Tools and Pruning
Compost, Mulch & Topsoil
Fertilizers and Plant Care
Hardiness Zones of Vermont
Planting & Planning
Tools and Pruning
Over the years, we have seen more pruning tools than you can imagine, from long-handled snips to wheel-mounted trimming shears, and, for the most part, they all belong in that pile in the back of the garage. With the following few tools, you can simplify the garage and hassle no more with gasoline or extension cords.
If you have formal trimmed hedges or specimen plants, you’ll need to add the third set of shears.
- Felco #60 Folding Saw
This small Swiss saw fits in your pocket folded up. Unfold, lock into place, and easily remove up to 4” diameter branches from shade trees, ornamental trees or evergreens.
- Felco #8 Pruner
Many hand pruners will do the job but these are simply the best. Since all parts are replaceable, this is the last set of pruners you will buy. By using hand pruners, you will carefully remove up to 1” diameter branches from trees and shrubs, and can avoid the “sheared” look for a more graceful habit.
- Sandvik Professional Hedge Shear
Hedges in the landscape are often designed to make an impenetrable wall or barrier of foliage. By using hedge shears, you will be able to create a denser and denser wall with the passing of each pruning. Hedge shears are a terrific way to cut back ornamental grasses, iris and daylilies each year.
Pruning cuts should be made just outside the branch bark ridge and the branch collar. The branch bark ridge is a ridge of bark in a branch crotch that marks where the branch and trunk tissues meet and often extends down the trunk. The branch collar is trunk tissue that forms around the base of a branch between the main stem and the branch, or a branch and a lateral (branch). This tissue looks like wrinkled elephant skin. Make sure all cuts are clean and smooth and avoid flush cuts (cuts that are made inside the branch bark ridge and the branch collar). These cuts result in larger wounds and needlessly expose trunk tissue to the angle formed by the branch bark ridge and trunk.
Tree Pruning Practices to Avoid
Topping and tipping are two practices that should never be used. Topping is the removal of large branches between nodes and tipping refers to pruning lateral branches between nodes. The result of these practices is the growth of epicormic sprouts which are weakly attached to the stem. Also, improper pruning cuts will cause unnecessary harm to the tree and bark ripping. Flush cuts will harm stem tissue, ending in decay.
Common Pruning Locations
- Remove forked top. If left, the fork will cause two leaders, thus wasting growth energy. As the top gets larger, the fork may split and damage the tree.
- Remove limbs to allow headroom for sidewalks or motorists’ viewing.
- Remove branches growing at a sharp angle. When they become larger, they may rub on the trunk, split out, or even cause rot to develop by giving water a place to collect.
- Remove crossing branches. These interfere with the growth of other limbs and create bad form.
- Remove water sprouts.
- Remove basal sprouting from the root crown. Basal sprouts sap energy from the tree, look messy and can collect trash.
Pruning Shrubs & Hedges
The best pruning advice we can give is to match the proper shrub to the proper space. That is, choose a shrub that won’t outgrow its location. When you purchase a plant from Horsford’s, we provide you important plant information that includes the mature height and spread of the plant.
The two types of pruning most often used are shearing (for hedges) and thinning. Shearing is most often used to keep a long row of plants at a uniform height while maintaining density to promote privacy. Thinning is used to keep a plant at the proper size for a given area without letting it lose its natural form. It can also be used to revitalize older shrubs. Many shrubs such as lilacs flower less as they age; by thinning occasionally you promote new, vigorous growth that will bear abundant flowers in the future.
Shearing: Prune the hedge so that it tapers from the bottom to top. This allows ample light to reach lower branches promoting dense growth from top to bottom.
Thinning: Selectively removing branches, never more than 1/3 per year, to help keep plants in “bounds” while maintaining their natural form. This pruning practice performed every few years on plants such as lilacs and viburnums will help keep flower and fruit production vigorous. Plants that are prized for their colorful stems, (i.e. dogwoods), benefit as well since their newest growth is also their most vibrant. Always prune at an angle and cut back to a bud or branch.
Timing is Everything – Pruning is done for many reasons including controlling size, improving looks, training growth, encouraging new growth, rejuvenating an older plant and encouraging root growth during transplanting. Regardless of your specific interest, there are certain times of the year that certain plants should be pruned.
Spring is not the time to prune shrubs that flower on last year’s growth. Doing so will remove the flower buds that will produce this year’s flowers. If you need to prune these shrubs, do so just after they finish blooming. Other shrubs that bloom on the current season’s growth are best pruned late in the winter/early spring.
Evergreens can be sheared to maintain shape and size. Limbs can be pruned back to side branches or the trunk if necessary; however, the central leader should not be cut unless the plant is used as a hedge. The new growth, or candles, on pines can be removed or cut back to keep a plant more compact. This can be done when the needles are a third to half the mature needle size. The best time to prune evergreen shrubs is in early spring.
Compost, Mulch & Topsoil
Horsford Gardens & Nursery carries both bulk compost by the yard and bagged compost products. Both products are approved for use by the Vermont Organic Farmers certification organization on organic gardens and farms. Compost is ideal for vegetables, flowers, trees, shrubs and lawns. Generous applications of compost will increase the moisture-holding capacity of sandy soil and will improve the drainage and aeration of heavy clay soil. “Feeding the soil” with compost also provides a steady supply of humus and essential nutrients resulting in more vigorous plants with greater resistance to disease, pests and drought. Using compost to maintain soil fertility often eliminates the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides with their inherent environmental and health hazards.
Partially decomposed, double-ground pine bark is an effective mulch for trees and shrub plantings. The mulch conserves water in the soil, suppresses weed growth, eventually adds organic matter to the upper soil profile, and gives established beds a fresh tidy look in spring.
For new beds, first dig and remove the sod from the bed. This sod can be incorporated into your compost pile. After you have planted your shrubs or trees, spread a three to four inch layer of mulch. A word of caution – Never place mulch against a plant’s stem or trunk. Your three-inch layer will eventually settle to half of its original depth. Each spring, re-mulch with one and a half inches to freshen the look, being careful not to accumulate too thick of a layer. Over time our bark mulch decomposes and can be safely incorporated into the soil. The process of decomposition can deplete the supply of nitrogen available to your plants, however. We have found this especially true with annuals and perennials. If you use mulch on annual and perennial beds, top dress the garden with compost or Pro-Gro Fertilizer before mulching lightly.
Garden Tip: One key to suppressing weeds is to dig a deep edge between the bed and the grass. Try to make a 4” vertical slice into the soil, which you can then fill with mulch. This slice, or edge, will suppress the grasses and weeds from migrating from the lawn and surroundings into the bed.
Topsoil is a valuable staple in the garden, especially with newly established and raised beds. Horsford’s carries bulk topsoil, bagged potting soil and bagged peat moss. Our bulk topsoil has been screened and is approved for use on organic gardens.
Fertilizers and Plant Care
Pro-Gro Fertilizer 5-3-4, Organic
At Horsford’s, we fertilize most of the plants we grow with Pro-Gro Fertilizer. We sell 25lb and 50lb bags of Pro-Gro. Since it is an organic fertilizer, there is very little risk of burning your landscape plants, and you know that there will be nutrients available when your plants need them the most.
By fertilizing farther and farther from the base of the plant, you will encourage your roots to spread. Roots that are spread out widely not only anchor the plant to the ground more securely, they also avail themselves to more nutrients and moisture, allowing them to better survive prolonged periods of drought.
As a rule of thumb, use a cup of Pro Gro for every inch of trunk diameter in trees. Use a cup for every two feet of height or spread for shrubs. For perennials, sprinkle the Pro-Gro in the garden so that approximately 25% of the soil is lightly covered with fertilizer.
Pro Holly Fertilizer 4-6-4, Organic
Pro-Holly is a natural fertilizer blended from mineral and organic ingredients specifically made for ericaceous and other acid loving plants, such as Azalea, Blueberries, Rhododendrons, Heathers, Hydrangeas, Oak trees, Pachysandras, Lupine, Flax, Raspberries, and Yews. Acid-loving plants, like most other plants, prefer more healthy soil conditions. Hardy growth, rich leaf color, and beautiful blossoms depend on the nutrients provided by Pro-Holly 4-6-4. Applications made in the spring help the plants form strong branches, greater leaf surface area for better photosynthesis, and more buds that eventually develop into healthy blossoms and foliage. Available in 25lb and 50lb bags.
Espoma Products, Organic.
-Holly Tone Fertilizer
Neptune’s Harvest Seaweed Fertilizer 0-0-1
Neptune’s Harvest Seaweed Plant Food is an organic store-house of over 60 naturally occurring major and minor nutrients and amino acids. Its growth promoting substances (Auxims, Cytokinins, Gibberellins) enhance plant development, color and vigor. Seaweed has also been found to increase plant hardiness and resistance to adverse environmental conditions, such as early frost, extreme heat and lack of moisture. Used as a seed inoculant, seaweed fertilizer increases and accelerates germination, and enhances the rapid development of a healthy root system. Seaweed is an excellent addition to any fertilization program.
Neptune’s Harvest Seaweed and Fish Fertilizer 2-3-1
Neptune’s Harvest Organic Fish/Seaweed Blend Fertilizer is a perfect blend of hydrolyzed fish and seaweed concentrate, ensuring a complete fertilization program.
Grass Seed and Lawn Fertilizer
Over the years we have seeded lawns using a mix we developed with fertilizers that have been university tested and manufactured under strict quality controls. The result has been lawns that withstand heavy use, a variety of light conditions and every weather condition Mother Nature can throw at them. As with most things, you get what you pay for. A lawn germinated from a superior seed mixture, maintained through proper cultural methods can resist disease, insects and weeds without use of herbicides or insecticides. The following is a listing of the professional products we use and recommend for the best lawn possible.
Distinctive Landscaping Mix
A blend of Kentucky bluegrass, endophytically enhanced perennial rye grasses and creeping fescue. All varieties are chosen for their color and hardiness. The endophyte on the rye grass helps the plant resist insects. The Distinctive Landscaping Mix is most recommended for sunny areas, but can be used in all light conditions except for the deepest shade. Seed at a rate of five to six pounds per 1000 square feet. Available by the pound, 25-pound or 50-pound bags.
Horsford Woodland Mix
The Horsford Woodland mix is great for use in shady areas.
Other Great Garden Products
Our Garden Center carries a host of other great, safe products for your garden. Some include: Compost tea, Sea Rose Fertilizer, Neem Oil, Garden Fungicide, Deer Off, Deer and Rabbit Repellent, Wilt Pruf, Vegetable and Fruit Yield Enhancer, Burn Out, and more.
Hardiness Zones of Vermont
Hardiness zones are directly related to the lowest temperature in which a particular plant will grow. A zone number correlates to the minimum temperature for each area. Gardeners should keep in mind the hardiness zone in which they work as well as soil conditions, sun and shade tolerances, wind exposure, and other factors.
Hardiness zones shown on this map can be used as a guide when selecting plants for your landscape. This map has been created from the University of Vermont Extension Service, Plant and Soil Science Department publication OH53 “New Vermont Hardiness Map” and Cornell University, New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Department of Horticulture, “USDA Hardiness Zones for New York” Map.
Planting & Planning
Horsford staff is available to offer specific advice for your planting and planning needs. There is such a wide variety of questions and situations that the best approach is to talk to one of our knowledgeable staff. The expertise of Distinctive Landscaping is also a resource located here at Horsford Gardens & Nursery.
For tree planning, purchasing, and planting there are excellent general resources available through the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program. Articles on planning, purchasing, and planting trees are available at the links below for download or printing.
Come by and talk to us about your specific planting and planning challenge. We’re glad to help.