Despite gale force winds, ice storms, snow storms, sheets of rain or sleet, heat waves and all heck breaking loose on the weather front in almost any corner of the country, for some, it's time to start getting at dormant season pruning. And even if you can't see the base of your favorite apple or plum tree for the snow, or water or what-have-you, now is a good time to round up the tools for an inspection and refamiliarize ourselves with some basic dos and don'ts.
For Andrew, myself and the rest of us gardeners in Zones 7 and lower, it is too soon to actually get to work on fruit trees. Holding off until after the coldest point in the season is the standard rule of thumb, so for us, that will be some time in March. In the meantime, we're double checking to make pruners, saws, loppers are all clean, sharp and ready. Bypass pruners are a must for the best cutting as is a tri-cut saw. This type of saw cuts on three surfaces of the blade making its way through a branch on both the pull and push motion for branches above an inch in diameter. Loppers are great for even bigger branches and for reducing the cut branches to more manageable size.
If you're about to tackle that witch's broom of a tree out back, take it slow and remember;
-start with the 3 Ds: dead, diseased, and damaged wood. It all has to come out.
-remove crossing branches, or branches that are rubbing against one another. In general, the weaker one of the two comes out.
-don't take out more than 1/3 of the total canopy at one time. Too much can send a tree into stress and leave it vulnerable to pests and disease.
For a thorough guide on the step-by-step approach to pruning almost everything, look to the American Horticultural Society's Pruning and Training Manual. In here you'll see very helpful, explicit directions for taking on just about anything woody.
On Thursday's show, we're going over the basics for roses, so tune in at 1:00 p.m. EST.