Open Mike: Pruning and buying trees
I've already had a few calls this month about whether or not it is too early to prune trees, so I decided to discuss pruning now, before we get any further into the year. Typically, we wait to prune (especially fruit trees) until later in the spring, but there is no reason to wait that long unless it is just your preference.
One reason why you may want to consider pruning now is that it can decrease the "bleeding" out of the open wound on the tree. Though this bleeding, or weeping, is unsightly, it has not been shown to cause any reduction in a tree's overall health. Certain trees bleed more than others however. Those most susceptible to bleeding include maples, black walnut, pecan, birch, mulberry, Osage orange, and grape. Cold air doesn't allow for as much sap flow in trees, so pruning when temperatures are lower can reduce the amount of bleeding from the open wounds. To avoid damaging the woody tissue of the tree, be sure to not prune if the air temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another reason to prune now is to not waste the chemicals you may apply later. This is especially important in fruit trees, since they receive more pesticides than ornamental trees. If you are planning to apply a dormant oil spray before spring, prune sooner rather than later. If you don't, you will just be throwing away treated branches, along with the money you spent on the spray. Also, if those unwanted branches are removed before you apply spray, then you will get better spray contact on the branches that you have chosen to keep.
Since I'm already talking about trees today, I thought I'd mention that now is the time to order conservation trees from the Kansas Forest Service. These are low-cost trees that are one to two years old and usually 12-16 inches tall. The Forest Service accepts orders from now until the first week of May, but to ensure that what you want is available, ordering early is recommended.
Uses for these trees that are approved by the Forest Service include windbreaks, wood lots, riparian plantings, wildlife habitat, and Christmas trees. Windbreaks are an efficient way to use these trees, since our energy costs are so high. Windbreaks are known to greatly reduce heating bills if used properly. Also, for those of you wondering, a riparian planting is a highly recommended buffer strip of vegetation that is planted along streams and other water channels to slow soil erosion from rainfall runoff and flooding of the stream. Uses of these trees that are not approved are landscaping (ornamental) and growing them for resale. You can purchase single species of trees to use (there are many to choose from), or you can buy prepackaged bundles of several species that are specifically designed to enhance habitat for certain species of wildlife (quail, songbird, etc.). For details and a printable order form go to www.kansasforests.org/conservation/index.shtml, or go to www.kansasforests.org/public_saps/Welcome.aspx to order trees online. Another option is to come into the K-State Research and Extension Office and pick up a paper copy of the order form.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact Mike Epley at the Leavenworth County Extension Office on the corner of Hughes and Eisenhower roads in Leavenworth, or call (913) 250-2300. Epley can also be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.