Oh, my goodness! It’s February. To some, it seems like the spring and summer gardening season is still way in the future, but those of us who know use this time to get a head start on the season. We’re pouring over seed catalogs, making wish lists, planning where we can put in yet another garden. Some create vision boards for our gardens, complete with which plant goes where. While some excel at the planning phase, some of us need to be physically busy and prepping for the season ahead.
A very good gardening chore to take on right now is pruning. There are lots of myths and misinformation about when it’s best to prune, or if pruning is even necessary. I grew up in and around peach, apple, and cherry orchards, and my dad had a small orchard. I learned to prune from him. As I got older and had my own place, I asked him once when the best time to prune was, and his answer was to prune whenever the shears are sharp! I’ve been watching and learning about the art of pruning my entire life and can dispel a lot of myths and worries.
Maybe you think that it’s not really a necessity to prune a tree, and that it’ll be fine without it. Pruning can benefit a tree by giving it a boost to grow strong and branch out, giving them that nice, full appearance. If you see dead branches or leaves, pruning will free up water and energy to go to branches that are healthy. Fruit trees need a heavier prune in order to encourage wood growth that will lead to a better crop. Pruning in February and March is a great time to do this.
Late winter is a great time to prune ornamental shrubs like beautyberry, butterfly bush, crape myrtle, roses, and certain kinds of hydrangeas. These plants are primed to start growing, and by pruning them right before they come out of dormancy, the plant will be putting out new, healthy growth. Additionally, it’s easier for these plants to recover while they’re still dormant during the cold season. A good way to decide if you need to prune is to consider when it blooms. If it’s a spring bloomer, prune it immediately after it’s done flowering. If it blooms in the mid to late summer, this is an excellent time to prune it.
This is also a great time to prune shade trees like oak, sweet gum, and maple. If you planted young trees or shrubs, these need to be pruned carefully, but it’s almost impossible to over do it on a mature plant without using power tools. If you’re not sure what tool is right for the type of pruning you have to tackle, we are always happy to advise you on what’s right for the job, because here at Randy’s, we don’t mind your questions. We don’t mind them at all!