New Year Returns and Partners with Pruning
Originally Published: January 15, 2013 8:06 p.m.
Properly pruned trees and shrubs are critically important to good landscape health. So go ahead and prune back summer blooming shrubs like butterfly bush, Russian sage, and rose of Sharon; also include fruiting trees, berry bushes, and grapes.While all of these plants enjoy nice winter cuts, be sure to avoid forsythias and other spring bloomers which already have buds beginning to form.Your objective is to complete pruning by the end of February, but there's no need to be uncomfortably cold spending a long day outdoors pruning everything while temps are low. We have plenty of time to prune back one tree or bush at a time on bright winter days.Don't worry about pruning mistakes; you can't make any of lasting consequence. Plants will grow their way out of any pruning blunder. Fertilize after this year's pruning projects and new spring growth will mask the scars left by misguided pruners. So fear not, get out there and start cutting your way across the landscape!First, remove stakes and guy wires installed with trees planted a year ago.Next, prune out dead or damaged branches. Dead wood not only looks ugly, but it attracts insects, disease, and wood-pecking birds. Thin out branches on trees with histories of disease or mildew. Reducing the mass of branches will improve air circulation and penetration of sunlight, which in turn will reduce the incidence of disease. Plums, cherries, peaches, willows, and poplars, are prone to leaf problems and really benefit from this pruning.There are two techniques for pruning the remaining branches on trees and shrubs: heading and thinning. Heading is cutting a branch back to a healthy bud that is pointing in the direction you want the plant to grow. This method is used mainly on evergreen shrubs, hedges, and later in the season on roses.Thinning is completely removing a shoot or branch to ground level, to the trunk, or to another main branch. After the cut no prominent stub should remain. This is usually the best method for pruning trees."Ducks' are not welcome in the garden! You should not have to worry about hitting your head on a low hanging tree branch on your property. Feel free to prune trees to above head height. I have found that smaller trees may take several years before they finally reach the height I like, but by patiently cutting a few branches each year I soon have trees with the clearances I want.When pruning is complete spray trees and shrubs with an application of a product like "All Season Spray Oil'. It's highly effective at killing insects and their eggs, yet safe for plants and our environment. Spray oil is especially important for young trees or trees that had problems last year with insects or disease. It is a must on fruit trees if you want a decent crop this coming season.Ken Lain can be found at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road, Prescott, or contact him through www.wattersonline.com.