I was on Fresh Air this morning with the wonderful Mary Ito who makes everything feel fresh. We discussed the incredible damage our canopy was slammed by the winter ice storms which hit especially hard here in Southern Ontario.
I called my arbourist, Derek Welsh (Authentic Tree Care) about the surrounding damage our trees are suffering right now. He says: “Get the damaged wood from all the storms out of the garden as quickly and safely as possible. The trees are starting to wake up and they’ll want to heal themselves. Give them all the help you can.”
You can do this by whacking away at the timber yourself, but it’s really safer to hire a certified Arbourist. Don’t hire Fly by Night Tree Guys. There are too many idiots wandering up and down trees doing more damage than good. Be very careful. Don’t believe a lot of bafflegab (taking on more than you really need) and get them to quote in stages.
Chores you can do yourself:
* If you see shrubs and trees with stubs, remove them. Really bad clumsy arbourists leave these things sticking out and they are ripe for bugs and diseases to enter. Plus the tree wastes energy trying to make a collar around these things.
*A good cut is a thing of beauty: it should not be flush against the trunk or branch the same thing happens tree can’t heal itself. It should be a slight distance away from trunk or branch and it should form a natural collar with the plant.
* Derek recommends that you do not try to do this with very old tree like big old red maples and beech trees. Wait and do as little pruning to them as possible. Obviously someone has to take out dead stuff but wait to do that until they leaf out. He says he’s even holding off on cedars right now because they are going brown. It’s a tricky year so don’t beat yourself up with it.
In fact, hold off a lot of the normal pruning you’d do right now because we have no idea what kind of damage there’s been. I’d prune my Japanese maples any old time but I’m giving them a few more weeks and then I’ll take out the dead stuff, twigs and branches that are crossing or don’t look good.
But don’t over nip and tuck—any plant can die of a thousand cuts.
I always go for a refresher to Shigoandtrees.com Alex Shigo is my hero of all things to do with trees. Very wise man he was and if you hire an arbourist who doesn’t know his work find another one. He is the Tree God no doubt.
So if you wait a week or two and see how things are:
* Don’t hack away at maples or birches, they tend to run sap like crazy and look awful. Could also attract bugs
* Never cut flat against the branch or trunk.
* NEVER leave a stub.
Make sure you get a certified arbourist. There are so many gardeny scams and this is one of the big ones. These guys come around doing cheap work and they are wrecking our trees.
All the trees we had pruned properly last year had no damage whatsoever.
Try not to get at your trees and shrubs by standing on wet or soggy soil. If you must do this because you it’s absolutely necessary: get boards to stand on so it doesn’t compact the soil.
You can cut back the ugly look of grasses right now. There are warm season and cold season grasses and if you can remember which is which, good luck. I just whack them all back before they start growing or you’ll take the tips off.
We’re spreading around yards and yards of compost right now. Duck is my preferred but whatever it is make sure it’s well composted, doesn’t smell and isn’t frozen. It should be well screened. We do this now because it’s easy and we’re not disturbing plans and it will feed them as the soil thaws out.
OTHER PLANTS TO PRUNE RIGHT NOW
If you can’t resist the lure of a completely cleaned and sharpened pair of secateurs, do the following:
ROSES: Take out all the dead stuff, put compost around and later on plant some garden beside them
FRUIT TREES do now in in early spring
Hibiscus cut out the winter kill when buds start swelling. Don’t let it seed over the entire neighbourhood please
SHRUBS such as forsythia and lilac, wait until after they’ve bloomed.
VINES: cut Clematis back unless they bloom in spring.
Wisteria whack it back like crazy for shape. Then be prepared to cut it back in summer as well.
Go at your pruning this year with extra care. Always use really clean tools. Never stand on soggy soil, use wood slats to distribute your weight.
I’m working on a spring newsletter if you’d like to sign up. Go to contact me and I’ll get it to you.