I am still on sabbatical, but back on campus until May and have heard from enough of you to know that more nature notes are needed! So, I will once again send out weekly tidbits of information to keep you inspired about the living world around you. In addition, as we get into March and April, Bill and I will be taking some local field trips to observe wildflowers and hope that some of you will join us.

I am sure you are beginning to look around for outdoor things to do to “get the jump” on spring and as an escape from those odious indoor tasks we do in the winter. Well, this is a great time of year to do some tree pruning because leaves are not covering up the problems. Take a slow walk around your property and carefully observe each tree in your yard from several angles.

  1. Are there branches crossing over other branches, thus impeding the proper growth of your tree? If so, eliminate the culprits.
  2. Are your trees beginning to look like shrubs because you have not pruned them high enough? If so, clean up the trunk. You want a strong, well-defined “bole” trunk) and now is a good time to clear out those lower limbs before they get too big. (A good rule of thumb is to prune a tree trunk at least as high as you can reach.)
  3. Prune to thin dense growth. (Thinning involves removal of an entire branch back to a main branch or trunk.) Thinning will allow more light and air into the interior of the crown and reduce danger of breakage caused by ice and snow loads. This is particularly important in the case of Bradford pear. You might need to hire an arborist to clear out some of the interior branches of your Bradford if it is particularly large. Bradfords develop a very dense crown and when confronted by intense gusts of wind, their brittle wood gives way and the trunk breaks. You can increase the longevity of these less than stable trees with a good interior pruning.
  4. Prune out limbs broken by storms.

Some of you may remember when tree paint was used to “protect” a cut limb, but research shows this is no longer necessary. Do protect trees you prune by disinfecting your hand pruners or pruning saw between trees so you don’t spread disease from one tree to another. This can easily be done by wiping down the blades with alcohol as you finish one tree and move to another. By the way, you should use a saw for cutting a branch or stem thicker than one inch in diameter. You need to make a clean cut, and if you use a tool smaller than needed for the task at hand, you will produce a ragged edge and invite disease. Obviously, sharp tools are best.

I know, it is cold out, but being out surveying the trees might be better than cleaning your oven this weekend!