Plain as Dirt: Something you can actually do in the garden |

Plain as Dirt: Something you can actually do in the garden

Tom Glass
Vail, CO Colorado
Tom Glass

VAIL VALLEY ” This particular column is for die-hard gardeners ” the seasonally unaffected tillers of the earth.

We’ve had a bit of a warm spell, and the days are lengthening, so naturally among some of you, the inner urges anticipating spring have been tweaked, as they have in me. This condition is probably not a good thing, though not without its charms, in light of the fact that most certainly winter is not over ” not on the Front Range and, most definitely, not in East Vail.

The urge remains, however, undeniable, and for some, it’s an itch that must be scratched.

You may ask, what, besides a vigorous sharpening of tools, is there to do about it?

A drive on Interstate 70 reveals that some of you living on southern exposure below Dowd’s Junction can consider an easy tour of your grounds. That seems like a limited scope for a gardening piece, so I’ll expand upward the definition of an easy tour to those living on northern exposure and adept at snowshoeing. To broaden the scope still further, I’ll add the hardiest of valley dwellers, those willing to post-hole their way around their yards ” though easy would not fall to the description of the tour.

If you fall somewhere in those groups, then now is a great time to get outside and work ” hard.

The sap has yet to rise. Consequently, now is an absolutely great time to trim off the branches that you find offending from trees. Ridiculous? I think not.

We can put this off if you want. Ultimately, though, it’s nice weather to be outside. And there remains that itch that begs to be scratched, and, quite frankly, there isn’t a convenient way to scratch it. There isn’t a lot to do in the way of gardening ” at this time, at this elevation ” other than browse through seed catalogs. The tools in the shed are already sharp. What say we put them to use.

Countless times I have been approached by people new to this valley inquiring about the differences in gardening at 8,000 feet as opposed to the lowlands from whence they came.

Some of the differences are:

– Good soil is scarce.

– Our light is intense.

– Our air is drying.

– It can frost any night of the year.

– Our growing season is a short 90 to 120 days.

Given the limitations, sometimes you have to make do.

Here’s what to do in properly making the cuts when trimming a branch off a tree: At the base of a branch, where it meets the trunk, is a swelling known as the collar. Make the cut flush with the outside of the collar, away from the trunk, where the swelling has tapered down to the branch. There are often wrinkles in the bark at this transition from collar to branch.

First, make an undercut upward about a third of the way through the branch. Then, finish the cut through the branch from above. This undercut will prevent the bark from being peeled from the tree as the branch falls away.

Trees do not completely heal over where a branch has been cut. Instead, they compartmentalize the damage. The tissue of the collar is adapted to growing around a wound, sometimes completely healing over where smaller branches have been removed, but most often leaving a recessed, but exposed, dead portion of the removed branch.

After a season or two, a properly trimmed branch leaves only the rounded bump of the collar, not a dead stub.

Unless you aspire to clearing tree branches from utilities, never cut a branch that leaves a large stub. It’s artless. And there is always art to be considered when privileged to be living at this elevation.

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