Time for a bonfire

Early spring is garden clean up time, and clean up time means a beautiful roaring bonfire to clear out last year’s tree trimming. It’s a ritual I look forward too, both for the warmth of the flames, and for the resulting tidiness of the yard and trees.

Branches in the burn pile
Lots of trimmings ready for the flame. It doesn’t look very pretty, but it’s an important process. Unfortunately it’s not allowed in lots of towns.

With a little remaining snow and frozen ground, fruit tree branches can easily be reached and inspected for tent caterpillar nests (these look like little brown beads surrounding the branch). I try to do a few inspection tours through the fall and spring for these – I break them off with a fingernail and get rid of them. The other pest is black knot which shows up in the choke cherry trees. There are patches of infestation along the country roadsides in this area. I remember my grandfather at his farm told us the best way to control it is to cut off the section with the black knot and burn it — no composting! Over the past three winters we’ve removed a few clumps and so the lot remains free of this nastiness. (Here is a good fact sheet on the fungus)

The other task is pruning. I rate amateur status  at this on my better days, so I listen carefully to Ed Lawrence’s gardening advice show on CBC on Monday afternoons when he discusses pruning. His rules are no more than a quarter of the tree in any year, and don’t cover the cuts (as the tree will take care of sealing). Following this, we have been working to regenerate a few antique apple trees in the upper garden. This summer will let us know if it has worked.

But sumer is still months away. Today, I’ll be happy with carrying my Japanese pruning saw across the snowbanks, and dragging discarded branches to the fire, all othe while supervised by the garden cats.

(the underlined text sections are links that will take you to extra info)

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