NDSU Extension - Dickey County

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Springtime Pruning

Breana Kiser, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent

There is still time to get the pruning done, as soon as you can walk across the yard easily. Pruning is important to produce strong, healthy, and aesthetically attractive plants. Pruning is important for the health of the tree because it opens up the canopy which allows more light and air to flow through the leaves.

It is best to prune your tree while it’s dormant, so before buds swell. The best time is during winter but with the cold and snow it can make it difficult to prune. March is normally the best time to prune but our March made this difficult. April will start to warm up so once you can walk across your yard but you still have time to cut before buds start to develop. Don’t cut tree branches that are so high that you have to climb to cut them, be safe and stay on the ground.

Some of benefits of pruning are it reduces the change of fungal problems by allowing more air move in the leaves. It will reduce the tree’s crop load, making your tree more likely to bear fruit every year while allowing the fruit to be larger and ripen faster. This allows the tree to have more time to prepare for the coming winter when the fruit it picked early. When pruning your shrubs you can manage the height and shape of the shrub.

Use a sharp, quality hand pruner, lopper or pruning saw. Remove branches that point downward, inward or straight up, cross over/through the tree, or will shade the branch below. Clean out small twigs near the center of the tree. For both trees and shrubs, keep the branches that are growing outward and upward which also look healthy. When making your cuts be sure to make cuts at the branch collars. Don’t leave stubs which will rot and can cause disease.

Branch Collar

 Example of where the branch collar is located.

Most shrubs grow new shoots right from the area they are planted. This is called “expanding the crown”. It can get pretty thick with old, weak, and death branches all growing together. Remove branches that grown downward or cross through the shrub. Cut out the small, weak branches that crowd the good branches. Don’t be afraid, shrubs and trees are forgiving and you can always fix mistakes the following year.   

With shrubs you have different types of pruning. Like renewal pruning, which is best for most flowering and fruit shrubs. Remove 1/4 to 1/3 or old growth each year.  Pictured below.

Remove Dark Limbs 

Heading cuts will lower a branch back to a lateral bud or shoot which is less vigorous than a vertical shoot. This is the best way to manage the height of a shrub.

Heading Back 

Thinning cuts are to open the plant up to light and air. Make proper cuts, without leaving stubs, just above a bud or side branch so the growth is ‘upward and outward’.

Lower Com 

If you are interested in learning how to prune but you don’t want to experiment on your own trees or shrubs. Join us at the Ellendale Buzz Garden on April 26th at 5pm and Oakes Community Orchard by the Oakes Hospital on April 27th at 5pm for a hands on experience. Tools will be provided. Any questions contact the Extension Office at (701)349-3249.

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