Rodd Moesel: Add pruning to your to-do list

Older nurserymen have been heard to say that if you don't prune and shape your trees and shrubs from time to time God and nature will send the wind or ice to do it for you at some point.
By Rodd Moesel Published: January 4, 2014

We hope your new year is off to a good start.

The last three years have been trying for the plant world in central and western Oklahoma with two years of serious drought in 2011 and 2012 followed by a late freeze in spring 2013 and ending with an ice storm to close out 2013.

With short-term or seasonal crops we plant and water, if able, and hope for the best and enjoy the harvest or beauty and move on to the next crop after success or disappointment. For long-term plantings like trees and shrubs, we hope to survive these passing weather challenges and move on to better conditions in a new year without too much damage to the root systems, which we can't see, or the tree trunk and branches that we can see.

The punishing drought weakened many trees and shrubs that did not get good supplemental watering. Many of those trees and shrubs celebrated the additional rain and moisture in 2013 with new growth and healthier canopies this growing season that left more foliage on junipers, cedars, pines, hollies and magnolias and the rest of the evergreens when the ice storm visited just before Christmas.

Even the deciduous trees had more twigs and branches to catch the freezing rain that left a heavy layer of ice on everything above ground from the blades of grass to the tallest trees. In traveling around central Oklahoma we have witnessed many broken branches and scores of broken twigs, but we are really fortunate that relatively few terminal shoots or main trunks or branches surrendered and actually broke.

Most of the trees played their version of football's prevent defense where the goal is to “bend but don't break.” It was shocking to see how far over many shrubs and young trees bent with their ice load but most popped back up, close to normal, after the ice melted off their boughs.

Many of these young trees put on a gymnastic exhibition of nature's resiliency. As long as they did not break, these trees and branches should be fine going forward. If you do have broken branches, go ahead and prune out the breakage so that you leave a clean cut instead of a rip, and to get the broken branches out of the way before they cause more damage to the surrounding plants or humans.

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