Pruning tips and nuisance pests
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This will begin the new season of columns for
the year. With the reorganization of Extension units, there will be
opportunities to hear from others as the season progresses. Jennifer
Fishburn, horticulture educator, and Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant,
specializing in small
farms and locally grown products, will have program responsibilities for
Logan, Menard and Sangamon counties beginning July 1 -- so look
forward to contributions from them as well. Enjoy the upcoming
We are rapidly approaching the end of the
pruning season for most fruit trees and deciduous ornamentals.
There are a few rules that are recommended for pruning, and
there are several other items that are up to "pruner
One of the beginning items to discuss is the equipment. Most
pruning can be done with three pieces of equipment. The one most
used is a pair of bypass pruning shears. These shears will cut
up to about three-eighths inch comfortably and will make sharp
cuts that don't tear or crush. There are still anvil-type shears
available, but their use is mainly in vineyards to girdle
grapevine ends. The second piece of equipment is a bypass
lopper. Loppers can cut up to about 1.5-inch wood, depending on
the type and size. If you have the money, a good set of compound
action loppers would be a good investment. The third piece of
equipment is a pruning saw. These can come in several shapes,
sizes and price ranges. For smaller limbs, a folding or straight
pruning saw is a good buy. For larger limbs, a bow saw may be
needed. The maneuverability and ease of use are key points when
selecting a saw.
The time of year we prune various trees and shrubs is
important. Most trees and shrubs that aren't flowering in nature
should be pruned between December and mid-March. Flowering trees
and shrubs should be done after they flower. Evergreens are best
pruned in late June. With oak wilt in the area, oaks should be
pruned in December to lessen sap flow, which attracts
virus-carrying beetles. And, any branch that hits you in the
face when you are mowing should be cut off immediately (except
on those oak trees).
Basic pruning should serve to remove poor branches, keep the
plant growing aggressively and do a little bit with shaping a
plant. Poor branches mean bad angles from a trunk or main
branch, dead branches, branches that rub together or multiple
leaders. As far as keeping a plant growing aggressively,
remember that pruning is a rejuvenation process. Regular pruning
also produces more 2-year-old wood that produces fruit on fruit
trees and flowers on flowering trees and shrubs. Minor shaping
and sizing are possible, but major changes probably mean a
different plant should be selected.
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When making a pruning cut, the key is to cut back to something.
Branch tips can be cut back to a bud, and entire branches can be
cut back to another branch or the main trunk. When making the
cut to a branch or trunk, cut to the edge of the collar -- about
one-sixteenth of an inch from the other branch. Cutting too
close to the other branch destroys the water-carrying tissue,
and leaving a stub will guarantee a rotten end that will
eventually rot into the main branch or trunk. If you are making
cuts on large branches, it is best to cut once about 18 inches
from the main branch, then make a second cut to leave the
one-sixteenth-inch collar. This will help prevent the cut branch
from tearing other branches.
Topping a tree lessens weight and
reduces size for a short period of time. Within five years of
topping, you will generally have more weight and growth than you
would have had without topping.
Hopefully these basic pruning hints will help you get started on
the right foot. Remember the golden rule of pruning: "If you think
you've cut out too much, you're probably about right."
As we get warm spells, we will have the usual "nuisance pests"
appear. These include millipedes, Asian ladybugs, ant swarms, box
elder bugs and elm leaf beetles, to name a few. They are called
nuisance pests because that is what they are. Very few will do any
damage to anything. They just cause that feeling of disgust when you
find them in the house.
The best controls are foundation sprays using a chemical such as
permethrin or bifenthrin, spot sprays of the same chemical to
control grouped insects, bait stations, and sticky traps. A
combination of methods will actually give the best results, even if
they are not perfect.
University of Illinois Extension]