Gardentalk – How and when to prune your plants, trees and berry bushes

Ouch. This lilac needs emergency pruning now. At least 10 branches on this plant were broken or split by a heavy winter snow load. In this picture taken on April 15, most of the snow in this Douglas Island yard is still present. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Almost all of last winter’s snow has melted in most of Juneau’s yards and gardens, and it likely has revealed a mess that will have to be cleaned up before gardeners start their spring planting.

In this week’s edition of Gardentalk, Master Gardener Ed Buyarski encourages us to clean up all the dead vegetation before the slugs return in full force.

“They’ll be waiting underneath there,” Buyarski said. “So, let’s get started on the cleanup and pruning right now.”

Buyarski said the immediate priority is to prune out all the dead branches from any plant, tree or bush.

“Unless this is a big wildlife tree that you want woodpeckers to work on,” Buyarski said.

He recommends making clean cuts back to green, live wood with sharp tools.

Pruning can also help with shaping a fruit tree or berry bush, as well as enhancing ventilation and allowing sunlight to reach interior branches.

But he cautions against pruning too much at once from a shrub or tree, since it can stimulate extra growth. Buyarski recommends spreading out any extensive pruning over several years.

For rhododendrons and the roughed-up lilac pictured above, Buyarski said it’s a good idea to save the shape-pruning until after the plants start flowering.

He does not recommend using paint or tar on any cuts, since that will just trap and seal fungus spores into the wood.

For raspberry plants, don’t forget to remove last year’s fruiting branches. And you can always dig up new sprouts of 1-2 feet tall to transplant and expand your berry patch.

Do you have a garden question for Ed? Fill out the form below, and he’ll answer your question in an upcoming segment.

Listen to past episodes and subscribe to the podcast on the “Gardentalk” page, so you’ll never have to worry about missing Thursday’s live radio broadcasts.

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