Pruning the Apple Trees – After the Deer already did – and Other Spring Tasks

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I’m way late pruning my apple trees this year, but who can blame me? We’ve had snow on the ground pretty much since Halloween, and really didn’t have much for the Chinooks, the “snow-eaters” that melt the snow and give us a reprieve during the winter. When they make life bearable, I think is the best time to be outside to prune. 

We are mere weeks away from bud break so I have to get cracking (especially since my friend Coya’s bunnies like the apple tree wood), but when I went out to take a look at the trees this afternoon, I discovered the deer beat me to a lot of the trimming. Instead of taking off the ends of the branches, this year I simply have to clean-up the frayed ends. Using my hand-pruners, I’ll snip off the ends at the next bud. And since fire blight is prevalent, I’ll be sure to disinfect them with bleach wipes after each cut.

Beyond that, pruning will follow the same simple guideline of training the branches to spiral up the trunk preferably so they are not shaded by the one above them. Water sprouts also need to be cut out, but with the deer helping me out so much, there won’t be much to do. I think Coya’s bunnies might be disappointed. 

Even though it’s the first week of April, there is still snow on the ground. While this is hampering any hopes of planting within the next few weeks, I am going to take advantage of the weather to handle spring tasks in a different matter. I’m bringing out the flame weeder to clean up the garden and am looking forward to it.  

When we were outside this afternoon – since the snow finally stopped falling after the latest storm – I took an inventory of what needed to be done. After pruning the fruit trees, my next chore is to clean up the front flower garden. One of the biggest tasks is tackling the hops. It stretches a good 10 ft. along the fence and is considerably tenacious clinging to the fence. I think burning it off with the flame weeder is going to be efficient… and a total kick. 

Beyond the hops, I’ll take the weeder to eliminate some of the taller, dried annual weeds (such as the pigweed) in the food forest garden. I really could pull them, but fire, especially without the risk of torching the entire neighborhood, is far more enjoyable. 

The autumn-bearing raspberries also need to be cut down to the ground soon. This is a task normally completed by now, but the weather just has us set back. Holding close to my theme, I think we’ll pile the dried stalks and burn them, too! 

And I do need to finish removing the lavender catmint and miscellaneous plants in the second side garden near the patio in order to plant native varieties and start my wildlife beds. The challenge is going to be finding appropriate plants such as yucca, penstemons, biscuit-root, and bergamot. I also sent my husband the plans for an Adirondack style chair for one of them since I envision sitting out there in the morning enjoying my coffee and watching the birds and butterflies. This is the plan anyway! 

Even with the snow it’s time to get excited about playing in the garden. So whether Mother Nature is cooperating or not, start knocking out those projects so you’re ready when she is. 

Meet Amy Grisak

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