Spring is in the air and the planting begins

Brighton Forestry Department gives tips on tree pruning, planting

Belen Ward
bward@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/29/21

Late winter and early spring in Colorado, from mid-February through March, tends to be the best time to prune trees because they are still in their dormant phase, according to Brighton City Forester. …

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Spring is in the air and the planting begins

Brighton Forestry Department gives tips on tree pruning, planting

Posted

Late winter and early spring in Colorado, from mid-February through March, tends to be the best time to prune trees because they are still in their dormant phase, according to a Brighton city forester.

When the trees are dormant, the leaves have not grown yet and you can see where to prune without causing stress to the tree,” said City of Brighton Forester Adam Rhodebeck.

Rhodebeck offered tips on when to start pruning those trees and how in the wake of March’s wet, heavy snowstorm.

The health of the tree is a huge factor in how the tree should be pruned.

“The major difference between pruning healthy versus unhealthy would be that unhealthy, I would prune as little as possible simply because if the tree is already having a hard time, you don’t want to stress it further,” said Rhodebeck.

The rule of thumb of pruning is to only remove about 20% to 30% of the trees canopy, he said. And the timing of your trimming matters, depending on the species.

“Try to avoid pruning trees such as crabapples in the early spring because they bloom on “old” wood which means if you prune in early spring, you will be removing that year’s flowers- prune once when done flowering,” Rhodebeck said.

For blue spruces, which are conifer trees, the branches grow near the ground. You should only prune the dead branches, he said.

“Species such as blue spruce, when pruned up from the ground, can turn into sort of an umbrella and become more likely to blow over in large wind events said, “ Rhodebeck said.

Timing planting for new trees

Kyle Sylvester, Open Space Manager and former  city forester, said the ideal planting time is early spring.

He recommended gardeners use mulch with wood chips. It reduces the need for frequent watering, and also after planting watering is important.

“The number cause of death of newly planted trees is lack of winter watering so remember to water in winter as well as the summer,” said Sylvester.

Sylvester also recommends keeping newly purchased plants moist and in the shade until planting. Dig a 2-4 inch hole that is shallower than the root ball. Before backfilling the hole, remove the plant from all its containers, wires, ropes and also pull back the burlap without disturbing its root ball.

Also for newly planted trees and shrubs, only prune the dead or diseased branches and be careful not to overwater.

Reducing water demand

According to Sylvester, six water-conserving principles of xeriscaping apply to a new landscape in Colorado.

“If you follow these rules you will conserve water and maintain a successful home landscape,’” said Sylvester.

Those principles are; to develop a well-designed plan for your xeriscaping; reduce the turf and high water areas; use a reasonable approach to soil improvements through soil amendments and aeration; select and use appropriate plant materials for the climate, site, and soil; use mulch around trees and plants to improve moisture, retention, reduce weak competition and improve aesthetics; and to use sound water practices by ensuring irrigation efficiency, modifying water methods for slopes and low spots, watering at night or in the early morning, avoid water of sidewalks and driveways.

Picking the right tree

Sylvester, said trees are categorized by species ratings. An “A” is highly recommended for growing in the Northern area of Colorado because it has minimal insect problems as well as adapting to the soil and climate.

The toughest trees recommended for growing with an “A” rating are listed by tree type, according to Sylvester are: The evergreens are the Upright Juniper species, One-seed Juniper, Rocky Mountain Juniper species, Bosnian Pine, Pinyon Pine, and Austrian Pine. The shade trees are Catalpa, Western Hackberry, Kentucky Coffee, and Bur Oak.

The ornamental trees are Tatarian Maple, Russian Hawthorn, Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn, and Gambel Oak.

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