Dr. Eddie Seagle.

Dr. Eddie Seagle

“In life, when you encounter mean and hurtful people, treat them like sandpaper. No matter how rough they may scrub you, you end up polished and smooth.” Nishan Panwar.

“Feeling a little blue in January is normal.” Marilu Henner.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” Anne Bradstreet.

It’s a new year and the weather matches the season. Congrats to Alabama and Ohio State for making it to the national championship game on January 11 in Miami. Also, congrats to UGA for winning the Peach Bowl! Next up, basketball time – Go Dawgs!

Also, it’s that time of the year to start planning for seasonal events and activities in the landscape. As you evaluate your landscapes, determine when you need to start various projects and place them in order of priority. One of the most common activities is pruning. Get in the know-how and plan your pruning schedule! Prune for life – both yours and your plants! Prune those things from your life that keep anchoring you down as you complete the necessary pruning for your plant’s health and curb appeal.

Consider the timing and plant health before beginning any pruning exercises. Delay significant pruning until after any cold weather (and we will have some) of the season passes because existing vegetative growth can serve as a buffer and protect the plant from potential cold damage. Light pruning to remove damaged and broken limbs is acceptable but delay any significant pruning until the potential for cold damage has passed. However, as storms pass through and leave their signature, this damage has to be cleaned up immediately. Proper pruning is essential for heathy plants!

The window between February 15 and March 1 is good benchmark in pruning away all dead material for winter cleanup and spring prep, pending specific local temperatures (ie. knockout roses and lantana). April 1 is a good indicator of the closure to winter weather and the seasonal benchmark for planting annuals and perennials, as well as other landscape activities. Whether you follow such precautions or proceed immediately, do so with care and caution.

Pruning is a mechanical exercise in which a part of the plant is removed for curb appeal and health or to control growth and shape. There are certain effects on the plant as a result of pruning. Let’s try to keep all effects positive. A most common negative effect that is visible as a result of improperly pruning crape myrtles is the condition we universally refer to as “crape murder.”

Short-term effects include the immediate appearance of the plant and how it responds throughout the growing season. The long-term effect is how the plant will look and respond after several seasons of new growth which result from the absence of the pruned parts.

Pruning is easily done but not so easy to do correctly. It takes patience and know-how. There are instances when pruning is formal and also a time for the informal. Plants should be pruned to encourage their natural form and shape. However, lots of pruning activities are improperly performed and the end result changes the plant forever. Once a part is pruned from the plant, it cannot be re-attached. Seek professional assistance for proper advice in pruning specific plants. Think twice and cut once!

Most pruning cuts are informal and should be made individually. The end result should not readily expose the pruning cut to the viewer’s eye which should be hidden by surrounding branches. For example, many crape myrtles are severely cut back (crape murder) to encourage new growth. To some people this is an acceptable practice but it is not an appropriate pruning technique on the plant. On the other hand, selective pruning preserves intact virgin limbs which will be more attractive when pruned to natural shape and form.

In most pruning situations, never remove more than one-third of the overall height or width of the tree or shrub with limited annual pruning as a guideline. However, in some situations like over-grown foundation plants (evergreens) or knock-out roses, you can prune down to about 12-18 inches in height which would provide great stock for spring re-growth.

Proper tools and proper techniques are a must in any pruning operation. All pruning tools must be kept sharp and clean (disinfected), and used with care for the safety of the user and others. A list of such tools would include hand pruners, lopping pruners, hedge shears, hand pruning saw, pole pruning saw, and various power units including chainsaws and selective pruners.

In all pruning operations, always sterilize your tools when moving from plant to plant if diseases appear to be present. This effort will minimize the spread of such diseases. And, when making pruning cuts, be sure the cut is smooth and straight without any tears in plant tissue or bark.

There are advantages and disadvantages to pruning in every season but pruning activities take place in winter, spring, summer and fall. Which season depends on the plant characteristics and features, not as a choice of convenience and simplicity to the homeowner or landscaper. For example, crape myrtles and Little Gem magnolias (and other summer flowering plants) are pruned in spring before new growth since flowering develops on current season wood. Dogwoods and azaleas (and other early spring flowering plants) are pruned after they bloom since flower bud set this year for next spring’s color.The reason for pruning will determine the particular limbs and branches to be removed from a tree or shrub. It is very critical to make an appropriate pruning cut and develop the correct technique in the removal of larger limbs. In pruning to remove diseased portions, the cut should be made in the healthy tissue and away from the diseased wood to minimize contamination of tools and maintain health of the plant. 

“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.” Proverbs 21:10.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires...be made new in the attitude of your minds… and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24.

“But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke 12:31.

The Bible is the only book that you can never finish. It is Alive! You will see new things each time you study it. 2021 – less of me, more of Jesus!

Seagle is a Sustainability Verifier, Golf Environment Organization (Scotland), Agronomist and Horticulturalist, CSI: Seagle (Consulting Services International) LLC, Professor Emeritus and Honorary Alumnus (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College), Distinguished Professor for Teaching and Learning (University System of Georgia) and Short Term Missionary (Heritage Church, Moultrie). Direct inquiries to csi_seagle @yahoo.com.

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