by Linda Heideman, Somervell County Master Gardener
Finish pruning before the trees start to leaf out in your area. A well-trained tree should need very little pruning later in life. However, in many cases a tree is not trained well when young, necessitating more severe pruning later to try to fix the problems caused by a lack of pruning.
Shear hedges just prior to the onset of new growth. Shrubs that are not hedges can be pruned in a more natural form for less ongoing work. Cut long shoots extending out of bounds back to where they join another branch. If the shrub is an older, multi-stemmed shrub that lacks vigor and doesn’t bloom well, cut 20% of the oldest branches out at just above the soil line. Do this every year and in five years you will have rejuvenated the entire bush without detracting from its overall appearance.
Go through your fruit trees and grape vines to check for fruit left dried and hanging on the tree or on the ground. Remove it from the orchard to remove a source of potential disease infection when the new crop comes on in spring.
This is the time to complete your fruit- and nut-pruning chores. Pecans are pruned primarily when they are young trees to train them. Once they get older, pruning is often not practical in a home planting; but it is often necessary to remove dead and broken limbs both in winter and during the course of the season. Apples, pears, peaches, plums, and grapes require both training when young and annual pruning when they get older. Persimmons, jujubes, and citrus need minimal pruning. Figs need little if any pruning, although you may be removing dead branches killed by freezes. Blueberries won’t need much pruning until they get older and then you can start the five-year rejuvenation schedule mentioned for ornamental shrubs above.
Keep your pruning equipment sharp as it makes pruning easier and tends to make cleaner cuts that heal better. Read up on pruning each species you grow so your training and pruning decisions will be ones that make the tree stronger and more fruitful.
From Texas Gardener Magazine, January/February 2014