PbD January Pruning & Garden Calendar

What’s on your garden calendar in January? Time to make your garden plans for spring and continue with dormant season pruning while plants and trees will be less stressed. It’s also a great time to call in expert arborists to assess trees and shrubs, too.

The PbD team works on dormant trees and shrubs and Adele is an ISA certified Arborist. In winter months, we are better able to view the architecture and branch attachments to maintain the strongest and work to eliminate the weaker ones, so the tree or shrub can have a healthy balance. We are always careful not to damage branch collars when we prune. And of course, right now we can look for previous insect damage and get rid of the dead wood! Timing and precision are important. Here’s a short list of January pruning items in the Mid-Atlantic region:

SHADE TREES : oak, hickory, beech, black gum, poplar, sycamore, ginkgo

“BLEEDER TREES” : birch, dogwood, elm, maple, & styrax

TREE PRUNING CALENDAR from North Carolina Cooperative Extension Office / NC A&T University

WONDERFUL SHRUB CALENDAR from Virginia Tech Extension Office

Even in January, be on the lookout for Fall Cankerworm.

What the heck is Integrated Pest Management?

Besides being wonderful, IPM–Integrated Pest Management–is a sustainable, environmental approach to managing insect pests in our gardens and other managed, urban and suburban landscapes. The acronym need not be mysterious or intimidating, on the contrary, IPM will become your “Go To” once you get to know it!

Friends of Foes? Insects on Cherry Tree photo by adele medina o’dowd

IPM Control Tactics start to finish…

Monitor Key Pests and Key Plants : Learn what to look for in your own garden and decide which areas, plants and trees are most important to you. (If, for example, Azaleas and Rhododendrons are important, get help from the UMD extension office website.) Get assistance in diagnosing and strategizing, as needed. Pruning by Design can help you with this!

Cultural and Sanitation Practices : Add biodiversity and native plants to your yard, include disease resistant plants, maintain plant health, mulch, reduce habitat and soil stresses. Make sure irrigation is not too much or too little. PbD can help you with this!

Mechanical and Physical Controls : PbD can help you with this! PRUNE! Prune out infestations and hand pick to remove problem insect pests, use high pressure water spray to blast them off. Prune to encourage airflow and remove disease vectors.

Biological Controls : Implement these after working with other good plant health care practices, encourage or establish predatory insects such as lacewings and lady beetles to pray on pests like aphids, attract and support birds in your own garden, add beneficial nematodes in your soil, strive for a natural balance of predator and pray insects in your yard so that pest outbreaks are less likely. PbD can help you with this!

Chemical Controls : Last Resort, use organic and inorganic pesticides only on a prescription basis, applied by professionals. There is real and present danger for pollinators and other beneficial insects, as well as humans, when they are used in our neighborhoods. Check out your pesticides with the OMRI, Organic Materials Review Institute. PbD does not use chemical controls.

Don’t use fertilizers. Nitrogen, common in nearly every fertilizer, can actually promote secondary pest outbreaks that are worse than the first infestation, sigh!

Don’t let bad box pruning happen to you!

Bad Boxwood Pruning

SHEARING = BAD BOXWOOD PRUNING

Friends don’t let friends shear boxwood: Check out the brown leaves cut in half, carelessly and needlessly wrecking photosynthesis potential for making food for the plant. This type of “pruning” also, unfortunately encourages foliage to grow as an outer “shell”, blocking light and air circulation to the interior. SAD!

Pruning by Design can fix this. pruningbydesign@gmail.com

Azalea pruning time is NOW

This azalea branch below is toooooo long and growing horizontally into the plant.  It will break someday.  That’s not great for the shrub!Azalea pruning time

Azaleas are very tough so after they bloom and after the new leaves have flushed out, it’s time to prune in your area.  In the Washington, DC area, the time is now – late June.


Azalea pruning time

Find a joint where there are too many branches (see below). Make a diagonal cut with the longer side of the cut on the side where you’d like new growth to appear or continue growing.  This joint has many other branches growing vertically which can be encouraged to grow upward rather than sideways.  Azaleas can take very hard pruning.  It’s very hard to make a mistake with Azaleas (a type of Rhododendron).
Azalea pruning time

Here (below) is the “after” view of the joint with the new cut.  This is a good, clean cut outside the branch collar.  The long horizontal branch that was there before is no longer crossing into the shrub.  Growth is encouraged to grow up and outwards allowing light and air into the interior of the shrub!

pruningbydesign@gmail.com can help you prune Azaleas for health, beauty and a long life.  write to us today!


Azalea pruning time

PbDToDo in March

Cabin Fever Brings Us Out

Despite the bitter cold and soggy snow that blanketed Washington DC this winter, March has arrived.  We know spring is coming because if you look closely enough, you will see the tender leaf tips of bulbs, especially daffodils, just emerging. Right now, we are working quickly in gardens to take advantage of the great opportunity to prune in the last moments of winter.  Many plants and trees should or MUST be pruned at this time of year while the temperatures are consistently below 50 degrees fahrenheit.  And besides, who can sit inside any longer?

What to prune now

If a woody plant or tree will bloom from stems that grow this year, then winter is the time to prune them.  Mostly, these are plants that will bloom in summer and fall.  Doing so now is much easier on the plant. Since they are not putting energy into growing, cuts heal more quickly and there is much less risk of spreading any disease.  On the other hand, if  blooms grow from older stems, stems that grew last year or earlier, then wait till after they bloom to prune them.  Many of these are spring bloomers.

To keep it simple, here is a short list to focus on:

Boxwood

Roses

Fruit Trees

Crape Myrtles

Hydrangea paniculata (PeeGees) and arboresescens (Annabelles)

Care should be taken with Hydrangeas to be sure they are not Oakleaf or Hydrangea macrphylla.  They bloom on old wood and if you prune them now, you will remove flowerbuds.  These can wait till later in the season.

Goodbye Winterburn!

One more easy task to do now is to cut back liriope and other ornamental grasses.  By now, they can look so shabby it’s difficult to bare.  Cutting them back gives new shoots an opportunity to absorb light and relieves the plants from trying to sustain the old blades at the same time they need to feed new ones.  It won’t take long before the new growth will cover the stubble, which in any case is still better to look at than the tired, brown salt suffering stems.

It’s always ok to prune off damaged or week branches.  It’s not always easy to see if a branch that’s dormant is still vital, but looking very closely can reveal life so take a minute to inspect.  Finding the first signs of life in the garden is a genuine thrill.

PbDToDo May

To Do in MAY:  Time to Dig In!

Finally the month of May is upon us and the gardening season is in full swing. You could work in the garden from sunup to sundown all month long and still not get everything done that you wanted to.  So here’s a list to help you prioritize.

Be ready to water as needed, especially in the vegetable garden. Most landscape plants need an inch of water per week (either from you or Mother Nature).

Get out there and plant something. This is an ideal month to start a vegetable or flower garden project. We have a long, forgiving growing season, so it’s not too late. Select easy-to-grow plants that love hot weather.

Mulch to feed the soil and discourage weeds. Only two cautions:  don’t pile it up too deeply (2 inches is plenty), and don’t pile mulch up against the trunks of your trees.

Turn spring compost piles. Keep adding green material (spent pansies, finished mustard greens, etc.) to the compost heap.

Prune spring bloomers as they finish blooming. Deadhead roses to encourage more blooms and apply an organic fertilizer. Watch for signs of fire blight in pears and apples, and cut off infected branches following Cooperative Extension advice, dipping your shears in bleach or alcohol between cuts. Dispose of branches by burning or bagging and tossing.   Don’t leave them on the ground or put them in the compost.

For larger fruit, thin peaches, plums, and Asian pears to 4 to 6 inches apart.

Try some annual flowers, from amaranth to zinnias. Don’t forget summer bulbs, including gladiolus, crinums and tuberoses, and foliage plants such as coleus and Caladium. Plant moonflower (Ipomoea alba), caladium, coleus, zinnia, and other heat-tolerant flowers.

Move indoor plants out to the porch, patio or front stoop. Fertilize them with a mild, liquid organic fertilizer.