Pruning big trees down to size


    Is it ALWAYS wrong to cut the tops off of trees? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will reveal the correct way to keep big trees somewhat short without destroying their form. Plus: answers to all your growing questions.

    Question of the Week

    “I love the show’s ‘fascinatin’ phone calls’; and a recent one about cutting the tops off of trees made me wonder about our pruning for ‘view preservation’. We live on a hilltop overlooking the Susquehanna River amid 17 acres of mature deciduous trees. We do top some of these trees every few years to keep our view, but are now questioning this practice. What do you think about our situation? Is there a best way to do this?”

    “Devoted listener” Linda in Montour county PA

    Learn the limits of tree pruning »

    Highlights from show for October 18, 2014:

    How to plant lavender

    Ralph in Newtown Square, PA, would like to plant lavender but he has no clue where to plant it or what kind of soil to plant it in. Sadly, like any other Pennsylvanian, Ralph is cursed with clay-like soil. Ralph, however, is in luck; according to Mike, lavender plants want poor soil. Being grown in rich soil and overfeeding can kill the plants. Although, “These plants need excellent drainage, to look for an area where water does not pool,” says Mike. As an extra tip, Mike suggest that Ralph should buy bags of perlite and mix it in to the soil to make an excellent bed for lavender. Resulting in lots of blooming flowers.

    Getting more blooms from your crepe myrtle tree

    Regina in Mantua, NJ, has a crape myrtle tree that is 4-5 years old and hasn’t blossomed this year. She trimmed the tree and now is starting to have second thoughts on whether she should have done that. “Yes, you should have trimmed it.”, answers Mike. He warns though, to never prune any tree in the fall for they do much better if they get a light pruning at the right time of year because plants such as crepe myrtles, go dormant during the fall. Regina shouldn’t take any action until Spring comes along and she see’s new growth in her tree. After acknowledging that her plant is beginning to grow again, she should prune as much as it grew the previous year. This she shall do each and every year so her tree can be easily maintained and and grow back healthier.

    Righting a tipping tree

    Kevin is struggling with a weeping crabapple tree in Lancaster, SC. His tree is leaning to one side and is unsure of how to upright it and when to do this. Kevin has mixed compostand sand in which to plant his tree. Now he is seeing it wasn’t a very bright idea, causing the soil to be loose and the tree to lean. Mike suggests, in the “dead of the winter”, around January, to rock the tree back and forth with a couple of extra helping hands. He should mix in some of his lousy soil underneath it to stabilize it in its new position. Rock it more to the other side, get some regular dirt in there and get some clay from other parts of his property to prop it up, tamp it down, and put compost over the surface, instructs, Mike. In the Spring gently prune the tree so the shape can turn out to be more to his liking, and less like the tree is falling to one side.

    Why green cones instead of red cones?

    Ninette in Ambler, PA has a red Norwegian spruce tree that’s been growing only green cones. Confused and upset as to why the same tree that flourished with tons of red cones last year, hasn’t had many this season. Mike assures her she can tell if it is healthy by keeping an eye on new needle growth. As long as it’s a lighter color, there is nothing to be alarmed about. New needle growth depicts the plant is healthy and she has no control over the desired color of her cones.

    How to care for potted plants while you’re away

    Victoria in Wilmington, Delaware is looking to travel for a period of time, but her only concern is what she should do with her potted lilac and pomegranate plants that have been doing so well in her protected garden area. Lilacs, who aren’t tender plants at all, are happier with roots in soil in an open spot in full sun. More sun equals more blossoms, urges Mike. While the pomegranates do need the protected area, the sun is a must for this plant. Mike suggests to give it away to someone for handle and care. Hopefully it can be planted in the ground with the same wind shielded, walled garden kind of scene, exactly like Victoria’s.

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