Posts tagged pruning

California Dreamin’ – tree style

The following is by James Romer, Extension Horticulturist at Iowa State University:

   This time of the year gives many gardeners an empty feeling. It is hard to keep warm and dry when temperatures dip below zero and it snows every other day. It is reminiscent of those classic song lyrics — “All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray … California dreamin’ ….” Anyway, this is a great time of the year to do some planning and pruning.

   The late dormant period (February to early April) is an excellent time to prune deciduous trees. The absence of foliage at this time of year gives the home gardener a clear view of the tree and allows him/her to select and remove appropriate branches.              

   Proper pruning improves the appearance, maintains the health and prolongs the life of trees. Improper pruning destroys their natural beauty, weakens them and may lead to their premature death.

   It is essential to make proper cuts when pruning trees. Do not make flush cuts. Flush cuts are cuts made as close as possible to the trunk or main branch. Flush cuts produce large wounds, destroy the tree’s natural mechanisms that promote healing and slow the “healing” process.

    When pruning trees, make the final cut just beyond the branch collar and branch bark ridge. The branch collar is the swollen area at the base of the branch. The branch bark ridge is the dark, rough bark ridge that separates the branch from the main branch or trunk. Pruning just beyond the branch collar and branch bark ridge retains the tree’s natural defense mechanisms and promotes the healing process. When a branch is pruned properly, a slightly raised area remains on the trunk or main branch. However, do not leave stubs.

   Do not apply wound dressings to pruning cuts. The application of wound dressings or paints doesn’t stop decay and may actually inhibit or delay the healing of wounds.

   There is one exception with not applying paint to oak trees. Oak wilt is a fungal disease that is lethal to many oaks. Oak wilt infections occur most commonly in spring and early summer and are spread from infected trees to healthy trees by sap-feeding beetles. To reduce the risk of the spread of oak wilt, don’t prune oaks from April 1 to July 1. If oak trees must be pruned between April 1 and July 1, for example, to correct storm damage, immediately apply a latex paint to all cut surfaces to avoid attracting sap-feeding beetles to the wounds.

   Use the three-cut procedure when cutting large branches to prevent extensive bark damage. Make the first cut about one to two feet from the main branch or trunk. Cut upward and go about halfway through the branch. Make the second cut a few inches beyond the first. Cut downward completely through the branch. Make the final cut just beyond the branch collar.

   Some trees, such as maple, birch and elm, bleed heavily when pruned in late winter or early spring. However, the heavy bleeding doesn’t harm the trees. (The trees won’t bleed to death.) Eventually the flow of sap will slow and stop. Heavy bleeding of susceptible trees can be avoided by pruning in late June or early July.

   The pruning of deciduous trees by the home gardener should be limited to small trees and the removal of smaller branches that can be reached from the ground in medium to large trees. Branches high up in large trees and those near utility lines should be left to professional arborists. Professional arborists should have the proper training and equipment to safely perform the job.

    If that’s not enough to do, another enjoyable winter activity is to leaf through garden catalogs. Many contain colorful plant photographs. Some carry specific merchandise, such as seeds, perennials, roses or fruits. Others carry a wide variety of products.

    Also, visit a bookstore or public library and browse through some of their gardening books. Excellent reference books for home gardeners include “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” by Michael Dirr; “Continuous Bloom” by Pam Duthie; “Herbaceous Perennial Plants” by Allan Armitage, and many others.    

    Remember also that your Iowa State University Extension county office has numerous publications on gardening in Iowa. Most of these publications also are available from the ISU Extension Online Store at www.extension.iastate.edu/store.

So get busy planning, pruning and dreaming about plants for this spring.

 

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How much rain is enough and more gardening tips

Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith describes how much water is enough  (obviously, many parts of Iowa have had too much this week) and other gardening hints:

 

We’re so excited:  my favorite daughter’s garden is growing by leaps and bounds.  We had no idea of the quality of soil in the area, but luckily she unknowingly over seeded so we can do some thinning.  Her husband is excited to be able to walk out and pluck a ripe tomato.  Can you imagine the kids learning to hull peas?

So how is your garden growing? 

Have you noted your guests—your birds and butterfly buddies?  Adding bird and butterfly houses and water may encourage them to stay longer.

Keep planting. Try a new variety.   “Mudding” in plants is not a great idea, but there are certainly a variety of perennials still available when the ground dries out a little. 

Due to the overly wet conditions now, it’s a good idea to check your plants for mold and mildew.    Remove any leaves with blotches or that are discolored.  Use an insecticide soap to control insects.  Wet conditions do make weeding easier. 

Perennials generally do not need extra fertilizer.  The soil usually provides adequate nutrients.  Watch your plants, though and if they need a boost, go ahead with a liquid fertilizer. 

Perennials require one inch of water each week.  New plantings will request water several times each week.  It is better to water thoroughly less often.   Young new trees should be checked routinely and watered thoroughly as needed.  Remember clay soils retain water:  sandy soils do not. 

Finish pruning spring-flowering shrubs this month.  Prune so that the top of the hedge is narrower than the bottom to allow light to reach all parts of the shrub. 

Deadhead annuals as soon as the flowers start to fade to encourage new growth.

               

And, remember to plan a fun, educational and inexpensive ($10 for the entire family!) day on Saturday, June 14,  from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Linn County Master Gardeners’ First Annual Garden Walk.  Tickets are available at each location.  For more information, see the last two weeks’ blogs or call the Horticulture Hotline at 319-447-0647. 

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Burn calories in the garden

June 6th is National Garden Fitness Day, so get off the treadmill and into the garden!

 

The following fitness tips are from Bunny Guiness, co-author of “Garden Your Way to Health and Fitness.”

She suggests turning your garden into a gym because once you start gardening, you get carried away and barely notice how hard you are workingJ

 

SIX GARDENING FITNESS TIPS YOU CAN USE!

 

·         One hour in the garden doing things like shoveling, mowing, and pruning, is roughly equivalent to jogging four miles. Achieve better strength, balance, and flexibility in preparation for gardening’s rigors by stretching before you begin.

 

·         Three hours of gardening and one hour in the gym burn about the same number of calories: 600 – 700. Because gardening has prolonged energy expenditure, as opposed to shorter bursts of intense aerobic activity, you burn more fats than carbohydrates, which is better for weight loss.

 

·         Try a back-and-forth rotation of your body while doing chores like planting, raking, and hauling dirt. It allows using opposite sides of your body and feels strange to start with, but you will find with practice it helps to keep your body balanced.  

 

·         Make exercise a part of each day all year around to develop core muscle strength. Become conscious of engaging your core muscles when gardening, so in time, it becomes automatic as your muscle memory becomes trained.

 

·         Enjoy Pilates, floor ball exercises, yoga, or whatever suits you. Begin with a series of stretches. These low-impact workouts help to balance and strengthen your body so you can garden better and longer, and avoid painful injuries.

 

·         Create a special space in your garden for stretching, yoga, and favorite exercise routines. Gardeners often live longer, probably because they become motivated by their gardens and gardening, regularly putting their bodies through a great range of diverse movements. Providing it’s done correctly, both you and your plants will thrive.

 

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Why aren’t you outside??

 

Another cold weekend has come and gone, but this week holds promise of spring warmth (finally!) 

The following information from Horticulturist Richard Jauron of Iowa State University Extension offers tips on spring gardening chores, now that the weather might finally cooperate:

It’s hard to beat springtime in the Midwest.  Soon the browns and grays of winter will be replaced by the greens, reds and yellows of spring. While spring is an enjoyable time, there are a number of outdoor chores that need to be done to enhance our yards and gardens. Important springtime chores include applying preemergence herbicides to lawns, dividing perennials, removing mulch from strawberries, pruning roses and many others. 

Applying Preemergence Herbicide to Lawn
The key to successful control of crabgrass in lawns is the correct timing of the preemergence herbicide application. Crabgrass seeds begin to germinate when soil temperatures reach 55 to 60 F and continue to germinate over several weeks from spring into summer. If the material is applied too early, crabgrass seeds that germinate late in the season will not be controlled. Normally, preemergence herbicides should be applied in early to mid-April in southern Iowa, mid-April to May 1 in central Iowa and late April to early May in the northern portion of the state.  The timing of the preemergence herbicide application will vary somewhat from year to year because of weather conditions. However, events in nature generally occur in a natural sequence. Preemergence herbicides should be applied when the forsythia blossoms start dropping or when redbud trees reach full bloom. Crabgrass seed germination typically begins after these events. 

Dividing Perennials
Early spring is an excellent time to divide asters, mums, hostas, daylilies, garden phlox and many other perennials. Dig up the perennials in early spring just as new growth begins to appear. Divide each plant clump into sections with a sharp knife. Each division should contain several shoots and a portion of the root system. Replant the divisions immediately. Keep the newly divided perennials well watered through spring and summer. Most newly divided perennials do not bloom well until their second growing season. 

Removing Mulch from Strawberries
To reduce the chances of frost or freeze damage, leave the mulch on as long as possible. Removing the mulch in March may encourage the plants to bloom before the danger of frost is past. Temperatures of 32 F or lower may severely damage or destroy open flowers. Since the first flowers produce the largest berries, a late spring frost or freeze can drastically reduce yields.

To determine when to remove the mulch, periodically examine the strawberry plants in spring. Remove the mulch from the strawberry planting when approximately 25 percent of the plants are producing new growth. New growth will be white or yellow in color. (If possible, the winter mulch on strawberries should remain until mid-April in central Iowa.) When removing the mulch, rake the material to the aisles between rows. If there is a threat of a frost or freeze later in spring during bloom, lightly rake the mulch over the strawberry plants.

Pruning Roses
The upper portions of modern roses, such as hybrid teas, floribundas and grandilfloras, typically winterkill due to exposure to low winter temperatures and drastic temperature changes. When the winter protection is removed from these roses in early to mid-April, gardeners should prune out the dead wood. 

Pruning roses is relatively easy. Live wood is green and has plump, healthy buds. When pruned, the center of the stem (pith) should be white. Dead wood is brown, has no live buds and has a brown or gray pith. When pruning roses, make the cuts at least 1 inch below the dead, brown-colored areas. Make slanting cuts about 1/4 inch above healthy, plump, outward facing buds; the slant being in the same direction as the bud. Remove the entire cane if there is no sign of life.  Also, remove any diseased wood. 

Because of our severe winter weather, modern roses often suffer a great deal of winter injury. Normally, the primary objective is to remove all dead and diseased wood and to save as much of the live tissue as possible. If the roses overwinter well, gardeners can prune out weak, spindly canes in the center. 

After a seemingly endless winter of shoveling snow and removing ice from sidewalks and driveways, working in the garden over the next several weeks is going to be a lot of fun.

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Oak Wilt Alert

The following is from Master Gardener Gene Frye about the revised “no prune” period for Iowa oak trees: 

  ISU Extension Foresters have just expanded the recommended “no-prune” period for Iowa oak trees to extend from March 1 through October 31 in order to minimize the chances of contracting the oak wilt disease.  The previous recommendation for not pruning was from mid-March through August.

 Oak wilt, a fungus disease, is fatal to all oaks in the red oak family within one year of the onset of the first symptoms, but white oaks may live for several years, and some even recover from the disease, but with substantial damage. 

 The main method of contracting oak wilt is through pruning or other wounds made during the growing season, with the resulting sap attracting certain insects carrying the oak wilt fungus on their bodies.  These insects bore into the wound carrying the fungus spores with them. 

 The other method of spreading oak wilt is through root grafts of nearby oaks of the same species.  Root grafts allow trees to exchange body fluids, so to speak.  Since the roots of most trees extend out to about the height of the tree, trees nearer than about one hundred feet of an infected tree of the same species can also acquire the disease.  Red oaks will not root graft with white oaks. 

If oaks must be pruned during the no-prune period, for example to manage storm damage, the pruning wounds should immediately be covered with a mixture of an outside white latex paint diluted one-to-one with water.  This is one of the few circumstances in which Extension Foresters recommend use of wound dressings.

 The first symptoms of oak wilt are a general drying and falling of leaves, usually during June or July.  In the case of red oaks, the whole tree is usually affected, but on white oaks, only individual branches show symptoms the first year of infection, followed the next years by more branches being affected.

  Positive diagnosis of oak wilt requires a laboratory test, but a reasonably reliable diagnosis can be made by finding longitudinal brown streaks just underneath the bark on affected branches.  Unfortunately, there are several other ailments that can appear to be oak wilt. Oak wilt usually appears in clumps, and is not nearly as devastating as chestnut blight or Dutch elm disease.  Infestations can usually be contained by application of good management practices. 

For more detailed information on oak wilt, see Extension publication SUL 15, “Oak Wilt—Identification and Management,” which is available at County Extension Offices for $1.00 or can be downloaded free of charge on the Internet at:  www.extension.iastate.edu/store  

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Timely tree trimming tips

        Here’s an outdoor project for you to do right now.  Master Gardener Gene Frye provides helpful hints about pruning your trees and shrubs. Late winter/early spring is the optimum time for cleaning up and shaping up. (Plus, think of the exercise you’ll get before it’s really hot and humidJ) 

 THE BASICS OF PRUNING WOODY PLANTS 

Proper pruning is an important and often neglected step in caring for woody plants,  mainly trees and shrubs. 

 WHY PRUNE?

The main objectives of pruning woody plants are to control their size and shape, to correct defects in the plant’s structure and to repair storm or animal damage. 

WHAT TO PRUNE?

One of the highest priority items to prune is narrow-angled crotches, for they are mechanically weak and subject to rot, hence they are vulnerable to storm damage.  Another category is branches that are dead, broken or diseased, for they are traditional entry points for rot to get started.  Finally, misplaced branches should be pruned out. 

WHEN TO PRUNE?

 For most woody plants, late winter to early spring is the best time to prune, for the pruning wounds are exposed to the weather for a minimum amount of time before healing starts to take place.  A major exception is that spring-flowering shrubs should be pruned just after the blooms fade In order to avoid destroying flower buds.  Do not prune late in the growing season, for then the new growth that results may not have sufficient time to harden off before it gets cold.  This results in stressing the plant to the point where it may not survive the winter. It is important to avoid pruning oaks between mid-March and late September to minimize the chance of Oak Wilt disease being introduced to the tree.

 HOW TO PRUNE?

·        Use the correct tools – regular pruning saws but no carpenter or bow saws.

·        Do not make cuts flush with the trunk.  Instead make the cut just outside of the branch collar.  (See Extension Publication SUL 5 for more specific directions.)

·        Do not use wound dressings except when pruning oaks during the growing season.

·        Do not remove more than one third of the plant tissues in any one year.

·        The chances of rot getting started increase rapidly for wounds over three inches in diameter. 

  REFERENCES

·        Extension Publication SUL 5, “Pruning Trees and Shrubs”

·        ISU Extension Publication Pm 1958, “Pruning Ornamental Shrubs”

·        Extension Publication SUL 6, “Managing Storm Damaged Trees”

·        ISU Extension Publication RG 104, “Horticulture Publications” 

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New Brucemore workshop

Know how to prepare your garden for spring by attending Brucemore’s new Prudent Pruning Workshop.  Brucemore gardeners Deb Engmark and David Morton offer a 90 minute program devoted to demystifying the when, how, and why of pruning your garden.    The workshop takes place February 26 at 6:30 p.m. in Brucemore’s visitor center. Admission is $10 per person and $7 for Brucemore members. Space is limited. Call (319) 362-7375 for reservations.   Brucemore is Iowa’s only National Trust Historic Site and is located at 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids.

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