Gardening & Living in Grand Style
Early insect control and shrub pruning before bud break...
by Michael Johnson
Feb 11, 2016 | 1538 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Early season insect control is one task to consider completing before bud break. Fruit trees are often hampered by insects. To help with insect control, it’s best to spray fruit trees with a dormant horticultural oil before the flowers pop out. The term dormant oil is used to mean spraying with a specific type of gardening oil meant to be used only during the dormant season before the leaves unfurl on the trees. The improved, highly refined horticultural oils available can be mixed for use either as a dormant spray for early insect control or, if mixed “lighter,” for use on insect pests during parts of the growing season. Spraying with a horticultural oil during dormant season helps kill overwintering insect eggs, immature stages of insects and any soft-bodied adult insects. These can include aphids, scales, thrips, spider mites, leafhoppers and more. These are contact sprays, meaning the insect must be on the tree and sprayed to kill or control it. After the oil dries, there’s no further control for any insect that climbs or flies onto the tree.

Apply dormant sprays for fruit trees just before or around bud break — the exact timing can vary with each species. For example, spray apple trees when the buds are at green tip or half-inch green, and pears either when dormant or at early bud burst when the buds are swollen but still tight. With peach, nectarine or plum trees, spray when the buds are swollen to first pink. Spray apricot trees when the buds are swollen to first white and cherry trees when buds are at green tip but still tight.

Late winter to early spring is also a great time to prune summer flowering shrubs such as potentilla, spirea, rose of Sharon, red twig dogwood and butterfly bush. It’s best to periodically prune all flowering shrubs because over time, shrubs that aren’t pruned will become woody and potentially less vigorous with less new growth. For summer flowering shrubs the flower blooms develop on this new growth or new wood that grows from spring into summer. If you want a lot of flowers, you want a lot of this new spring to summer growth.

For most summer flowering shrubs, start by removing older stems so the shrub renews itself over time. Removing these older stems opens up the shrub to sunlight, which improves flowering throughout the shrub. Also, when pruning any tree or shrub you want to shape it appropriately. Usually this means pruning a stem or branch down to any side buds or branches that are growing in the direction that gives you the shape you desire. For instance, pruning to buds pointing inward will result in a tighter more narrow and often upright shape. Pruning to buds pointing outward usually will result in a more open and wider shaped plant. With flowering shrubs you don’t just want to just lop off the sides and top since this practice does not encourage flowering. Usually that type of approach is best reserved for green, leafy shrubs such as boxwoods or junipers being trimmed into specific shapes, and that aren’t considered flowering shrubs.

For spring flowering shrubs like lilacs, forsythia, viburnum, etc., prune a month or so after flowering. Pruning at this time of year will cut off all the flowers.

Thought for the day: “Like people, plants respond to extra attention.” —H. Peter Loewer.

Previous articles are available at the Times-Independent website, Have an idea you’d like Mike to consider writing about? Want more information about these topics? Call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 435-259-7558 or email Mike Johnson at

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