While we have been blessed with wet weather this winter, when those clear, sunny 50- to 60-degree days come along and beckon us out of doors, it's time to prune fruit trees and ornamentals.
Pruning is part art and part science, so spend some time studying a tree to see how it grows, and how the fruit or branches are formed. Knowing how large a tree should be is a good guide to how the pruning will progress.
To begin, assemble a selection of nice, sharp, clean tools, such as hand pruners, loppers and a saw. A disinfectant such as bleach or Lysol in a spray bottle and a rag for wiping the blade should be available. For those unsure where to start, the University of Arizona has two publications available online with good drawings to use as a guide: http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/quarterly.html; and http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/fruit/irrigation.html#pruning
If an Internet connection isn't available, check with the library, or perhaps Plant Fair has a flier on the subject. Check at the extension office in the county complex too.
Begin by removing dead or diseased wood. Sterilize the tool with bleach or Lysol after each cut to prevent spreading disease.
Check the trunk for weak crotches and crowding branches, and then remove suckers and water sprouts.
Next, prune branches that are drooping and remove branches that are crossing over or are directly above or below another branch.
The key to shaping is to always place the cut just above a bud that is pointing the way you want the branch to go.
Finally, thin out crowded branches, starting at the center of the tree and working outward to the twigs.
For plants that flower on year old wood, such as forsythia, peaches and nectarines, just remove a few older branches instead of many new twigs. For trees that flower on fruit spurs, such as apples and pears, remove newer branches, leaving the older ones with spurs.
Wait to prune ornamental shrubs, such as roses and lilacs until late winter, as freeze damage on new cuts can be severe.
The Rim Area Gardeners are sponsoring a free, two-part pruning workshop.
The first session is at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Payson Public Library conference room.
The second session follows. In the second part of the workshop, students will learn the dos and don'ts of pruning fruit and nut trees for maximum production. Guidelines for dealing with roses and ornamental shrubs and bushes will also be presented.
Under the supervision of master orchard keepers, participants will do hands-on pruning.
Space is limited and reservations are required for the field phase of the workshop. Bring your own pruning equipment and dress appropriately.
To reserve a space, call (928) 472-7631 and leave your name and phone number.