Freeze, Thaw, Repeat

By , February 18, 2016

Our property, as many of you have seen on the Website, is mostly spruce and hemlock forest that slopes down to a rocky ocean beach. We have to prune back the trees around the house and garden for more light (see Summer Solstice Sun Survey).

View from the upstairs cabin window. (photo: Michelle L Zeiger)

View from the upstairs cabin window (Photo: Michelle L Zeiger).

Some of the trees have been topped several times, poor things (see Temperatures Dropping; Time to Get to Work!). We have listened to the basic rules of tree pruning from Mike McGrath on WHYY’s You Bet Your Garden radio show (YBYG).

Each fall he explains one should only prune when the trees are dormant in the winter, but what does one do when the temperatures go back and forth between high twenties and high thirties as they have this year? I wanted to know if we could still assume the trees are dormant based on the (lack of) daylight and average cold temperature?

So I emailed the question to YBYG and they asked me to be a “caller” on the show. The east coast was in the midst of a blizzard clean up and folks were not thinking gardening, so the producers were happy for me to ask about my trees.

The episode is airing this week on various days depending on the radio station, but you can listen to it on the podcast at: http://whyy.org/cms/youbetyourgarden/seed-starting-time-is-almost-here/

Here’s the synopsis of the answer:

“Michelle, in Haines, Alaska, has a question about her hemlock trees. The trees tend to filter and block sunlight from her property, and sunlight is very valuable during those long, dark, Alaskan winters. She has tried to trim the trees back, but is afraid to damage them. With the fluctuating winter temperatures, it is hard to tell if these hemlock trees are dormant. If Michelle prunes them when they’re too warm, the trees will bleed. Mike advises to prune the trees a little at a time, but only during cold weather. He says it is best to do the trimming a day or two into a cold snap.”

Sadly, there have not been any cold snaps since I talked to Mike, so we haven’t done any pruning yet. Cold weather is not out of the question for March. We’ll see if we get the chance to let the light in soon.

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