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Before the hot weather arrives to stimulate growth it’s time to prune deciduous trees. You can see what needs to be done before new leaves hide the situation. Start by cutting out those branches that cross over, rub against one another, and go towards the center of the tree. Also remove old stubs from previous pruning and any diseased wood. The purpose its to open up the branch structure so future winds blow through the tree rather than blowing against it, often causing breakages. In the case of fruit trees,you have the opportunity to trim the tree to size. Tall branches with fruit on them provide food for birds, fruit that you can’t reach.
I have a productive old pomegranate tree that is developing old wood and I think the tree will benefit if I cut it out close to the ground. This will make room for the younger branches to grow in their space and provide fruit lower down the tree.
Many of our native shade trees are infested with mistletoe and it can be removed easily because you can see it. In another month it will be hidden by new leaf growth. Young mistletoe can be pulled off. Admittedly it will grow back. but it’s better to keep it in check with further pulling instead of allowing it to further invade the branches. Well-established mistletoe probably needs to be cut out, tree branch and all. Don’t leave heaps of mistletoe lying around, especially if it has berries on it.
I like to use a can of spray paint on the end of large cuts. It seals out disease spores blowing in the wind that might land on the moist ends and stay there long enough to invade the wood. I don’t use the tar-like sealers because they peel off the pruned ends and don’t give good protection.
Another job that could be done now is tree planting. Dormant trees, both bare and with leaves, have nothing to lose by being put out in warm sunshine. Earlier, the weather was too cold and soon it will be too hot for good establishment– we have a narrow window of opportunity. We want a young citrus tree to be in the ground well before it flowers out.
The first thing to do is to prepare the soil’ and there isn’t a lot of time for this essential job. It’s a hole measuring five feet by five feet by five feet. This may seem excessive to some gardeners but the benefits far outweigh the effort. If caliche is down there you’ll find it (and, of course, remove it). By filling the hole with a mix of fifteen bags of steer manure,ten pounds of ammonium phosphate (NOT sulfate) and thirty pounds of soil sulfur you provide a large plant pot of fertility that will give your new planting a good start in life. Good luck! but in a short while you’ll have a vigorous tree that gives you shade or fruit, or both.