It might not be sandal weather just quite yet, but you can still feel the buzz of springtime right now in the Albertan air. With the warm spring weather just around the corner, now is the perfect time to tackle all those pruning projects in your garden before those trees and shrubs start waking up. Our Albertan guide to spring pruning has all the info you need to get outside and kickstart your blooms for the season ahead. Let’s get started!
When Should I Start Spring Pruning My Albertan Garden?
When the cold winter hits Alberta, most plants and trees take their annual hiatus, withholding their beauty and closing up shop for a much-needed rest. While it may seem unfair to us garden lovers and plant enthusiasts, this dormant season is crucial for plant survival and should be celebrated. A vital part of this celebration, at least on our part, is pruning! Many plants, trees, and shrubs benefit tremendously from a good pruning, and doing so can boost your garden’s growth tremendously this spring. Because of this, we put together this guide to show you what to prune now and what you can safely leave for fall pruning.
Flowering Fruit Trees & Deciduous Trees
For Albertans, we generally recommend starting your spring pruning of flowering fruit and other deciduous trees in mid to late March for the best results. During this time, the danger of damaging winter weather has mostly passed, but the tree is still dormant. Pruning your deciduous trees during this time has several benefits, including:
- Removing dead or diseased branches, which helps give energy back to the tree for new growth
- Pruning or re-shaping the tree, which helps control excessive growth
- Pruning away excess branches, which allows light and air to reach undergrowth
- Stimulating the growth of new buds
- Cutting back excess branches that can inhibit fruit growth
Some deciduous trees that love a good spring pruning in Alberta include apple, cherry, crabapple, plum, yew, dogwood, and juniper. However, as a general guideline, oak, elm, and maple trees are better pruned in winter to avoid the risk of common diseases like dutch elm disease. It’s also a good idea to leave maple and birch trees alone in spring, as their sap is already flowing.
Woody Ornamental Shrubs
Many of Alberta’s woody shrubs love spring pruning, with the likes of spirea, and ninebark being particular fans. Prune these shrubs in mid to late March, before too much new growth appears.
There are a few shrubs we don’t encourage pruning in spring, though, including azaleas, rhododendrons, lilacs, and many varieties of hydrangeas. These flowering shrubs are already growing new buds come spring, and so cutting them back will mean no pretty blooms until next year.
How to Prune
Now that you know which of your trees and shrubs are in need of an Albertan springtime makeover, here’s how to do it!
- Make sure your pruning shears, loppers or saw blades have been disinfected before use to avoid spreading disease. For best results, clean them with rubbing alcohol or a diluted bleach solution.
- Always wear protective gear, like safety glasses and gloves, before undertaking any large tree pruning project. If your spring pruning involves stems larger than 1.5″ in diameter, you will also probably need a pruning saw. In these cases, we recommend wearing a helmet or hard hat to protect your head from any branches falling from overhead.
- Cut away any dead, diseased or dying branches and stems first. Then, prune off any branches or stems that are rubbing together or crisscrossing. A general guideline for spring pruning in Alberta is to only remove up to 25% of the total volume in one year, with the exception of shrubs that require rejuvenation pruning.
- When pruning, make clean, angled cuts. This causes the least amount of harm to your plant and prevents water from sitting on the exposed cut, which can cause rot.
- Keep a note in your landscape journal of all your major and minor pruning activities. It can be helpful to keep tabs on growth patterns and how trees and shrubs in your garden respond to seasonal pruning.
We hope you enjoyed our spring pruning guide for Alberta and are ready to tackle the garden this spring! If you still have questions, don’t worry: our pro team at Salisbury Landscaping has the knowledge you need to help you take on all of your spring pruning projects!