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Low-stress pruning for arborvitae, junipers and yews

Now is a good time to prune arborvitae, junipers and yews. These trees grow continuously throughout the growing season. They can be pruned any time through the middle of the summer. However, now is a good time because the trees have had sufficient moisture and if pruned will have little to no stress, unlike if they are pruned the middle or end of July when it may be hot and dry. Other benefits are that you get a flush of growth which will cover up your pruning cuts, and make the tree look fresh.

Other reasons to prune are if the shrub is blocking a window's view, or taking over a side walk or walk way, or to make the tree or shrub develop more fullness and to maintain its height and shape, or to cover up defects in the trees shape.

Arborvitae are pyramid- or globe-shaped. The pyramid arborvitae will grow into 20 to 30 foot trees if not pruned. If you have them next to your house an appropriate size is about 2/3 the height of your house. When they reach the size that looks nice and in proportion with your house, you can cut off the top or leader at that height and maintain them at that size. Trimming them at this size will make them fuller and thicker looking. Often times arborvitae will try to develop severals leaders. It is best if they have no more than three main leaders, and these may need to be tied together to make the tree look good. Also these trees have have a tendency to become bowed down from heavy snow. If this has happened you may need to tie the tree leaders together to again create a nice pyramid shape.

Junipers are the toughest of all evergreens. They will grow in very poor soil even out of rock crevices. The low ground creeping type needs little pruning and can quickly form a lovely carpet affect. They need pruning only if they are growing out of their boundaries. The upright spreading type looks best if they are pruned in layers early in their life to form a mounding affect. If they have not been pruned in layers early in life, you probably will be unable to prune them in layers because of the brown branches under the top green branches.

Arborvitae, junipers and yews are all in the evergreen family and when a branch does not get sun light and no longer can produce photosynthesis, the tree cuts off nutrients to that branch and it dies. So be careful not to prune back into the brown branches, because they will stay brown. If you want an arborvitae with a spiral affect you need to begin the spiral early in the tree's life and maintain it each year.

Fireflies are beetles, not flies

Adult fireflies, also called lightning bugs, are actually winged beetles, and not flies. Adults are about 1/2-inch long with two red spots on their heads, and have brown-black wings, edged with a light yellow stripe. During the day they seek out dark, damp places to rest, so you may not notice them. But it's hard to miss these guys on hot summer evenings when they are flashing their tail lights over and over. Summer is peak mating season for fireflies and the flashes of light are their mating calls. But the adults are not the only ones that light up. The segmented, six-legged larvae, and even the eggs, light up too.

In early summer, the adults surface after a year underground. Around dusk, the males begin to fly and flash in search of a mate. Females, who are flightless, respond with flashes, mate and deposit eggs by themselves or in groups in the soil around grass roots. Both the adults die shortly after mating. Eggs hatch in about three weeks, and the larvae overwinter underground, emerging in the spring to begin the process again.

Both the firefly and its flightless larvae are good to have around. They eat aphids, slugs, earthworms, mites and pollen. Make your garden attractive to these good bugs by giving them bark or mulch to hide under. Grow small trees and shrubs so flightless females have a spot to wait for their mates. Light pollution interferes with the mating process, making these insects harder to find in urban areas. So turn off the porch lights to help them feel at home.

Kyle Schulz is a Wadena County Master Gardener from Sebeka, and the regular gardening columnist for the Wadena Pioneer Journal.