Tuesday, April 13, 2021
April 13, 2021

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Gardening with Allen: Now is an excellent time to prune

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I read your article on pruning fruit trees. Is this a good time to prune other trees and shrubs? I have some junipers that have overgrown my sidewalk. Should I just prune them off at the edge of the sidewalk?

Yes, now through early spring is an excellent time to prune most trees and shrubs. Plants will be able to heal wounds and cover pruning cuts with their new growth. However, one group of plants should not be pruned now. Spring flowering shrubs already have their flower buds developed. If you prune before they flower, you will prune off most of the flowers. Flowering shrubs should be pruned shortly after they bloom.

Junipers can actually be pruned at any time of year. However now is one of the best times to prune. Instead of pruning back to the edge of the sidewalk, try to prune several inches inside the sidewalk. This will allow some regrowth without immediately encroaching upon the sidewalk again. However, pruning that far may expose a lot of brown tissue without green leaves (needles). Brown tissue on junipers will not regrow green leaves. If there is green growth above where you prune, it may grow over the brown area.

Sometimes when shrub growth is too overgrown to recover from pruning, the best thing to do is to remove the old shrubs and replace them with new ones whose natural maximum size fits the space where they are planted.

The best procedure for pruning overgrown shrubs is to start at the bottom and prune individual branches back a few inches beyond where you would like the new growth to occur. Then go up to the next level and prune a little shorter than the bottom level. It is best to prune individual branches inside other nearby growth so that the pruning stubs are hidden. By pruning each layer of branches a little shorter than the layer below, you retain the natural shape of the plant. Try to keep the natural shape of plants, which is somewhat irregular and not with straight or flat sides or tops.

Ornamental trees generally need less pruning than shrubs. Evergreen trees need very little pruning. In most cases branches are allowed to grow clear to the ground. As deciduous trees grow taller, some of the lower branches are removed to allow easier access underneath.

Sometimes tree branches grow too thick and cross or rub against each other. When this happens, branches that are growing up or inward are removed, leaving outward growing branches. It is usually best to remove the entire branch back to where it grows from a larger branch. The next best place to make a pruning cut is just beyond a smaller side branch.

When branches are shortened without reference to side branches, they tend to produce several side branches where one was removed. This makes growth thicker, which is just the opposite of what is desired. This is true for both shrubs and trees. Arbitrarily shortening all branches on shrubs or trees to the same length is only a temporary way to make them smaller. They will then grow back with thicker and faster growth.

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