by Charlene Burgi
The holiday prime rib, ham or turkey is but a passing memory. It is now time to think about the garden again . . . right?
Actually, it is an excellent time to get outside to stretch for branches that need to be pruned, bend to turn the compost pile, and lift the piles of leaves that scattered about. Don’t you feel better already?
Several weeks ago I promised I would ease you into pruning mode. Before starting the task, let’s review ten simple rules:
- Sharpen and oil all pruning tools.
- Safety first. Wear protective glasses, gloves and earplugs if using a chain saw.
- Make certain you have the right tool to do the job. Don’t force a pruning shear to take on more wood than it can cut with ease. Move up to the next size tool for the job.
- Start by removing the weakest branch or stem that crosses another branch or stem.
- Remove any branch or stem that is broken.
- Remove any branch or stem growing toward the center of the plant or tree.
- Remove sucker growth or water sprouts.
- For soft-wood pruning, cut at a 45-degree angle slightly above a node.
- For hard-wood pruning, cut to the branch bark collar, not the middle of the stem or branch.
- If reducing the crown of the tree, do not remove more than one-third of the wood from a tree in a year. Use thinning cuts (cut back to a side branch), not the lollipop look!
Okay, you might be asking, “What is the branch bark collar?” As you inspect the tree, note the very slight curvature at the base of the branch as it grows from the trunk. That curvature is the branch bark collar. Some plants have a more prominent branch bark collar, so inspect many varieties of woody plants to become familiar with its appearance before chopping away. You will also note that the top of the branch has a ridge between the branch and trunk. This is known as the branch bark ridge. When you prune, cut the branch just above the ridge and collar—following the angle of the collar—for properly sealed cuts. If you have pruned the tree in the past and done it correctly, the sealed cut looks like a doughnut. If you cut off the branch bark collar or ridge, the tree or shrub will be exposed to rot and disease. In other words, no flush cuts!
By the same token, do not make cuts in the middle of a branch. Any growth from this type of cut will be a weak attachment that can snap off easily in high winds. To put it simply: Think of the trunk and branch as one solid muscle. A cut midway through a branch stops the strength at that juncture. Any new growth does not carry the strength back into the muscle of the tree. Cutting mid-branch can also cause the branch to die back and potentially carry the rotten wood into the trunk. Above all else, do not leave jagged cuts or torn branches. Heavy branches need three cuts to be removed properly. Check out this link for more information on how to use the three-cut method and avoid injury to your trees and shrubs.
Next week I will go into more detail about pruning fruit trees as some fruits grow on new wood, others on old wood and some from spurs. The wrong type of pruning can sacrifice your fruit production! Meanwhile, the above information will get you started with roses, most woody shrubs and ornamental trees.
My resolution this year is to try growing varieties of vegetables I have never tried before and to do more stretching, bending and lifting. Until 2012, here is wishing you a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
Laundry to Landscape
The second workshop in our Sustainable Landscape series is coming up January 14: “Laundry to Landscape” will show you how to use water from your clothes washer for landscape irrigation. Join MMWD and the experts from The Urban Farmer Store, 10:00 a.m. – noon at the Mill Valley Community Center. Call 945-1521 to reserve your seat!