Gardener pruning trees with pruning shears on nature background.

Pruning Trees, Shrubs, and Bushes

Early spring is the best time for pruning trees, shrubs, and bushes. This timing provides plants with the whole summer to heal their wounds. When plants are still dormant, it is easier to see the shape and form of the plant you are pruning.

“If a person cannot love a plant after he has pruned it, then he has either done a poor job or is devoid of emotion.” Liberty Hyde Bailey

Spring flowering shrubs, such as chokeberry, lilac and serviceberry should be pruned after flowering and before they set buds for the following season. The summer blooming bushes, potentilla, and spirea can be pruned back to 6-12 inches above the ground in the early spring.

Pruning can be the rejuvenation of an old, unruly shrub that has poor structure due to snow load.

When setting out to prune, spoil yourself with good, sharp tools. Make clean cuts at a 45-degree angle. The dead and broken limbs need cut first. Then, any crossing or rubbing branches need to removed. Then you can follow up by cutting to control shape and size. Don’t use pruning sealers, as they inhibit the plants natural healing process.


Fertilizing Your Yard

Fertilizing your yard is essential in maintaining healthy lawns and gardens and increasing plant growth rates. However, proper fertilization cannot adequately compensate for poor soil preparation and plant selection. Vigorous, healthy plants are better able to withstand insects and disease as well as harsh climatic conditions typical at this altitude.

“The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.” Henry Van Dyke, Fisherman’s Luck 1899

We recommend fertilizing everything in the spring.

Some people prefer fall fertilization while others prefer to feed in every season. Please fertilize when you can. However, we feel it may not be beneficial to promote new leafy growth in the fall when plants should be concentrating on storing energy in their roots. Fertilizer leaching over the winter may also be a concern.

The following are our general recommendations for fertilization.

  1. Top dress established trees, shrubs and flower beds with a time release granular fertilizer such as 14-14-14 Apex.
  2. For lawns, we recommend a high nitrogen fertilizer in the early spring for quick greening.
  3. Use a weed and feed application, and then a winterizer in the fall on your lawn.
  4. For flower containers, hanging baskets and window boxes, use Miracle Grow or Super Bloom once weekly.

 It may be preferable to use organic fertilizers when possible.

It is always a good idea to mulch with compost. Apply single ingredient organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, bat guano and bone, blood, and kelp meal as needed. Also, we have a complete organic turf fertilizer called Bio Turf for vegetable gardens.,

Iron deficiency is widespread in our area due to the high pH of our soils. The symptoms typically appear on the new growth first and are characterized by yellowing between the leaf veins or overall yellowing in evergreens, Overataring can intensify the efficiency. Pelletized Ironite or liquid Iron Chelate can be used to combat the problem.

white pine weevil Pissodes strobi

Tree Bugs, the White Pine Weevil

One of the most common tree bugs, the white pine weevil, is an insect pest that attacks the top of young (under 25 feet tall) Colorado spruce trees in our area. A tree infested with weevil will have a wilted leader in early summer. Unfortunately, the signs will often go unnoticed until the fall when the needles drop.

Infested trees result in the formation of multiple trunks and bushy-topped trees.

The adult white pine weevil overwinters in the soil underneath the previously infested tree. In the spring, the egg-laying females climb up to the tips of trees usually less than 25 feet tall. The female chews holes in the bark and lays its eggs. The eggs hatch just as the buds are breaking and the larvae feed there’ eventually girdling the stem and causing wilting. Adult weevils chew through the stem and ext the tree in late summer. They briefly feed on the needles and bark before dropping to the ground and taking shelter for the winter.

“We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics.” Bill Vaughan

Once the terminal leader dies, the side branches will begin going skyward to replace the old leader.

Prune out the dead top and burn the remains to control and prevent further infestation. Be sure that you have cut all of the infected areas by cutting as close to the next row of branches as possible. You can improve the appearance of your tree by training the best remaining side branch to be the new leader. Remove the other competing branches and stake up the replacement leader.

An insecticide needs annual application in the spring just before the buds break, The most effective pesticides are restricted use and are only applied by a licensed applicator. The homeowner safe insecticide, Sevin, used at the recommended rate can also provide control.