Friday, March 3, 2017

Put Down That Chainsaw

It’s almost spring, and despite the overwhelming urge in gardeners to get out there and do something, anything, the garden will either be snow covered, frozen, or muddy. This does dampen the excitement a tad, but just being able to walk around the backyard is a pleasure.

If I can actually see the ground, I find enjoyment cleaning up the detritus of winter, wondering why junk mail and flyers were so efficiently delivered to all points of the garden. The sign should have at least stopped them at the mailbox — I thought it was politely written.

Spring joy aside, fun in the garden is limited. As an aside here, I’m calling it fun instead of work as that word is so inappropriate. It’s a word that puts people off finding the pleasure in gardening. Meanwhile, I plan to tidy the shed. It’s a make fun project where I prepare the shed for my annual springtime recluttering.

All the pots and trays that I tossed in there during planting last season can now go for recycling, something I should have done a year ago. I’ll likely discover broken pots, and tools without handles that have been on the repair list far too long. I'll probably leave them on the must fix list for just a little while longer. Yes, it’s going to be fun.

Something I should do is sharpen all my pruning tools. I don’t have many as I find a pair of manicure scissors and a chainsaw take care of most pruning requirements. I’m joking, of course, despite the awareness that there is a school of thought that believes a chainsaw alone is sufficient, and the bigger the better.

Chainsaws aside, this is a good time of year to do a little pruning while everything is still dormant, and I do have a few things that need attention. I’m cautious, however, when offering pruning advice to others. Too much snipping and hacking is as bad as pruning nothing until there’s a threat to cut off utilities because the meters can’t be read.

First rule of pruning is, if a tree requires ladders and chainsaws to lop off branches, unless you’ve at least auditioned for Cirque Du Soleil, I highly recommend hiring a professional.

If a tree needs branches removed, don’t cut flush with the main trunk; cut just at the outer edge of the branch collar to allow for healing. If the branch is of any size, make an undercut first to prevent it from stripping the bark back to the trunk as it breaks. Some trees tend to bleed sap heavily in spring. There’s not much that can be done to prevent it, and it is harmless.

Painting with sealants or fashioning tourniquets around limbs isn’t recommended (unless it’s your own limb, chainsaw wielders). If the sap looks unsightly, prune later when it will be hidden by foliage. Evergreens such as spruce and pine are unlikely to need much pruning.

Unless trees are obscuring vision, I don’t like to see the lower branches of evergreens removed. It’s unnatural and the tree can suffer when the sun dries out the soil below. If you must, add mulch to compensate for the lack of shade.

As for shrub pruning, don’t prune ones that flower in spring until after they’ve bloomed or there’ll be no blooms at all. The exception might be if there’s a need to take in hand something that dreams of being a privacy screen for an aircraft hanger. Otherwise, prune only where necessary to remove dead, damaged, or diseased branches, including branches that rub against others.

That should keep us having fun for at least an hour or two. If the wind picks up, I may have more junk mail to attend to.