It’s early to think this in the Inland Northwest, but it is time to clean up the yard. Yards are thawing and already growing to unthinkably mow-able proportions. Shrubs and trees have shaken their frost and already become thirsty to feed their new buds. Birds sing their songs everywhere. Erratic-downpour to bright-sunshine weather swings are in full force.
A little Spring cleaning in the yard leads to beautiful, fruitful plants and gardens. Just like some people get a fresh new haircut with the onset of warmer weather, cutting off the dead ends of Winter’s dry cold test of endurance, our trees and shrubs need the same attention and chance at a fresh start. Pruning is key to plant health and productive ability. Fruit trees, ornamental trees and shrubs that flower and produce berries offer humans and wildlife important sources of healthy nutrition. Helping plants put their energy in the right direction with a bit of well-timed and skilled trimming leads to higher productivity.
Recently Blue Moon Nursery hosted a 1.5 hour pruning workshop with certified arborist, Tim Kohlhauff. He works with the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program, offering advice to on a variety of issues our area gardeners face. The time flew by as he instructed the group about plant hormones that message different kinds of growth, how to work with those hormones and prune for the intended outcome, the best and worst conditions for pruning, how much of the plant you can prune in any one year (your “pruning budget”) and the basics of sterilizing your pruning tools to prevent cross-contamination… just like between patients in a doctor’s office or between ingredients on a cutting board.
The instruction time just scratched the surface of what’s valuable to know, so it’s great that Extension makes the advice available for free online here, or you can call or visit their help desk at the Extension building at 222 N. Havanna. It’s empowering to know how to treat your plants in a way that promotes their health and wellness, and in turn your own.
If you’re trying to avoid the unknown consequences of corporate chemical food production, pruning is a beneficial skill to help you feel more confident to expand what foods you might consider producing yourself. Think of it as an annual physical where you are the primary care physician for your yard. You might test your garden soil and add amendments (vitamins) accordingly, or like monitoring the straight development of the spine in a young child, a tree might need some pruning assistance to develop one main trunk, to be its strongest and support the weight of all its fruit. Like raising kids, it doesn’t happen all at once. Over the years, minor adjustments and input help your plants and gardens develop their full potential.
Whether it’s hardy rhubarb that requires very little attention for all the food it generates, or a cherry tree that’s a bit more demanding in exchange for its sweet globes of delicious fruit, reasonably little effort can lead to great abundance. Enough to share with friends and neighbors!
Don’t miss the gardening workshop on Growing Herbs this Saturday, 3/28!