We always seem to get this great burst of sunshine and moderate temperatures in February, a gift I say, from Mother Nature allowing us a glimpse out of the darkness of winter and into the spring days ahead. The key, my friends, is to remember it’s a GLIMPSE. Don’t go crazy out there and start pulling back mulch and planting your spring seeds yet. YES, absolutely if you have a coldframe or some other garden protection get those brassicas started! But for those everyday people with an itch to plant, wait awhile, the weather isn’t ready to cooperate fully yet.
It IS time to get out there and prune though. Apples, pears, blueberries, and the like are all ready for their seasonal trim. If you are lucky enough to have a resistant peach give it awhile more, they don’t rebound well when pruned and then hit by a hard frost. Take a look at your tree and make a plan before you make any cuts. Tying different colored ribbon to limbs helps mark those that stay and those that go. Remember, the rule of thumb is no more than a third of the tree can be pruned at a time, but don’t be afraid to make the necessary choices especially in shaping new trees. The choices you make now will effect future growth, disease resistance, production, and yield. Make sure you have sharpened your loppers and pruners before starting as a sharp, clean cut is one of the keys to a good pruning job. Carry a bottle of rubbing alcohol in your back pocket and clean the blades between trees. One of the quickest ways to spread disease is through cross-contamination. Check for breakage and split limbs, they’ve gotta go as they are a doorway for pest and disease.
Need a “how to” on pruning? Check out Urban Abundances Fruit Tree Stewards Program, you give them a few hours in the community and they teach you the proper techniques to pruning! A fair trade if there ever was one. http://www.myurbanabundance.org/
Check out the Fruit Tree info and publications from the WSU Master Gardeners at: http://gardening.wsu.edu/text/treef.htm
No matter your garden decision, to plant, not to plant, prune now in the sunshine or wait until next week and do it in the rain, GET OUT THERE and enjoy this window of wonderful weather we have been granted once again this February.