By Mark Hoover
Winter can prove to be a challenging time for gardeners who dream of long, warm, sunny days in the garden. Though we’ve had some long stretches of cold snowy weather, spring is coming. That also means the spring rush is coming. Days of trying to check off that never-ending list of spring garden tasks will soon be upon us. In the meantime, slightly warmer winter days are a good time to get out in the garden and assess the pruning that needs to be done. Often, winter pruning can get overlooked but it’s a very important and simple task that can take your garden to the next level.
Here are a few steps to get you started.
- Start with clean, sharp tools. The cleaner the cut, the better chance the cut should heal. Think of it as when you cut or scrape yourself. Irregular, deep cuts take longer to heal, and the same goes for trees and shrubs. We want to make sure our pruners and saws are clean from diseases that may currently reside on our tools. Using a simple 10% bleach solution is a good disinfectant.
- Make good clean cuts. Cuts should be made at the branch collar, exposing the smallest wound possible. The more “wood” that is exposed, the longer the heal. This also means the longer the opportunity for infection.
- Don’t get overwhelmed. Start by taking out dead, dying and crossing branches. This is the easiest step by far and alone can make a big difference to your specimen. Other things to keep in mind is that pruning should be an ongoing practice. Only 1/4 of the plant or less should be removed at a time, and if you think more needs to be done, you should probably wait until next year. Also, a key thought is that you can take more off, but you can’t put it back. So, choose wisely.
Take this as motivation to jump into your garden, even if only for an hour and get a jumpstart on spring garden assessment. It will have you dreaming of those warm, sunny days of hard work and satisfaction in your garden.