Time is right for pruning fruit trees

Written by Jennie Hagen March 02, 2011 02:32 pm

Fruit tree pruning should be in progress right now. It’s a good idea to get your trees in shape prior to bud break in the spring.

Dormant oil spray can also be applied. There are numerous types on the market today that do not include unhealthy metals that can leach into the soil or cause damage to beneficial insects.

As with any outdoor gardening activity, please be sure to wear protective equipment when applying any type of spray. Gloves are a must and a face mask is a cheap investment to protect your airway. Care, of course, must also be taken when pruning taller trees. It never hurts to have someone else as a spotter or ladder-holder if you are trying to reach limbs that are too high for you to comfortably access. There are also several professional businesses in our area that can trim the trees for you.

If you are investigating a contractor, ask if they are members of the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), formerly the National Arborist Association. The TCIA has been supplying arborists and gardeners alike with information and professional resources for more than 73 years. In general, its members practice good tree care and have the latest information for advanced skills and up-to-date research available to them through the association. The TCIA website also allows you to search, by zip code, for TCIA-certified professional in our area (there are two listed). Other companies may be members — just ask for their certification number. The TCIA website is www.treecareindustry.org.

One reason why I have been impressed with other TCIA members in the past is they do not subscribe to or believe tree-topping is a resource that should be used simply to manage a tree’s height. Topping a tree, or cutting out the main stem, is one of the worst things that can be done to a tree. It isn’t just unsightly, it compromises the overall health of the tree by decreasing the tree’s resistance to insect damage or diseases. In general, it should never be done.

The City of La Grande has an excellent program and literature available for interested persons who are thinking of planting a tree, hiring a contractor or just wanting to learn more about urban forestry. Publications may be printed from online or picked up at City Hall.

These publications include a seven-page “Street Tree Planting Guide” from the City of La Grande Urban Forestry Division, a list of seven contractors who are licensed with the city for commercial tree and landscape services, a 12-page pruning guide from the USDA, and a three-page handout of the list of recommended street trees. There is also a link on the website for a two-page handout titled “Tree Topping — A Bad Direction For Healthy Trees,” and excellent recommendations for tree trimming and reasons why a tree should not be topped to begin with.

Remember, the City of La Grande has been a member of “Tree City USA” for more than 20 years. Certain criteria must be reached and maintained to continue being classified as a “Tree City.”

The City of La Grande has taken great care in the preparation of these publications and maintaining city trees. Please visit www.cityoflagrande.org for more information. Click on the link for “Urban Forestry” for this information online. These publications are useful for all areas of our communities here in Union and Wallowa counties.

Of special interest with the handout of recommended trees is the classification system used. Class I Small Trees are those trees for under high voltage electric lines with a minimum 4-foot-wide planting strip. These would obviously preclude the need for topping!

Class II Columnar Trees are suitable for narrow spaces with the same 4-foot minimum planting strip. Class III Medium-sized Trees require a minimum 6-foot  planting strip. The final Class IV Large Trees require a minimum 8-foot planting strip. Dozens of trees are listed.

Until next time, happy garden thoughts are essential (I won’t mention the wind), and please prune carefully!


Jennie Lu Hagen is a La Grande gardener.