You may not want to be outside right now, but in the long run, now is the time to be outside working in your yard.
What you should be doing while you are outside is pruning. There are several reasons to prune this time of year.
One benefit is that you can see the true shape and form of your tree or shrub now while the leaves are off of it. However, you don't want to prune any flowering ornamentals because you would remove all the blooms for this growing season. Instead, prune flowering ornamentals in the fall once they have already bloomed.
Trees that are infected with fire blight bacteria should be pruned during March. When spring weather is warm and moist, fire blight bacteria can multiply in diseased tissues and oozes from the twig/branch surfaces in a liquid form that is light tan in color. Insects and rain can then transmit the bacteria to blossoms and other parts of the tree enhancing the infection. Therefore, look for fire blight to eliminate or minimize this problem.
Fire blight can be identified as dry, blackened growth that often has old leaf material still attached. Fire blight cankers are sunken lesions on the trunk and shoots that are key spots where the bacteria survive the winter. When in doubt about how much to cut out, just cut it out. One drop of the tan honeydew ooze will contain one billion bacteria. Fruit trees that continually suffer fire blight should be culled. Please remember to clean your pruning tools with a 10 percent bleach solution between each cut to help prevent the spread of this disease. You can find more information about fire blight by looking at the Purdue publication BP-30, "Fire Blight on Fruit Trees in the Home Orchard." (http://www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/BP/BP-30-W.pdf).
In addition to pruning trees infected with fire blight, March is an excellent time to prune grapes. With the coldest temperatures of the season over, winter damage can be assessed and removed. This needs to be done by April because bud shoots begin to swell and would be damaged by pruning at that point. For more information about pruning your grapes, feel free to look at Purdue publication HHO-45, "Growing Grapes in Indiana." (http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-45.pdf).
For those who have small fruit crops, such as blueberries and strawberries, you can now begin to work in them too. Summer bearing brambles can be pruned right now. This is especially important if last year's canes were not removed at the end of last summer or fall. Once soil temperatures are 40-43 degrees, you should remove the straw from strawberry beds. If you leave the straw there, it can cause your strawberry yield to be cut by one fourth.
If you haven't already, now is the time to prune back any trees that were damaged from the ice storm we had in February. When pruning your trees, avoid topping them (removable of the top only). If you would like more information about pruning, take a look at Purdue publication HO-4, "Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs." (http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-4.pdf). If you would like a paper copy of any of these publications or have any questions about agriculture, horticulture or natural resource topics, then please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County, or reach me directly at email@example.com.
Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.
Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:
* Saturday -- Owen County Garden Club meeting, 1 p.m., Owen County Extension Office,
* Saturday -- The Gardener's Gathering Spring Gardening Seminar, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Saint Mary-of-the-Woods,
* March 14 -- Owen County Ag Dinner, 6:30 p.m., Owen County Fairgrounds. Cost is $6. Call 812-829-5020 for tickets,
* March 17 -- Clay County Ag Dinner, 6:30 p.m., Clay County Fairgrounds. Call 448-9041 for tickets, and
* March 25 -- Quad Co. PARP, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Equipment Technologies, Inc., Mooresville. Call 812-829-5020 to RSVP by Tuesday.