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Saturday, July 26, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 4/10/2013

Trees need to be in ‘bikini shape' too

BY KELLY HEIDBREDER
IN THE GARDEN

Are you working out and trying to get into shape for summer bikini season? Yeah, me too. Your trees might need to trim down as well.

Winter is the best time for pruning, but if a plant is overgrown, you can do a little now and finish it off this winter. Right now, your fruit trees are growing strong, pushing buds out on their branches that will become fruit later this summer.

If you have a flowering or fruiting tree, its root system is trying to keep all of those branches and leaves fed and has little food left for the fruit. After you have cleaned and sharpened your long handled pruners, get in that tree and cut out any branches that touch or cross each other. Also take out any broken or diseased limbs. Branches bigger than your thumb may have to be sawed off.

I have a flowering crab apple tree that hangs over the driveway. It is very beautiful, but also very messy. It needs to lose a few inches to keep the messy fruit off the trees and the cement. It is time to make some priorities when you grab the pruners.

Trees like flowering crab apple and other fruit trees should be shaped like an umbrella; one main trunk with horizontal branches that sprout from that main trunk. The first thing to do is to cut off any stray sprouts that are shooting up around the base of the trunk.

Next, make sure you have one main trunk with a series of larger branches sprouting from it. I had a large branch that was growing almost straight up, so it has to go. Cut at a downward angle near the trunk. There is a swelled ring around the base of every limb and make your cut just after that growth collar.

The next priority is to give the tree a good general shape. Stand back and make sure it is as balanced as you can make it. I have a lot of shade on one side of my yard, so my tree is literally reaching across my driveway for more light. Pruners help me cut some of the longest top branches to keep it in the umbrella shape.

Then, look at the center of the tree. If the smaller branches are crowded, start pruning out the branches that cross over each other or branches that are broken and damaged.

If you see branches shooting straight up from your top horizontal branches, it is time to prune those out too. You want your tree to grow more horizontally, rather than vertically.

If your tree has never been pruned, you probably have a big pile by now. Next, prune all branches that are growing straight up. These won't produce much fruit and need to be removed. That's enough pruning for now. Never remove more than one third of the plant or tree at a time.

Now that your tree has lost a bit of weight, it will have more energy. Take a good look at the number of buds you have on the tree. Once they start to bloom, you should knock a few off. Leave 12 to 15 blossoms on each branch and pinch the others off. This will help the tree grow bigger fruit.

So how does your tree's new bikini body look? Don't you wish we could all just do a bit of "pruning" to lose a few inches like our trees?

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at getgrowing@gmail.com.



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