Fingers crossed, but I think we have come through the worst this winter has to throw at us.
Luckily, in Cloverdale we escaped the worst of the ice storm.
It might be hard to believe but right now is the perfect time to go out and do some pruning — if you can find a dry day, that is.
Fruit trees are most often pruned during the dormant period. The best time to do this is just before the buds begin to swell, which means the next day with good weather would be the perfect time to prune apple and pear trees. Peach and nectarine trees, which are more tender, should be pruned when they are blooming.
You always start your pruning by removing the three D’s: damaged, dead and diseased branches. Your next step is to remove water sprouts and suckers.
Suckers are the branches that come from the root system of the tree or shrub. Water sprouts are suckers that originate in the branches. Both are fast growers and should be removed, because they use up the energy that should be put into fruit production. They are usually weakly attached, so if left to grow they will eventually break off and cause damage.
Once those are removed, step back and look at your tree. The purpose of pruning fruit trees is to increase the yield and to prevent diseases. To prevent disease, you want to increase the air flow through your trees. Carefully look at your tree and remove branches that cross through the centre. If two branches are on top of one another, remove the weakest branch.
The last step is to prune to shape. If necessary, remove top growth to reduce the height and lower growth to get underneath the tree.
Pruning your trees every year greatly reduces the amount you have to shape, and your trees will benefit more.
If you are growing everbearing or fall-fruiting raspberries, now is the time to cut them right back to the ground. If you find that too drastic, prune away all parts of the cane that fruited last fall. Cutting all the way to the ground will increase the yield of your fall crop, but you will eliminate the spring crop. Summer-bearing varieties should be pruned in the fall by removing half of the old canes.
Blueberries and grapes should also be pruned in the dormant season.
Once you have pruned your fruit trees and shrubs, you can move onto your roses. The gardener’s rule is when the forsythia is flowering, it is safe to prune your roses.
The one request I have to all gardeners is to appreciate the natural shape of your tree or shrub and to resist the urge to shape them into a square box or a round ball.
Sharpen and oil your pruners and have fun. It’s not as hard as you think it might be. The hard part is finding that dry day.
Nancy Kramer is president of the Cloverdale Garden Club. The next garden club meeting is Thursday, Feb. 8, from 7:15—9:15 p.m. at Don Christian Recreation Centre (6220 184 Street).