Before the spring season truly wakes up, this is the time to inspect all your trees and shrubs for damaged or diseased branches and structural problems (i.e., crossed, rubbing branches and damaged or split crotches from heavy snow loads). Without foliage, trees and shrubs are very easy to evaluate.
The best time to prune is typically late winter to early spring before the plant begins to grow. Pruning should be performed when it does the least amount of damage to the plant. The purpose of pruning is to maintain proper structure and health and to maximize the quality of flowers, fruit, foliage or stems. It can also be used as a manner of training and/or restricting the plant’s growth. Training fruit trees into an espaliered form on a fence or trellis system is a good example.
There is a difference between clean-up and pruning. Do the glaringly obvious parts first. Removing broken, damaged or dead branches can improve the overall plant’s appearance. Use restraint before hacking into your plants. For example, if you have to remove a large branch, typically two cuts are required. First cut is to remove it. Leave a big stub. Second cut should be your final, clean cut. Remember, do not prune too close to the trunk. Your best bet is to research visuals that show you good illustrative photos of proper pruning cuts. Here are two useful links to help you get up to speed. http://video.about.com/landscaping/Pruning-Shrubs.htm
Always utilize quality pruning tools that are kept sharp and clean. You should avoid spreading diseases with your tools. It is wise to use a can of Lysol and spray your tools between each plant pruning. The real purists disinfect between each cut.
So when do you hire a professional tree expert? Arborists are often brought in to evaluate trees in question, to perform elevated pruning in the canopies of trees and tree removal, both fairly dangerous procedures, and for specialized pruning of valuable plant materials. Arborists are also hired to perform Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs to maintain proper health and vigor of existing plants. You can click on this link to find a certified arborist in your area. http://www.isa-arbor.com/findArborist/findarborist.aspx
To inspire you to take the plunge with pruning, the quote for the day is by Julie Cameron. "I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow." And if you get yourself in a pinch, you can always call the professionals. Have a great day. Annie
Close-up image of an espaliered Apple tree - From the Internet
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© 2009 Ann St. Jean-Bilowz/Bilowz Associates Inc. (including all photographs, unless otherwise noted in Annie's Gardening Corner are the property of Bilowz Associates Inc. and shall not be reproduced in any manner nor are they to be assigned to any third party without the expressed written permission and consent of Bilowz Associates Inc.)