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Perfect time for a quick snip

Save yourself, and trees, a lot of headache and prune plants during winter months

POSTED: February 18, 2011 1:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

City of Gainesville senior planner and certified arborist Jason Justice demonstrates a proper cut Thursday while pruning a serviceberry tree.

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If you haven't done so already, now is the time to show your trees some love.

"I recommend that you look at the trees on your property at least once a year. You want to look for any of those dead limbs, anything that looks diseased, anything that's hanging," said Jason Justice, the city of Gainesville's senior planner and certified arborist.

"Rotting limbs, or limbs that are dead can be a hazard to anyone on the property. Well-established trees don't really need a lot of trimming or pruning, unless you see a hazard."

In addition to today being Arbor Day in Georgia, the time is also right because we're nearing the end of prime tree-pruning season.

Although National Arbor Day isn't until April, some states choose to mark the day during a time period that is better suited for tree planting, say officials with the Arbor Day Foundation.

"Any type of heavy pruning, taking off large limbs, you don't really want to do that in the spring or summer because that's when a lot of activity is going on. There's food moving up and down the tree, and you really don't want to disturb that. It's putting out new leaves, especially in the spring, so you wouldn't want to do heavy pruning then," Justice said.

"Smaller trimming, like removing little limbs, can be done during the spring though. Now is still a good time for heavy pruning, but in March and April, we're getting really close to where you want to think about maybe holding off."

Pruning serves multiple purposes. In addition to removing dangerous, dead limbs, pruning can also improve your yard's visual appeal.

"You want to cut a limb all the way back to the parent (or main) stem," Justice said. "You never want to cut it in the middle."

For certain types of flowering trees, you may want to use more dramatic pruning techniques.

"With a crape myrtle, you want cut the tips off in the winter. It doesn't hurt the tree, but it does look a little odd," Justice said.

"It helps to maintain size and it also promotes new growth in the spring. It also produces more flowering on the tree."

Such winter pruning techniques are good for crape myrtles, but you wouldn't want to apply that tactic to all trees, Justice says.

During the winter, in addition to heavy pruning, property owners should also be mindful of watering their trees.

"Even though there aren't any leaves on them, it may seem like nothing is happening, but there really is. There's a lot going on in the dormant months, that you can't see," Justice said.

"These are times now where a lot of root growth is occurring, which will help the trees come spring when the leaves start fleshing out. With established trees, you don't need to necessarily water everyday, but newly planted trees do require that watering to establish that root growth in the setting that they're in."

While the goal is too maintain established trees, there are some instances where they may need to be removed.

Trees with an extreme lean, a large infestation of bugs like carpenter ants, or rot at its base could all indicate that the tree may need to be cut down.

Now is also a good time for tree removal because it leaves time to plant a new tree before the weather gets too hot, and the odds of a new plant survival are drastically reduced.

"You really want to stay away from spring and summer tree planting. It's really hot and they lose a lot of water," Justice said.

"If you can't continually replenish that water, it'll end up suffering. If you have an irrigation system, that's one thing, but if you're relying on hand watering, you may want to wait until fall."

 



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