No, I’m not talking about ‘Byrds‘, I’m talking about groundhogs. On a walk through Olympia’s Priest Point Park recently, I noticed slivers of green peeking through swollen buds on many of the native shrubs — in January! It made me wonder if the proverbial groundhog would (or hopefully wouldn’t) see his shadow this year. Turns out he did see his shadow and now we’re in for what, six more weeks of mild weather?

Nonetheless, there is still time to get some dormant season pruning done now while you can clearly see trees’ structures and assess their pruning needs. A large percentage of foreseeable tree-related issues can and should be addressed when a tree is young. Pruning young trees is a worthwhile investment because structural problems can be corrected early, before the tree and the pruning needs grow larger and more costly.

One of our favorite pruning resources here at DNR is from one of our partners, the US Forest Service. The appropriately titled ‘How to Prune Trees,’  pamphlet steps readers through the why and how of pruning with plain language and clear illustrations. Another great resource for urban foresters is by pruning Guru Ed Gilman titled Developing a preventive pruning program: Young trees.

Our program staff are available to provide training on tree pruning and other topics for city staff and tree board members in your community. Contact Leif Fixen (NW Washington), Garth Davis (NE Washington), or Ben Thompson for more information.

By Linden J. Lampman, program manager, DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program