Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cold Weather Outdoor Job: Pruning

Joe in action

When the temperatures are in the 30s and the wind is whistling, it’s easy to put off pruning shrubs and trees for more comfortable times—say May or June. But is that the smart thing to do?

It’s been a couple of years since I read up on pruning shrubs and trees, so I—and about 59 others—jumped at the chance to attend a seminar last night presented by Howard County Master Gardener Joe DiGiovanni at the Miller Branch of the Howard County Library.

In an hour and a half, Joe—a hands-on type of guy—presented the basics of pruning and answered questions. Key sections of his talk included Reasons for Pruning, Planning Your Project, What Branches/Limbs to Remove, Valuable Hand Tools to Have, When to Use Certain Tools, When to Prune, Cleaning Up, Basic Cutting, Major Small Tree Pruning Projects, and Practices to Avoid.

It’s impossible to cover all of Joe’s points in a short blog, so I’ll focus on one I want you to think about now: When to Prune.

“Normally,” Joe said, “trees and shrubs should be pruned when they are dormant, which is during the winter.”

Hey, that’s now—wintertime. I should be out there with my pruning shears, loppers, and pruning saw shaping several younger trees. As Joe pointed out, trees and shrubs don’t have leaves now, so it’s easier to decide what to prune and what to leave, there are few active insects to spread diseases via the cuts, and there should be minimal sap lose.

Of course there are usually exceptions to any rule, Joe explained. Winter may be the best time to prune most trees and shrubs—but generally not those that will bloom in early spring, such as dogwood or forsythia. Pruning them now will remove buds that would have become springtime blooms. Prune them after they bloom. And Joe advised not to prune birch, maple, and dogwood during late winter because they will have excessive sap loss from the cuts.

If you’re reluctant to prune your trees and shrubs because you really don’t know much about pruning, I recommend that you take a few minutes to review the University of Maryland Extension’s illustrated nine-page brochure, “Pruning Ornamentals,” which explains how to do the job properly. Key sections: What Is Pruning? Why Prune? Pruning Techniques and Terms. When to Prune. Pruning Tools. And then separate sections on Pruning Trees, Shrubs, Hedges, Conifers, Perennials, & Ornamental Grasses. To read, download, or print this free brochure, CLICK HERE.

P.S. Note to Ancient Gardener: One sunny day soon get that pruning done!


1 comment:

  1. Bob, I have a scuppernong (grape family) vine that needs pruning. Is it possible to safely do that in the winter?