Pruning and weeding are two of the most important tasks in your garden. Pruning I enjoy, weeding I loathe.

Weeds are anything growing in your garden you don’t want there – including volunteer vegetables that have sprung up from stray seeds. They compete with your vegetables and fruits for nutrition and light and water and they really need to be gone. It is by far better to weed regularly than to leave it until your vegetables are all but overcome and then have to tear out great masses of stuff.

The hoe is your best weapon – and the reason why you should plant in well spaced straight rows – that way the hoe can slip up and down between the vegetables and upend and uproot any weeds. You should hoe regularly – once a week at least during the warm growing season.

There is no need to use sprays to rid your garden of weeds. A hoe is just fine.

Most people feel okay about weeding (if unenthusiastic) but come pruning, and there is genuine fear. But don’t worry … you can do little damage and, once a few simple rules are followed, pruning becomes quick and easy.

Why should you prune? As far as trees, and particularly fruit trees, are concerned it is for safety (to remove old and dead wood), to promote strong vigorous growth in the tree, to promote strong vigorous fruiting, to prevent disease, and for aesthetics – to make the tree look nice. A well pruned tree that is open to the sunshine and air will produce far better fruit than the tree which has been allowed to grow into a dense thicket of crossed-over branches. Fruit also often grows on year-old wood – so you need to promote continuous sprouting and growing of new wood each year that will bear next year’s crop.

This is a terrific video lesson on how to prune a peach tree.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBrwFTYrlc4&w=420&h=315]

My apples I prune in a similar way, opening up the tree to allow as much light and air as possible into the centre of the tree to give the fruit the best possible chance. I prune the wood produced the previous year by one third. This is the wood which will bear fruit in this year so I don’t want to take too much of it. Always prune to an outward and upward facing bud (so the next shoot will grow up and out, not in, or down).

Always take out dead wood, diseased wood, inward growing wood (keep the centre of the tree open fore sunlight to reach fruit), and branches that cross over.