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It’s best to prune most trees and summer-blooming shrubs in late March while the plants are still dormant but the threat of extreme cold has passed. Plants will initiate a phase of active growth in order to properly heal fresh pruning cuts. If this happens too close to the hard freezes of fall, the newly formed tissues may be killed and the cut may not heal properly. This also increases the risk of extreme cold penetrating the exposed cut and damaging the inner parts of the pruned branches during the coldest days of winter. Exceptions to this rule are spring-blooming shrubs and certain trees such as birches and maples that run sap in spring; these should be pruned in mid-summer.

Many  trees and shrubs can be pruned in March, too. Fruit Trees, evergreens, and many deciduous trees, and more can all be trimmed and shaped before new growth begins. Armed with good hand pruners, loppers and a pruning saw, you can tackle all but the biggest of jobs. Most roses appreciate a good pruning now, too. Consult a good rose book for the best methods to trim your type of rose since timing and methods vary widely with individual cultivars. Floribunda, hybrid tea, climbing, shrub and miniature roses all have different care guidelines

Treating Winter Injury

Many plants have protective mechanisms that should not be confused with winter damage. Some will shed leaves (nandina, privet); some will position their leaves flat against their stems (fatsia); some will roll their leaves downward or the margins inward (rhododendron); while others will have wilted-looking leaves all winter (viburnum). In addition, the red, purple, bronze, and brown winter color of some evergreens (juniper, arborvitae, cryptomeria, boxwood) should not be confused as winter injury.

After a particularly severe winter, many plants may show substantial injury. Damage symptoms include discolored, burned evergreen needles or leaves, dead branch tips and branches, heaved root systems, and broken branches. At winter's end, remove only those branches that are broken or so brown that they are obviously dead. Do not remove branches when scraping the outer bark reveals a green layer underneath. The extent of winter damage can best be determined after new growth starts in the spring. At that time, prune all dead twigs or branches back to within one quarter of an inch above a live bud, or to the branch collar of the nearest live branch.

If discoloration on narrow-leafed evergreen needles is not too severe, they may regain their green color or new foliage may be produced on the undamaged stem. Broad-leaved evergreens showing leaf damage will usually produce new leaves if branches and vegetative leaf buds have not been too severely injured. Damaged leaves may drop or be removed. Prune to remove badly damaged or broken branches, to shape the plant, and to stimulate new growth.

An application of fertilizer to the soil around winter-damaged plants, accompanied by adequate watering, will usually induce new growth to compensate for winter injuries.

Special care should be given to plants injured by winter's cold. The dry months of June, July, and August can be particularly damaging, as the plants are weak and often unable to survive the stress of drought. Be sure to water adequately.

Road Salt Damage to Garden and Landscape Plants

The battle against salt damage continues year round. In early spring flush the area around the plants by applying 2" of water over a 2-3 hour period and repeating this 3 days later. This will leach much of the salt from the soil. If salt spray from the road surface is a problem, use copious amounts of water to rinse the foliage and branches of any affected plants when salt spray is heavy and again in early spring.

Using Proper Mulching

Mulching is one of the best things you can do for the health of trees, shrubs, and flowers if done properly.  If some is good, though, more is not necessarily better. 

Proper mulching is especially important for plants under stress, or newly planted ones without extensive root systems.  To correctly apply organic mulches, such as the common shredded pine bark, to trees, start six inches from the base working out to the desired diameter. Depth should start at one inch at the inner circle, increasing to no more than four inches (two inches for clay soils) at the outer edge of the circle.  Final depth may be reduced if landscape fabric is placed under the mulch.

Annual additions to mulch only should be made to maintain proper depth. Removal defeats one of the purposes of mulch, which is to decay and mix with the soil.  Fluffing the old mulch, before adding more, will prevent it from forming a hard surface that deflects water, rather than retaining it.

Excessive mulch material piled up against the base of a tree or shrub, forming a mulch "volcano," keeps moisture in direct contact with the bark. The moisture penetrates the bark and suffocates the cells of the phloem, which is the layer of living tissue that transfers food up and down the plant. When this supply of food from the leaves is limited, the roots die back.  This leads to less water being taken up, and the tree or shrub goes into general decline, leaf drop, and premature death.

Secondary problems, like borers and fungi, move into plants weakened by improper mulching. In sugar maples, the fungal pathogen Phytophthora will move in because of the high moisture around the trunk.  This may create a canker symptom (sunken discolored and dead area) that girdles the trunk at the base, and hastens the decline of the tree.

For More Information Click: Mulching


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