March is a busy time for pruning.
Go ahead and prune shade trees, hardy fruit trees, summer blooming shrubs, grapes and raspberries. Evergreens like Japanese yew, Juniper, Arborvitae and spruce can also be pruned from now up until new growth begins.
Hold off on pruning roses until mid to late April to avoid additional winter injury to these plants. Wait to prune pines until they begin to grow -- called candling -- typically in late May or early June.
When pruning, use sharp pruning tools, make correct cuts and avoid over-pruning which stresses plants and leads to sucker growth. The exception is when renovating an overgrown, multi-stemmed shrub where the shrub would then be pruned to about one foot tall in February or March.
When it comes to fruiting plants, like grapes and raspberries, it is important to know the age of wood fruit is produced for each crop or cultivar.
For all grapes, fruit is produced on the new growth that occurs each year off of last year’s new growth or 1-year-old canes. This is why grapes are pruned severely each spring if they are grown for fruit production.
While grapes need severe pruning each spring, this does not mean cutting them close to the ground as is done with some other vines and for shrub renovation. If this were done, 1-year canes from which the shoots that produce fruit grow would be removed.
In a nutshell, a main trunk is selected for each grape vine and laterals are allowed to grow. The new growth off of these main laterals are then pruned back each year to a length containing a certain number of buds, typically eight to 10 buds.
Due to their fruiting habit, most grapes are trained to a specific system. If interested in producing good yields of quality grapes, learn more about grape training systems. One resource to use is Missouri Extensions Home Fruit Production: Grape Training Systems at https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6090 .
How and when to prune raspberries depends on what type of raspberry you have. The roots and crowns of all raspberries live from year to year. The canes or stems can live up to two years.
Red raspberries are divided into two groups, summer-bearing and fall-bearing. Summer-bearing plants produce one large crop of fruit in early summer on second year canes.
Fall-bearing plants, sometimes called everbearing raspberries, produce a small crop of fruits in summer on the lower portion of 1-year-old canes and then a larger crop in late summer on current year canes.
Many gardeners manage fall-bearing raspberries to produce one large fall crop. To do this, simply prune all canes of fall-bearing raspberries back to 3 to 4 inches tall each March.
For summer-bearing raspberries, pruning at this time of year consists of removing only the canes that produced fruit last summer since these canes are dead. If these fruiting canes were removed after harvest last summer, no pruning may be needed at this time of year on summer-bearing plants.
For summer-bearing plants, leave the 1-year-old canes on which fruit will be produced this year. If the patch is quite dense, a few of the 1-year-old canes could be removed now to thin the patch. This allows for better light penetration and air movement.
See Missouri’s Pruning Raspberries, Blackberries, Gooseberries, Currants and Elderberries at http://extension.missouri.edu/p/g6000 for more pruning information.