The end of February and the first part of March is the best time to prune fruit trees. In late January I contacted my arborist and scheduled an appointment. He came in late February and again thinned them out and opened up the canopy so I can get the most sun and air flow. Air flow is important to disease prevention. Last year he really pruned the trees and I thought he took off too much, which I am told is a common reaction. However, it really made a difference and the trees had more flowers than ever.


After my fruit trees were pruned I was fortunate to have a couple warm days in the 50’s so I sprayed my PEACH, PLUM , PIE CHERRY, and PEAR trees with the OIL AND Lime-sulfur spray. I also sprayed my RASPBERRIES (Red Everbearing, Fall Gold Everbearing, Black brambling) and BLACKBERRY BUSHES, with the OIL AND Lime-sulfur spray. Lime Sulfur is an organic fungicide and the best way to prevent Peach Leaf Curl disease. If you purchase Horticultural Oil already mixed with the Lime Sulfur fungicide, you can use the two at the same time. Otherwise you have to wait for 30 days between sprays. Only one application needs to be applied to trees and shrubs anytime after President’s Day in February and before the leaves come out in the Spring. The air temperature needs to be above 40 to 45 degrees F. at the time of application and for 3 to 4 hours after.   


While I had the sprayer out and with the temperatures above 40 degrees F., I also sprayed my RED TWIG DOGWOOD, Flowering Dogwood tree , Redbud treeS, Lilac bushes, and Euonymus with ALL SEASONS OIL to control scale, other overwintering insects.  The ALL SEASONS OIL (sometimes labeled horticultural oil) is an organic spray that will also help to control whitefly during immature stages, aphid’s eggs, certain caterpillars, mite eggs, and sawfly eggs and larvae in addition to scale. Apply as a dormant application after President’s Day in February and before the leaves start to appear on the plant. As with the Lime-Sulfur, the air temperature needs to be above 40 to 45 degrees F. at the time of application and for 3 to 4 hours after.  



I prune my red “Heritage Raspberries” and yellow “Fall Gold Raspberries” the end of February or in early March and clean up the bed. I remove the dead canes and trim the tops of those canes that will produce a late spring crop. Remove only the part that produced berries last fall. Both of these are an everbearing variety which means they can have a crop in the spring and another in the fall if pruned properly. If you just want a large fall crop, cut off all the canes clear to the ground and let the new shoots grow all summer. In July prune off any weak and spindly new shoots and thin out the canes if needed. Too many canes makes for small fruit.

          My “Black Raspberries” (variety unknown) get topped (cut off at the height of my fence) at the same time, and the laterals that produce the berries are trimmed so they only have 10 to 12 buds per lateral. For more information on growing and pruning Raspberries go to Type in Raspberries or NEBGUIDE #1580 “GROWING RASPBERRIES”.


5. DO NOT FERTILIZE LAWN UNTIL END OF APRIL . March is too early to apply “Fertilizer and Crabgrass Preventer” to the lawn. In a couple weeks I will have an article on Lawn Care that details what to do when. Remember, the more you fertilize in early spring, the more likely you are to have disease and insect problems later on. Heavy fertilization in the spring makes the lawn grow too much as it wakes up, and stresses the plant. Disease and insects love to invade plants that are under stress.  



According to a publication from Iowa State University Extension Service, “The late dormant period (February to early April) is an excellent time to prune deciduous trees. The absence of foliage at this time of year gives the home gardener a clear view of the tree and allows him/her to select and remove appropriate branches. Also, the "healing" processes (wound compartmentalization and callus formation) occur most rapidly just prior to the onset of growth in spring. Proper pruning improves the appearance, maintains the health, and prolongs the life of trees. Improper pruning destroys their natural beauty, weakens them, and may lead to their premature death.”  

          “It is essential to make proper cuts when pruning trees. Do not make flush cuts. Flush cuts are cuts made as close as possible to the trunk or main branch. Flush cuts produce large wounds, destroy the tree's natural mechanisms that promote healing, and slow the healing process. When pruning trees, make the final cut just beyond the branch collar and branch bark ridge. The branch collar is the swollen area at the base of the branch. The branch bark ridge is the dark, rough bark ridge that separates the branch from the main branch or trunk. Pruning just beyond the branch collar and branch bark ridge retains the tree's natural defense mechanisms and promotes the healing process. When a branch is pruned properly, a slightly raised area remains on the trunk or main branch. However, do not leave stubs.”

            “Do not apply wound dressings to pruning cuts. The application of wound dressings or paints doesn't stop decay and may actually inhibit or delay the healing of wounds. There is one exception to the no paint recommendation. That exception involves oak trees. To reduce the risk of the spread of oak wilt, don 't prune oaks from April 1 to July 1. If you must prune oaks between April 1 and July 1, for example to correct storm damage, apply a wound dressing or paint to all cut surfaces.” Reprinted by permission from Horticulture and Home Pest News, February 23, 2001 issue, pp. 13-14.

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