Tending Plants After a Freeze

Spring having officially arrived, it is reasonable to assume, at least in our part of the world, that “the danger of frost has passed,” to quote an expression commonly found on seed packets and in gardening books.
What this means, in practical terms, is that we can now cut back on plants damaged in the severe freeze that visited us in January.
Pruning shears appear at the top of the list of those tools required for removal of dead growth. Here, it is important to keep in mind that this indispensable pruning implement, which should never leave a gardener’s side and may be safely encased in a belt scabbard or holster, is designed to cut stems no thicker than your pinkie finger. For thicker stems and branches, there are loppers and saws.
When you look at all the pruning shears on display in a nursery or home improvement center, how will you decide which one is best for doing the job?
Felco brand shears have a long-established reputation as top of the line, but Corona pruners, which are not as pricey, will also do an excellent job. Other brands, although less expensive, may cut unevenly or break easily.
Loppers come in many sizes, with handles from 1 to 3 feet in length. Their long handles make it easier to cut thorny plants such as bougainvillea. You can determine the maximum size branch a loppers can cut by measuring the distance from the middle of the cutting blade to the middle of the opposite hooked or anvil blade when the tool is open.
When using a pruning shears or loppers on a shoot or small branch, the pruning cut should be made just above a node at a 45-degree angle. A node is the point where a leaf, bud or side shoot is (or was) attached to the stem.
Pruning saws are required when cutting branches larger than two inches in diameter. Unlike a carpenter’s saw, which cuts when you push forward, a pruning saw cuts when you pull back. The reason for this is that when you have a branch overhead, it is much easier to cut it on the pull (than on the push) stroke.
On trees, large branches should be removed using the three-cut method. The first cut should be made from below, a foot or more away from the trunk. This undercut should go one-third of the way through.
The second cut is made from above, an inch to the outside of the first cut. While making the second cut, the branch will break back to where the first cut was made.
The third cut, made from above or below — depending on the angle between trunk and branch — removes the remaining stub. Take care that this final cut is not made flush with the trunk but at the branch collar, which is a swelling or bulge at the base of a branch where it meets the trunk.
By employing the three-cut method, you avoid the possibility of ripping off part of the trunk when removing heavy branches.
Suckers, those succulent shoots growing from the base of a trunk, should be snapped off by hand or, once they turn woody, sawed off exactly where they meet the trunk. If a sucker is cut off with pruning shears and a stub remains, many more suckers will grow out of the stub.
Water sprouts are fast-growing vertical shoots coming from older branches, particularly on fruit trees. These shoots should nearly always be removed. They are useful only if a major limb breaks and a water sprout can be developed, over the course of many years, into a replacement limb.
TIP OF THE WEEK: For maximum flower production, roses should be pruned continuously.
To increase longevity in the vase, detach roses when flower buds are full, just before they open.
If you grow roses exclusively for their beauty in the garden, remove them as soon as they begin to fade in order to encourage more roses to develop.
Cut back each flowering stem to a healthy, five-leaflet leaf. Cut back to just above a node and observe which way the bud at the node is pointing. Make sure that the bud points outward and not toward the inside of the plant because the direction that a bud points is the direction that the shoot that emerges from it will grow.

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