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The Green Thumb: Pruning

Pruning a tree with shears
PhotoMIX-Company, Photographer

This is Taun Beddes, a Utah State University Extension Horticulturist in Juab and Utah Counties.

Spring is in the air and with it comes the urge to prune trees and shrubs. But before you grab your shears let's discuss some key tips to avoid making trimming sessions a tangled mess. Pruning might seem straight forward but it takes a little practice to get the hang of it. Kind of like riding a bike. And so here are some helpful pointers to help you so that your not having to make your best guess on knowing what to prune.

The first rule of thumb is to avoid removing more than 25 percent of a trees or shrubs branches in a year. Going overboard can actually stress the plant leading to a surge of new uncontrolled growth with weak angles that can weaken the whole structure. These unwanted sprouts are often called water sprouts. Think of it this way, the roots have stored energy to support the existing branches. If you prune too heavily the energy gets rerouted causing a lot of unwanted growth.

The next step is to remember the three "D's." The first two "D's" stand for dead and diseased wood. This sort of wood can be removed at anytime doesn't count toward the 25 percent limit. Simply identify any dead or diseased branches and cut them out. The third "D" stands for done wood and these branches aren't contributing positively to the overall shape and health of the plant. This includes branches growing inwards toward the center, ones drooping downwards and any branches that are crossing and rubbing against each other.

If you want to learn more about pruning Utah State University Extension has a wealth of resources on the subject including fact sheets and videos. You can find them online or you can call your local USU Extension office. They are always happy to help. Remember with a little knowledge and the right approach pruning can be a breeze.

Happy Gardening! This is Taun Beddes, a Utah State University Extension horticulturist.