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Gardening 101: Time To Do Winter Tree Pruning

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — In the winter you see the bones of your tree. In this naked state it is a good time to perform a visual inspection of how it is doing. This task is especially important in the wake of the historic freeze of 2021. Many trees survived the brutal cold snap (the coldest temperatures at DFW in 72 years) but struggled in their recovery through the growing season. Now is the time to prune away any damage.

Pruning while the tree is in a dormant state is important. The tree can start healing from the cut quicker, sealing the tree's living tissue from insect and fungus damage. For some trees, winter is the ONLY time to consider pruning.

Oak wilt is across all of North Texas now, an extremely destructive fungal disease. Pruning in the coldest part of winter (in January) keeps the fungus from spreading.

In this week's story Steve Huddleston, with the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, shows how to make the perfect prune cut in three easy steps. The first two uses gravity to make a branch drop almost like magic, you need to watch the video so you can see for yourself. Cutting this way keeps of the worse things happening: the bark peals away on trunk at the bottom of the cut branch, making for a huge wound that will be difficult for the tree to repair. If you look at an old tree that has been pruned correctly over the decades, you can STILL see the cut marks. But they should just be tiny circles instead of long scars. Your work, good or bad, stays with the tree during its lifetime.

Steve talks about symmetry when he prunes his trees. The branches should all start around the same height and be evenly spaced around the tree so it's not heavy on one side or another. This allows the tree to handle high winds better and also looks much better.

Winter pruning is also the time to address any branches that are getting too close to the house or driveway. If you see a branch that is diseased, heavily damaged or broken that one also should go. Another thing to look for - branches that cross over each other and rub. Eventually it will rub away the bark on one if not both branches, killing them. Pick the better branch and remove the other one.

A tree lives a long time, likely longer than you. Keeping it in good shape with minimum scaring will bring you praise long after you are gone. A good way to be remembered.

Next week: the drab of winter doesn't have to be all greys and browns. There are a few shrubs you can grow here in north Texas that actually FLOWER in the winter. I'm not saying you should plant them all over your yard. But a few tucked away corners that have a surprising color in the winter months is a good garden to walk around in.

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