You know, if you catch yourself complaining of the colder weather that we’ve been having as of late, you might need to put your own self in the shoes of our neighbors "up North" and empathize with them a bit. Seems like we used to get a cold spell every now & then and then it would warm up for a few days prior to the next one coming down. This year, we seem to have been having our fair share of a pretty good period where the low temperature might be freezing or below for a few weeks running. I really haven’t checked with the weathermen around in the big towns to see how this year stacks up with previous ones, but it surely has seemed to be pretty cold to me. I do know that feeding the cows has become nearly a daily event, as we always tried to get some feed for energy to them when a cold night was in the forecast. Of course, our cows are sort of akin to me, as they are fairly well antiquated and don’t seem to suffer the cold weather quite as well.
A good number of folks have been asking me questions dealing with pruning lately, around the feed stores, cafes, and grocery stores. No matter where I’ve resided, most folks start worrying about pruning from about the first frost on until bud-break in the late winter or spring. There are a number of do’s & don’ts, so I’ll try to outline a few of those for you. One of the first things to keep in mind is that while the pruning stage might probably be the most enjoyable maintenance activity for the avid gardener, they quickly turn into a horticultural architect. You have to decide, whether it be fruit tree or ornamental, what it should look like, as well as what branches will become productive. There are a lot of books in the library addressing the subject, as well as some pamphlets that are helpful with information as well as outlined illustrations. However, we do find that once you pass from the theoretical to the practical, we’re faced with a tangled mass of limbs and twigs and the clarity of the situation disappears. Though some pruning activities are specific and unique to each species, the basic rules apply to most fruit trees and landscape shrubs and trees.
Some of the basic rules and eventual goal of pruning is to remove dead, diseased, and spindly branches, as well as the suckers along the main trunk or limbs. Keep the tree or shrub to a strict minimum and remember that another of your main goals is to allow the plant to be open to air and sun light. For fruit trees, keep the top from getting too tall, as this will invigorate the fruit production of the lower limbs and most of us don’t need to be on a ladder to pick Peaches or Plums from the top branches. This information is definitely not a complete manual on pruning, but will give you some thing to think about for the coming several weeks until it’s thebest time to prune. In the mean time, you can edify yourself on the subject with some printed material as well as watching the horticultural columns in the "big" Papers that have timely articles regarding the subject this time of year.
If you want some first hand examples of proper time and method of pruning fruit trees, take a day trip down around Stonewall and Fritztown to view what and when the fruit growers do down that way. Fruit trees are a bit more season-specific regarding maintenance pruning, while most landscape trees are not. I really love to quote an ol’ Horticultural buddy of mine, Dr. Loy Shreve that served as the area Horticulturist in our Extension District, when asked "What is the best time to prune. Loy would dryly reply,"There are 52 days of the year when one should not prune". Folks would then ask "When is that?" and Loy would smilingly tell them, "That’s how many Sundays there are in a year." The Mayor & yrs. truly don’t even need to explain that one, anywhere out around—————Harkeyville!!!!!!!!!!