down again. The twine should be removed when spring comes.

Burlap and Stakes
Burlap can be fastened on stakes around young trees and shrubs or plants that aren't quite winter hardy to protect them from the south and west wind. Burlap also protects plants from drying out.

Plastic Collars
Critters like rabbits or voles might want to make a meal of the bark of garden plants when their usual food is covered in snow. The gardener can spray the bottoms of the trees with rodent repellent, then fit the trees with plastic collars. Again, they should be removed in spring.


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