The seed catalogs are coming in, I have seen my first robin and I had a dream about blooming tulips. Hmmm. Must be spring. Funny, the calendar still says February.
I know, I know. There have been reports of flocks of robins for the past couple of months, but I haven’t seen them. I saw my first one in North Liberty on Sunday. And the dream about tulips is, I’m sure, the recent temperatures making my brain hope for the early heralds of my favorite season.
Now, while it may not officially be spring yet, there are still some things you can do to help that pent-up gardener.
It is a good time to prune any trees that were damaged last year or during the winter, or you just want to shape up. Winter gives you a good idea about the shape of the tree without the leaves interfering with the “vision”. And the tree is dormant, so you won’t have to worry about hurting it, plus it is too cold for any bugs to climb into the wound. If you are pruning an oak, it reduces the risk of oak wilt. Birches, walnuts and maples may “bleed” sap, but it doesn’t hurt the tree. You will just have to clean up more afterwards. No matter what time of year it is, you want to prune out any crossing, parallel or rubbing branches. They can lead to wounds that allow insects and disease into the plant. If a large tree needs pruned, hire a professional. They will have the equipment and the know-how to do it safely.
And if you just can’t wait for that pussy willow or forsythia to bloom, you can take some branches from the tree and bring them inside and force them to bloom. Recut the stem and place it in a bucket of water in a cool, brightly lit place. Mist the branches several times a day until they start to bloom. Ta-da! Spring color in Winter!
Summer and fall blooming plants can be pruned now until growth begins in a couple of weeks (I know, I’m being optimistic!) but don’t prune spring blooming shrubs until they are finished flowering. It won’t hurt the plant, but you won’t have the pretty flowers to enjoy.
I’ve got more late winter/early spring tips, but I’ll save some for the next post.