Proper Trimming of Trees and Shrubs

| September 5, 2018 | 0 Comments

Clements loves his Jameson saw because the blades are reasonably priced and don’t need sharpening.

This past year, John Clements gave the Mission Hills Garden Club a presentation on pruning trees and shrubs. Although September is not the month for pruning roses, the principals of pruning are basically the same. John showed us the tools he considers essential, some of the sprays he uses, gave us the rationale behind pruning, and showed us basic guidelines.

He began by removing a large sprayer with a metal hose from a cardboard box. Clements says if your fruit tree is dropping leaves or seems off, get rid of pests and disease before doing anything else. This may mean spraying.

Getting rid of pests and diseases as well as preventing new ones means cleaning all debris under and around the plant before you spray. This is no longer mulch, and your composter cannot get hot enough to sterilize this debris. Those leaves are highly contagious.

For pests that bore you will need an oil spray. Boring pests literally eat the inside of the trunks and branches. An oil Clements likes is Bonide All Seasons Horticultural and Dormant Spray Oil. Its ad claims it “kills insect eggs and soft bodied adults by smothering them. Works great indoors or out on aphids, whitefly, mites and scale, and can be used as a dormant spray (no leaves) or delayed dormant (green tip) spray.” Among other products John uses are Liqui Cop RTS, and Daconil fungicide. Spray every one of the tree’s surfaces. About a week later, apply horticultural oil spray, again, on all surfaces of the tree.

He had several samples of pesticides in his cardboard box. He recommends purchasing spray in bulk. The “box” stores sell small containers ready to use. To thoroughly spray even a tiny tree, you will need a great deal more than those small containers. The big sprayer allows you to use a concentrated spray mixed with water, which goes much farther than the very expensive ready to use form. The ready-to-use costs about $14.00, John says; a quart of concentrate is $20.00.*

Clements gave us some basic pruning tips. In his opinion, the first step in pruning is to put hedge clippers away. He says, “God didn’t intend every plant in your garden to be a ball, square, drum, poodle, or pillar.” He has seen gardeners take “gas hedgers to fruit trees and trim them like hedges…Just ghastly.”

The second step is to remove invasive plants that climb into your trees. He says for the tree it must seem “like a python crawling up your pant leg.” In addition, rats and mice love making homes in ivy and other vines. Once the ground area is clear, cut away all dead or diseased portions of the plant. Then he suggests you step back. The plant will already look better. Be sure to remove all debris, dead leaves and old stubs from previous bad pruning.   Now you are ready to prune. Making every cut just about ¼ inch above a bud is important. He showed the thin line that branches have: it is the proper place to cut. This prevents disease and pests from entering the heartwood of your tree. Leave no stubs. You want the new growth to grow outward from the trunk.

Any growth below the graft line must be removed. It is about six inches above the bottom of the trunk. To avoid over-pruning, keep moving around the tree. Step back to see your work. Your goal is to open the tree or shrub so it has good air circulation.

Another hint of Clements is to shake your prospects before cutting. To avoid cutting a vital branch, wriggle the branch or twig to see where it goes. Be certain to remove branches that cross another. Choose the best branch and remove the “inferior one.” Branches should never rub against one another. Remove perpendicular branches as well. Horizontal branches coming from the trunk are the ones to save. Fruit doesn’t grow on vertical branches. Keep branches off the ground, walls, and other plants. Clements says. “Negative space is as important as positive space.” For your plants’ health and beauty, it is good to remember that negative space is not just aesthetically pleasing; negative spaces provide openings for air and light to penetrate. Breezes help reduce insect populations.

Clements removed various cutting tools from his cardboard box. He loves his Jameson saw. He doesn’t spend a fortune on saws. Jameson blades are reasonably priced and don’t need sharpening. When a blade becomes dull, he buys a new blade. He does, however, keep a small sharpener with a red plastic handle for use on clippers, which can be sharpened. The sharpener fits in a small pocket.

Cleanliness is essential when pruning. To prevent spreading disease, Clements never prunes a second tree or bush without sterilizing whatever will touch the next plant, spraying his tools with bleach between plants. Then he sprays the blades with WD 40 to keep the bleach from rusting the clippers. He also keeps a towel handy to wipe off sawdust from the saw’s teeth. Clements mentioned someone whose $10,000 palm died from using the blade he had used on a diseased plant. Treat each plant as a doctor would a patient; it is worth the extra effort.

Gophers and ground squirrels are also dangerous pests. A gopher can destroy a bush in thirty minutes. Trapping them and letting the animal disposal people take care of them is worth doing. You can pay someone $42 to trap a gopher. Do not use poison; a poisoned gopher may be a meal for a pet or wild creature. Eating a poisoned gopher will guarantee that whoever eats it will die an agonizing death.

Clements carries a magnifying glass or even a mini-microscope to examine anything that seems suspicious. He also uses a very tall stepladder. He regularly gives his plants a shower with a watering can. He blasts bugs with a jet nozzle as well. Water (unless you live in Flint) is non-toxic.

Clements showed us that a healthy garden needs to be cared for like a pet or a child. I feel guilty because I am not overly fond of adding more chores to my life, and now I know how my plants are suffering. At least there is no fine for plant abuse.

Renew your membership from 6 to p.m., Wednesday, September 26 at the Mission Hills Nursery, located at 1525 Fort Stockton Drive. The topic is Bees and Gardens with Jeff Harms.


Category: feature, Local News

About the Author ()

Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.