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Now is a good time to prune trees, shrubs

The months of March and April are a good time to prune your trees and shrubs. The main goal of pruning should be to remove dead or diseased branches, reshape overgrown shrubs and to rejuvenate older plants. In general, the best time to prune woody plants is in the early spring. The exception to this rule are trees and shrubs that bloom on old wood. Common ones are lilacs and spirea; they should be pruned immediately after blooming.

When removing large branches on trees, three cuts are required to avoid tearing back the bark. The first cut is made on the underside of the branch, 12 inches from where it joins the trunk. The second cut is made on the top side of the branch, 1 to 2 inches out from the first cut. The final cut should be made at the branch collar. Avoid cutting flush to the main trunk; also avoid leaving branch stubs.

Thinning and heading back are two methods of pruning shrubs. Thinning is the removal of excess branches all the way back to the main stem. This method creates openness without promoting excess growth. Heading back removes the terminal bud portion of the branch and promotes growth of new shoots, resulting in a more dense plant.

Pruning can be a daunting task. The Stutsman County Extension office has lots of materials to help you better understand how to prune your trees and shrubs. If you have any questions about pruning or the health of your trees, please call me at 252-9030 or write me at NDSU-Stutsman County, 116 1/2 East 1st St. Jamestown, ND 58401.