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Dormant Season Tree Pruning

Dormant season pruning has begun. The good chill we had has left, with a flowering plum already blooming somehow and early growth of daffodils bursting above ground here and there. Although we may yet see a cold spell or two, harsh winters of the end of the ice age seem to be lessening near the Salish Sea.

Managing of many plants occurs now when the sap is not yet running, (hopefully) after the harshest of Winter has passed. Apple, pear and maple are some of the trees ideally pruned now during fair weather, though fresh wisps can be pinched on ornamental maples year-round and annual maintenance on the fruit can also be after fruit set in late Spring.

Hedges and evergreens are also ideally worked on now, preferably when not raining though perfect weather is not always achievable along the maritime shore. Shading of fruit tree root crowns, from now until frosts and heavy rains let up, is ‘good’ if possible, with both straw and leaf mulch reasonable alternatives. Important to this process is removal of this insulating layer just before the end of Winter to help signal the trees to put forth blossoms when pollinators are active and weather is fair versus too early from “false Spring” events which seem to have been occurring the last couple of years to the detriment of some early flowering fruit, especially plums.

Along with mulching the cold into the ground, the idea of painting the lower bole of a fruit or nut tree with white paint is beneficial although aesthetics can be a factor for some. This reflective layer will cause slower, more even warming of the tree during late Winter alleviating cracking, is conducive to a preferred later blossom, and also helps during the Summer when the sun is most intense.

Once Winter breaks and the sap runs, pushing leaves into growth, it is best to leave the pruning alone for a while and take a well-needed break before dealing with exuberant springtime plant growth later. Bleeding from wounds made during the running of sap can bring in aphids, sooty mold and bees to certain ornamental trees including non-native Spruce, Hemlock and Firs, but can also be unsightly by itself, let alone not preferred by the wounded plant.

As a matter of forethought, it is best not wait too long though as summertime heat signals the end of the “June prune” (after sap has run) period whether it actually occurs in May or July.  As a reminder, in case Winter has not resigned itself yet, remember to shake accumulated snow and ice gently from your loved ornamentals, hedges, and small trees so the weight will not crack parts or pull them apart and downwards to touch the ground.

Yours in trees,


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