We prune trees for their health and for our aesthetic pleasure. While major tree pruning is a dangerous job best left to professionals, pruning small trees is a job that can be handled by any gardener. Any job that can be managed with large secateurs or a pruning saw and does not require the use of a tall ladder or climbing equipment is suitable for the amateur.
Late winter and very early spring is the best time to prune trees. This is just before their growth period begins. All the tree’s stored energy is available to heal the wound made by pruning. If you prune later in the year, it is harder for the tree to recover. Of course, if a branch is damaged, it can be pruned in any season, the clean cut from a pruning saw will heal better than the splintered ends left by wind damage or an accident. Quick healing is desirable because open wood is an invitation to infestation and infection.
Pruning is desirable for the tree’s health. Cut out dead wood and diseased branches. Also, remove any branches that rub against each other. Constant rubbing will wear the bark away, leaving a raw spot that is vulnerable to infection and to insects. If two branches are crossed, cut out one of them before they begin rubbing against each other. When you have accomplished this, you will have a far healthier tree.
Pruning can also increase the gardener’s comfort in the garden and the pleasure he finds there. Any tree branch that crosses a path and constantly annoys walkers should be removed. If a tree casts heavy shade and you want to grow flowers beneath it, you can increase available sunlight dramatically by removing the lower limbs.
A tree can also be pruned to make it more beautiful. You can remove a misshapen growth that resulted from earlier damage (or someone else’s inept pruning). You can thin out the branches to make the tree appear more graceful. You can remove some top growth to encourage blossoms and fruit on the lower branches. Follow the natural growth pattern to enhance the tree’s shape, and see how beautiful it can be!
Where to cut the branch? Never, never cut half-way down the limb. The branch will die back to its base anyway, and the dying wood will invite pests and disease. Always cut at the base of the branch. If you look closely, you will see a bulge at the spot where a twig meets a branch, or a branch meets the trunk of the tree. This is called the branch collar. Cut just outside the branch collar, and the wound will heal very quickly.
Twigs and small branches can be removed with secateurs. Larger branches require the use of a pruning saw. Don’t try to use a carpenter’s saw for this job. The large, deeply-cut teeth of a pruning sew are especially designed to cut cleanly through green wood. If you are pruning a large branch, start by cutting from upward on the bottom of the branch, just past the branch collar. Then cut down from the top until the branch is sawn through. If you don’t make the bottom cut first, the weight of the falling branch is likely to tear a large strip of bark from the tree, leaving a wound that is difficult for the tree to heal.
Gardeners were once advised to paint or otherwise seal the stump. This isn’t really necessary if you’ve cut just beyond the branch collar. The tree can heal an incision at that spot very quickly, and paint will only delay healing.
So go ahead and cut out any dead or diseased wood. Cut out crossed and rubbing branches. Cut out unsightly growth. Arrange a junk removal service if you can’t handle it, then walk away. Remember, you can always prune more branches later, but you can’t replace the ones you cut by mistake!
Prune properly, and enjoy the healthy trees in your beautiful garden!
When it’s bitter cold outside and there’s a foot of snow on the ground, it’s difficult for most of us to think much about our backyard vegetable gardens. But to the true garden enthusiast, sitting next to the fireplace with the new seed catalog that just arrived in the mail is a great way to spend a blustery winter evening, and the thoughts of what and when to plant are a source of pure enjoyment.
Even the novice gardener may be aware of the fact, however, that in many parts of the country, the garden soil can be worked as early as late February and certainly by mid-March. If they get that “green-thumb fever,” they may be curious to know what types of plants can be started early, even if they have to wait until after the last frost before setting out most of the regular crops.
Here’s the good news…
The good news for those who just can’t wait to have something to tend is that there are some cool weather plants that actually do quite well in late winter and early spring. In fact, some of these need to be both planted and harvested before warm weather comes around. Obviously, setting plants out and burying seeds will always be subject to the complete thawing of your topsoil. Where the ground in the garden can be worked in early March, however, here are a few ideas that might work to satisfy those eager gardeners who can’t wait to get started:
1. Onion Sets. Most types of onions do quite well when they are planted directly in the garden as onion sets in mid-March. At the garden shop, the small, partially grown bulbs are usually packaged as bundles. For most backyard vegetable gardens, one or two bundles of each onion color will be plenty.
2. Radishes. Radishes can be a great fix for the gardener who is so anxious to get the season started. Planted as seeds in a shallow furrow, radishes love the cool weather, and are good selections for March gardening. Both the round red varieties (like the Cherry Belle) and the long white root types (like the Icicle) radishes can be purchased in seed packets at the store.
The gardener will want to watch these closely, however, because these guys will germinate, grow, and be ready to harvest in a short time, often as quickly as three weeks. But that’s another great advantage. Plant as many as you like without worrying about garden space. Radishes are harvested so soon after they’re planted, they will be out of the way before it’s time to work with the warm weather plants.
3. Lettuce. Leaf lettuce is a wonderful cool weather garden crop that can be seed-planted in March. The garden shop will probably have several varieties to select from, but Black-seeded Simpson is probably the most popular. Lettuce won’t be ready as quickly as the radishes were, and may take around 45 days before the gardener can begin to rob the plants for a fresh salad. You may want to consider staggering the planting of the leaf lettuce rows by several days, so the entire crop doesn’t mature on the same weekend.
4. Spinach. Another garden crop that can be planted from seeds, spinach grows well in the cool weather. A fresh salad with a mixture of spinach leaves and some of that leaf lettuce from the next row can be a real treat when those early garden crops are ready to harvest. The garden store will likely have several varieties to choose from, but Olympia and Bloomsdale are two of the more popular types, and will be ready to eat in about 48 days.
5. Carrots. Gardeners may want to wait until the latter part of March for planting carrots, but direct seeding about three to four weeks before the last frost will provide a wonderful homegrown treat in about 80 days after planting.
6. Peas. The list of crops that can be planted directly into the garden in late winter or early spring should always include peas. Peas are tolerant of the occasional frost and extended periods of cooler weather that are typical for the season. Assuming that the seeds will reach maturity after about 60 days of growth, the gardener may wish to set out several sections of peas, a week or so apart, in order to have more than one harvest when the time comes.
7. Others. While the short menu of plants mentioned here are varieties that can be placed directly into the garden in March, a great many others can be started indoors under a grow light, and then set out when the danger of frost is nearly gone. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, beets, and even some early-maturing tomatoes can be transplanted to the backyard garden bed when the weather is more favorable.
This is so true…
Regardless of where one lives, gardening can be a year-round project. Even in the colder months, planning and preparation for the busier season can keep the enthusiast occupied. For many, however, seeing something green pop out of the ground in those early months is the only absolute cure for garden fever. That is why a mini greenhouse investment in your front or backyard will definitely give you all possibilities without compromising losing any of your crops.
Hi, my name is Angela and I’m a proclaimed garden enthusiast. I do talks in our small community on all the things I learned and get to learn about gardening and beautifying my garden for years. It has been my passion ever since I discovered my ‘power’ to bring life to plants and even to those that are dying. I inherited this ‘green thumb’ from my granny who became the main reason why I fell in love with this craft.