Vail Landscape Logic column: Shape up plants and prune for winter protection
Now is the time to get plants in shape before the storms of winter. Late-summer pruning is very good for deciduous trees. You can remove unneeded foliage that can overload with snow and break branches when those early snowstorms come before the leaves have dropped. This is exactly what happened in the fall of 2014, when countless plants were devastated.
For pruning larger trees, it’s wise to hire a professional who has the equipment and gear to scurry up the tree safely and do the work correctly. There really are rules about how tree branches should be cut to preserve the health of the tree. And there are also best practices about how to thin a tree to avoid winter snow overloads. Plus, a tree professional can deal with the debris so it is disposed of properly by turning it into mulch or compost.
TIPS FOR DIY PRUNING
If you plan to do some do-it-yourself pruning, then make sure you have the right tools for the job:
• Hand pruners are the basic pruning tools. Use pruners to cut branches up to 1 inch in diameter.
• Long-handled pruners cut branches up to a 2 to 2 ½ inch diameter.
• A hand saw can cut larger branches, but use it standing on the ground.
• A pole pruner or pole saw will extend your reach higher into the tree. Again, use it while standing on the ground.
• Got a ladder? Leave it in the garage. If you need a ladder to prune, you need to call a tree specialist who has the right equipment for the job.
WHAT TO PRUNE during FALL
What can you prune in the fall? Basically, most shrubs and deciduous trees that need to be lightened to avoid early storm damage or that have overgrown the available space.
Are there plants you shouldn’t prune now? Spring-flowering plants such as lilac, potentilla and forsythia set their buds that will be next spring’s flowers in this growing season. If you prune them now, you will lose those spring blooms. Prune flowering plants next spring after they have bloomed.
Tips to make the best cut:
• Avoid what’s called a flush cut that severs the branch right next to the trunk of the tree. Look for the tree branch collar where the branch joins the tree and cut outside that collar.
• Never cut the main leader of a tree unless it is damaged.
• Leave the pruning wounds open and natural. The tree knows what to do to seal off the cut, and covering the wound with paint or tar is neither necessary nor helpful to the tree.
• If large branches need to be pruned or if you’re not sure how to prune for the proper shape, then call a professional arborist who has been trained to prune both for the plant’s health and its good looks.
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.