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WHAT'S BLOOMIN', A COLUMN BY JANE FORD

Gardening Column: Tips for pruning

Friday, January 24, 2014 - 9:18 am

Snow is falling and the temperature along with it — but homeowners and gardeners everywhere are getting ready for spring. We are poring over seed catalogs and waiting impatiently for nurseries and plant centers to begin stocking their shelves with the paraphernalia that heralds the season.

What gardening tool, plant, or new item is on your wish list in preparation for the 2014 season?

While you wait for spring if you want to begin actual gardening outdoors, snow or no — you can prune some dormant plants. If you do that, use caution. Here are a few examples of things not to do:

•Do not prune spring flowering trees, shrubs and vines until after they bloom. Pruning immediately after bloom gives the shrubs adequate time to initiate new flower buds for next season.

•Do not prune evergreens until late March or mid-April, right before new growth begins. It is best to prune cautiously and request instructions on how to do this properly before going armed with pruning shears and saws, etc.

Here is a huge example of what not to do: A man looked at his junipers and yews, and since they were getting too large for the space allowed, he decided he would cut them down to a couple of feet above ground level so they would grow to a more manageable size. He was shocked that they died! In reality, they were shocked — so much so, they didn't survive.

It is best to prune judiciously over three seasons and only take off — at the most — a third of the plant each time. (For instructions on how and when to prune anything, contact the Allen County Extension at 481-6826 and ask for Ricky Kemery, horticulture educator — or write me at the email address provided.)

•Do not prune fruit trees in fall or early winter due to possible winter injury. Best time to prune is late February to early April.

•Do not prune grapevines until March or early April. They may bleed heavily, but this is not a problem.

Now, here are a few examples of things to do when the snow melts and we begin having those warmer days when the top few inches of the soil begin to thaw:

•As soon as the topsoil is thawed a bit, turn it if possible. This will turn up pest eggs that are wintering in the upper layer of the soil and allow birds to feed on them; also, if there is another freeze, many of them will be killed.

•As soon as you can see the ground, you can begin cleaning up the garden. You can rake and cut off the dead tops of perennials and add a layer of compost. You can also add spring fertiliz