I love snow and winter, but there is no doubt that I am ready for spring. I want to get out into the gardens and get my hands dirty. But with the two feet of snow that arrived last week, getting my hands into the dirt will have to wait a bit longer. Fortunately, I can still get out and get some yard work done. Now is the opportune time to prune your trees and shrubs.
The end of the dormant season is the best time to prune. Pruning during the dormant period minimizes sap loss and subsequent stress to the tree. It also minimizes the risk of fungus infection or insect infestation as both fungi and insects are likely to be in dormancy at the same time as the tree. Finally, in the case of deciduous trees, pruning when the leaves are off will give you a better idea of how your pruning will affect the shape of the tree.
Pruning a tree can help shape the tree into a beautiful specimen. Care should be taken so that the tree can heal properly. Branches and stems are separated by a lip of tissue called a stem collar which grows out from the stem at the base of the branch. All pruning cuts should be made on the branch side of this stem collar. This allows the tree to heal more effectively after the prune. To prevent tearing of the bark and stem wood, particularly in the case of larger branches, use the following procedure:
Make a small wedge shaped cut on the underside of the branch just on the branch side of the stem collar. This will break the bark at that point and prevent a tear from running along the bark and stem tissue.
Somewhat farther along the branch, starting at the top of the branch, cut all the way through the branch leaving a stub end.
Finally, make a third cut parallel to and just on the branch side of the of the stem collar to reduce the length of the stub as much as possible.
When pruning make sure that you never remove more than 25 percent of the tree's crown. Removing too much at one time can really stress the tree out. If you have specific questions about pruning, especially if you have a fruit tree that requires specific pruning, contact your local cooperative extension office for advice.
Anne Lenox Barlow has had experience in the agricultural field as a horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.