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Master Gardeners hone pruning skills by trimming trees at fairgrounds

PHOTO PROVIDED Participants in the Hands-on pruning workshop included front row, from left, Belford Mills, Lynda Cridge, Deb Liguori, Kathy Gillen, Ginny Counsil, Tom Butzler, Candy Gore. Back row, Charles Kincaid, Jim Randall, Kathy Dorman and Arnie Burrows.

The Penn State Master Gardeners of Clinton County conducted a hands-on pruning workshop at the Clinton County Fairgrounds on March 9.

Taught by Penn State Extension Horticulture Educator Tom Butzler, the workshop provided an opportunity to review the goals of pruning, as well as the techniques and tools needed. Following the review, Master Gardeners and Master Gardener trainees applied their knowledge by pruning eight trees of various sizes located near the livestock barns at the fairgrounds.

They focused on improving tree structure and health by removing dead, damaged, and crossing branches, keeping in mind the tree’s natural form. Where needed, participants thinned the crowns of the trees to improve air flow and light penetration.

Some of the trees had begun to develop multiple upright branches, or leaders, making it necessary to remove or reduce competing branches to encourage the growth of one dominant central leader or trunk.

Master Gardeners and trainees worked in small groups, discussing where and how to make pruning cuts and selecting from a variety of tools, including bypass and anvil pruners, pruning saws, loppers, and pole saws. The crowns of some of the trees were raised to allow people and machinery to pass under the trees unimpeded by low branches.

Butzler and Master Gardener Coordinator Deb Burrows moved from group to group to answer questions and make suggestions.

Butzler reminded those in attendance of the importance of preserving the branch collar when making a pruning cut so that the tree would be able seal off the wound. He also discussed guidelines that caution against removing too much at once.

Generally speaking, pruning should be limited to approximately 25 percent of a tree’s mass.

The group acknowledged that it would take more than one year of pruning to help the trees at the fairgrounds reach the desired structure and form. Many in attendance expressed a willingness to return next year to further advance their knowledge and continue to improve the health and structure of the trees.

Master Gardeners are available to answer pruning question as well as other home gardening questions though the Clinton County Master Gardener Hotline at 570-726-0022 or via email at clintonmg@psu.edu.

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Debra Burrows, PhD, is a retired Penn State Extension educator. She can be reached at dcb3@psu.edu.

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