Regular pruning throughout the life of the tree promotes healthy growth, maintains the shape of the canopy, and reduces stress on the tree. Dead, diseased and damaged branches should normally be removed right away. One exception is Oak, which is susceptible to Oak Wilt disease, and best pruned while dormant.
Early spring is an ideal time to identify branches and limbs requiring removal. Some trees such as Maple may bleed sap, but this will self-seal and is not harmful.
“Proper Tree Pruning” published by the WI Department of Natural Resources illustrates some key pruning basics.
This is a repost of a Wisconsin Horticulture, Division of Extension article. The original article can be found at:
Bypassing Plant Pathogens: Promoting Tree and Shrub Health Through Proper Pruning
Posted on February 3, 2021
Pruning in the winter can reduce the risk of disease-causing organisms infecting trees and shrubs through pruning cuts.
By Brian Hudelson, Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic
Although it doesn’t seem like the optimal time to be gardening, February is actually a great time to be out pruning your trees and shrubs to make them more structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing.
Why prune now? Whenever you prune, you create wounds that potentially can serve as entry points for disease-causing fungi and bacteria. If you prune in the spring and summer (when it’s warmer and often wetter), these organisms are very active and more likely land on fresh pruning cuts and infect. When the weather is colder and drier (as it tends to be in February in Wisconsin), disease-causing organisms are much less active and the chances of them infecting though pruning cuts is much reduced.
How do I go about pruning? Check out University of Wisconsin Garden Facts XHT1013 (Pruning Evergreens), XHT1014 (Pruning Deciduous Trees) and XHT1015 (Pruning Deciduous Shrubs) for pointers on how to prune.
Prune only when it’s dry, and decontaminate pruning tools between cuts (or at a minimum between each tree or shrub) by treating them with 70% alcohol (e.g., rubbing alcohol right out of the bottle, spray disinfectants containing ~70% alcohol) or (in a pinch) 10% bleach. Decontaminating tools kills off disease-causing organisms that you might pick up as you prune. Once done pruning, if you’ve used bleach, be sure to thoroughly rinse your tools, and oil them to prevent them from rusting.
By pruning regularly and taking a few simple precautions as you do, you will end up with trees that are beautiful, structurally sound and healthy.
Cost: $10 covers all four presentations
The Spring Garden Seminar will be presented via You Tube Live. Attendees will receive the link the
week prior to each presentation. All presentations are open to the public and we welcome both new
and experienced gardeners. Registration at https://www.eauclaireareamastergardener.org/
Brought to you by Western Wisconsin Master Gardener Associations from the following counties:
Barron, Chippewa, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pierce and St. Croix
The program handouts are now available. Listed below and on our 2020 Events Handouts page.
State plant health officials are advising consumers who bought rhododendrons or azaleas this spring and summer to be on the lookout for signs of a disease that could spread to oaks and kill them. Phytophthora ramorum has been found on rhododendrons at a northern Wisconsin nursery. This fungus causes sudden oak death, which has never been found on the landscape in Wisconsin. Questions can be directed to the UW Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic. Please review this fact sheet which was recently updated: https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/sudden-oak-death/
If you are traveling in the Philadelphia area I highly recommend this list of gardens, all quite different. Seeing woodland spring ephemerals in different settings taught me a new appreciation for what I tend to take for granted here at home. Anytime during their long growing season these gardens will teach, display and provide pleasure to their visitors.
Morris Arboretum – As the name implies the arboretum is a teaching and research facility of the University of Pennsylvania. It is set on the historic grounds of the summer home of John and Lydia Morris. They have informative displays of trees, shrubs, and woodland perennials.
Longwood Gardens – One of many du Pont family gardens in the area. The gardens are spread about on 1,100 acres of highly manicured display gardens. We were there for six hours, more than enough time to see almost everything and spend time in their excellent garden shop. According to their website they raise 75 percent of the plants used in their displays onsite producing about 110,000 plants of 1,000 different varieties. Nearby is Kennett Square, a tidy small town with many retail shops and restaurants.
Mt. Cuba Center – The Center is set in the rolling hills of the Delaware Piedmont near Wilmington. The property was developed by Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland. Mrs. Copeland is quoted in their intention for the property: “I want this to be a place where people will learn to appreciate our native plants and to see how these plants can enrich their lives so that they, in turn, will become conservators of our natural habitats.”. If you go, I recommend scheduling a tour by one of their very knowledgeable tour guides. If you can’t go to Mt. Cuba Center, you can still learn much by going to their website. I have bookmarked as one of my favorites the native plant finder.
Winterthur – The home of Henry Francis du Pont, the 1,000 acres near Wilmington, DE includes 60 acres naturalist gardens, a research library, shops, museum, and the mansion chock full of American textiles and furniture. The gardens are more in the background of Winterthur given all the other attractions of this property.
Chanticleer - This garden was the last we visited, and I think the best. Chanticleer is set on 47 acres of the former home of the Rosengarten family, members of the family still guide the foundation that manages the property. This unique property employs seven Horticulturists who are each responsible for an area of the grounds. Chanticleer advertises itself as a pleasure garden and definitely lives up to that name. We felt as if we were invited guests, the horticulturists and grounds staff were about the grounds ready to answer our questions.
What a treat to have visited these gardens, each one unique in its own way. And the Winnebago Master Gardener Volunteers are wonderful traveling companions.
Author: Sue Reinardy, UW-Extension Master Gardener Volunteer
The trees most likely to die from oak wilt infection are in the red oak group, including northern pin oak, northern red oak, red oak and black oak. The white oak group is more likely to survive infection and includes bur oak, swamp white oak, white oak and English oak.
Tree paint or wound dressing is not normally recommended on pruned or wounded surfaces, but for damaged oaks an immediate light application of these products may be the only defense against oak wilt infection from April through July.
Pruning in spring can be damaging to any deciduous tree because their energy reserves are low as they produce new buds and leaves following the winter months. In general, the best time to prune is in winter when trees are dormant.
As of January 31, oak wilt has been found in all Wisconsin counties except Ashland, Iron, Forest, Taylor, Door, Kewaunee, Calumet and Manitowoc counties. Several of these counties contain the highest abundance of healthy and productive oak forests in the state. Taking recommended precautions will help keep them that way for years to come.
Oak wilt and other diseases move easily on or in firewood logs year-round, so keeping firewood local, or purchasing Wisconsin-certified firewood, is another important component of protecting trees and keeping forests healthy. Visit the DNR firewood page for more information and a directory of certified firewood vendors.
More information, including a recently released oak wilt video, is available at the DNR oak wilt page. Additional information about proper pruning techniques is available from community foresters or through DNR resources such as this tree pruning poster.
Each season Master Gardeners answer a plethora of questions for the public about gardens, turf, trees, flowers, vegetables, insects, and plant diseases. Some people have methods of gardening that have been passed down through generations that have no basis in fact and can, in fact, be downright detrimental to the landscape.
One very common practice is using salt for weed control in an asparagus patch. This old practice involves pouring salty water or granular salt in among the asparagus plants to kill the weeds. While asparagus is deep-rooted and has a higher salt tolerance than shallow rooted weeds, this is still a poor practice. The salt destroys soil structure, creates a crust on the soil surface, and results in poor water penetration. Ultimately it will kill the asparagus along with the weeds. Mechanical (shallow tilling or hoeing in the spring), cultural (applying mulch), or chemical (using preemergent herbicides) are all superior weed control methods.
Epsom salt application is another favorite of the garden misapplications. Epsom salt is high in magnesium and some gardeners use it generously when growing roses, peppers, and tomatoes. In reality, unless the soil is extremely deficient in magnesium, it will not be of any benefit. Even then, the application may result in environmental harm that negates any benefit. A soil test would be the first line of defense to determine if any deficiency exists. In that unlikely event, an addition might be necessary, but Epsom salt would be a poor choice for an amendment. Magnesium is not a macro element needed for ideal growth. Healthy soil and the three major elements, nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, will produce ideal growing conditions.
A common misconception when planting a tree or shrub is to dig the planting hole twice as wide AND twice as deep as the root ball. Only half of that statement is correct. The hole should be twice as wide, but only as deep as the root ball itself. Deep planting leads to stress, decline, and eventual death of the tree. Contrary to popular opinion, tree roots do not grow deeply like a carrot, but they spread widely. They will extend as far, or farther than the tree canopy. Ninety to ninety-five percent of the roots will be within the first three feet of soil, and fifty percent will be within the first foot. When planting a new tree, identify the first set of primary lateral roots and locate them at or near the soil level.
Another mistake is to add compost to the planting hole. Roots prefer to grow in this nice, soft soil and will curl around and try to stay in the area instead of spreading out. This will lead to girdling and eventual tree death. Instead, backfill the hole with native soil.
The last fantasy is a potentially deadly one: organic pesticides are not as harmful as synthetic ones. Keep in mind that arsenic, snake venom, and E. coli are all organic, and all can be deadly. A pesticide is defined as “any substance or combination of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, regulating, or controlling pests.” This covers both organic and synthetic pesticides and includes herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. The perception is that organic pesticides are gentler to the environment. However, if improperly applied, organic pesticides containing pyrethrins (a compound extracted from chrysanthemums) can be toxic to both humans and pets. Rotenone, another organic compound, can be hazardous to aquatic life. All of them are harmful to beneficial insects.
To determine relative toxicity on any pesticide label, look for the signal words “Caution” (least toxic), “Warning”, or “Danger” (most toxic). However, these words do not give an indication of environmental harm, only toxicity. In any case, use according to label directions.
When trying to determine if a practice is sound or is based on questionable data, always use university based research. Find sites that end in .edu or .gov when using the internet as a resource. Consult the County Extension Office or a Master Gardener for assistance.
Certified Master Gardener
Original Post at: https://dodge.uwex.edu/2017/04/ask-a-master-gardener-garden-facts-and-fantasies/
This is a guest post from Carol Shirk, UW-Extension Master Gardener Volunteer. She is from Dodge County and has been a Master Gardener for over 20 years, grew up on a dairy farm where they grew most of what they ate. She jokingly says that she was the original Cabbage Patch Kid, because she was literally raised in a garden. She has been gardening in some form or another for more than 60 years.
*Keep “flower buffet” open throughout the whole season for pollinators with a continuous succession of flowering plants.
* There are almost 500 documented species of native bees in Wisconsin.
* Bees are rarely aggressive but yellowjackets and wasps can be aggressive.
* Honey bees are highly social in their hives but native bees tend to be solitary and mostly nest in the ground or cavities in trees or logs.
* Tree pollination: most Midwestern trees are wind pollinated such as elm, oak, ash, birch, maple, and shrubs such as hazelnuts. Some trees and shrubs that have showy flowers in spring can attract pollinators, including red maple, black cherry, American basswood, service berry, dogwood, chokecherry, wild plum, pussy willow, and sumac.
* Suggestions for attracting more pollinators are: leave some bare soil for ground nesting bees in the garden; rather than using wood mulch consider leaving the leaf litter on the ground in fall and consider it “mulch” throughout the year (some bees can nest in the leaf debris); do not cut back stems on all plants in the fall , leaving them up for bees to nest in over the winter and then cut back later in the spring to about 12-15 inches high; have some old logs on the ground in or near the garden for nesting .
Contact information for Heather Holm:
Website is PollinatorsNativePlants.com
New book out: An Identification and Native Plant Foraging Guide
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Diversity in the garden