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February Pruning
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Before I moved to Newton County around 12 years ago, my wife and I owned a home with a yard that was full of flowering shrubs.  Yard work was a pleasure and my shrubs showed their appreciation by producing blooms abound.

Every spring the azaleas bloomed and put on a flower show that would cause people traveling the street to slow down with amazement.  Camellia, dogwood, crape myrtle, magnolia and azalea were the ornamental shrubs of choice for me, and I gave them the care that they needed.  One thing that I made sure to do every year was to prune.  Most people view pruning as harmful, but pruning is one essential cultural practice. 

Most think they will kill the plant if they cut away limbs.  Pruning is an important practice for shrubs, fruit and nut trees.  The reasons for pruning include training for a certain form, like hedges.  Fruit and nut trees need pruning to aid in harvesting and in removing diseased tissue.  Diseased limbs and old fruit act as a catalyst for advanced infections. Therefore, pruning will help maintain a plant’s overall health.  Many times pruning fruit trees will also improve the fruit size and quality. 

If you strike out to tackle a pruning job without the correct information on hand or in mind, you may do more harm than good.  For example, pruning plants like junipers can results in misshapen shrubs that may never grow back to a desirable shape. 

Some flowering shrubs and fruit trees, if pruned at the wrong time, may not even flower or produce fruit for a year, possibly longer.  February is a great month for pruning jobs when it comes to plants like peach trees, crape myrtle and muscadines. However, pruning azalea before they bloom will cut off all spring flowers.  Just know what time of year and how much your plants need pruning before you start.

One other consideration before you start is disinfecting your equipment.  Clean saws, loppers and scissor pruners with 1 part alcohol to 4 parts water or 1 part bleach to 9 parts water to prevent transferring diseases.  Once the blades are clean, sharpen them with a small mill file.  A sharpening stone can make a blade razor sharp producing the best cuts possible.

There is more to proper pruning than what I can provide in this article.  For detailed pruning techniques, anyone can visit the University of Georgia, Extension website below for free researched publications.

Click on the link and type in “Pruning” in the search area.  Many publications will come up and you can select the plant you want to prune. 

If you are looking to prune some outdoor shrubs, the “Basic Principles of Pruning Woody Plants” publication is an excellent reference.  The publication “Pruning Fruit Orchard Pruning Techniques” is another one good for fruit trees.

Pruning is an excellent cultural practice resulting in aesthetically pleasing, productive and healthy gardens. Knowing the basics of pruning can provide rewarding results.

For more information and individual help from the County Agent, call, email or drop in at the Newton County Extension office at 1113 Usher St., Suite 202, Covington, GA 30014.  The phone number and email is 770-784-2010,

Ted Wynne is a Newton County Extension Agent from the University of Georgia.