It’s time to prune in the garden

We are now getting into the season of pruning.

The right time to prune depends on the plant. For deciduous trees, they should be out of dormancy before making cuts. Too many times people prune them too early.

This causes them to produce water sprouts. Plants grow during the season, and then in the fall, they go dormant and store food in their roots for next year’s grow cycle.

When you prune in the early spring before they have a chance to pull all their energy out in growth, you get the water sprouts. People often ask me why it is that people say prune them while they are dormant. The only thing I do in the dormant stage is dead wood.

You have to be careful with some trees like Japanese maples in the dormant stage because the sap flow is pretty low and the tree is very fragile.  They break pretty easy. I wait until now to start pruning the maples.

When plants get done blooming give them some love. Never prune too much. A rule is no more than a third at a time. Never top trees or shrubs.

It is very important to make the right cuts. In my earlier columns on pruning, I wrote about the two basic cuts of pruning. And the three Ds —dead, diseased and dumb (or growing in the wrong direction.)

Heading and thinning cuts:

A heading cut is making a cut to a node or bud. A thinning cut is taking out a branch to where it originates. This time of year you can easily rub a shoot off the branch before it gets too tough to do later.

And remember always prune to a branch collar. The collar is that swollen part at the base of a branch.

If the branch is too big, use the three cut method. Follow the branch about a foot from the collar and make an undercut an inch on the top of the branch. Go about two- to three inches and make anothe cut. The weight of the branch will fall and break off at the undercut. The final cut is at the collar.

Never use paints to seal the cuts. Plants have hormones that seal off cuts and heal just fine.

We are still in the early stages of the growing season and there is still time to consider maybe planting the right plant for the space.

This is my favorite time of the year. The birds are chirping, the bees are starting to pollinate and of course the abundance of blooms. Remember to have the right tools for the job and make sure they are sharp and always wear the right safety gear.

Gardener Joe’s lawn tip: Right now is the time to cut your lawn regularly. Grass, like any other plant, gets stressed out if you let it grow too long before cutting. Make sure the mower blades are sharp. And now is also the time to fertilize with an organic lawn food.


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