Metro-East Living

Gardening: Now is not the time to prune maples

By Charles Giedeman

Q: I have noticed on my maple tree some branches need pruning or to be totally removed. Is this the time to do it or should I wait?

C.K. of Belleville

A: Maple trees should not be pruned in late winter or during spring. They produce large amounts of sap when not pruned at the proper time, which is midsummer through late fall. Other trees that fit this description include birch (Betula species), dogwood (Cornus florida), elm (Ulmus species), walnut (Juglans species) and yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea or lutea). This sap bleeding may also be messy for people, cars and other objects under the trees when the bleeding takes place.

This would be especially true this year with the mild winter we have experienced so far.

Q: We have noticed a lot of something growing through the bark of several of our trees. A neighbor says this is a fungus growing out of the trees and the trees are dying. If this is true, what can we do to stop it?

H. and G. L of Highland

A: Remember back to the dry summer of 2010 with high temperatures that put a lot of stress on trees. One forester said it would take about eight years to find out how damaging this would be to our trees. Many young trees died during the winter. Now some of the larger trees are just beginning to die, and large numbers of them are found in certain locations.

The past year was very wet, compounding the problem. If you noticed fungus growing out of the trunks of the trees, it is indicating that trees are going through decline and are probably going to die. There is nothing you can do now as the fungus growth is showing that the trees have lost the battle. There was also a good stand of many mushrooms this past spring and summer, especially the chanterelles which are gourmet mushrooms. The next symptom will be the bark will loosen and fall off the trunk. Watch this very closely as the next stage will be the tree falling over in a heavy wind. The tree is then a hazard tree and should be watched to make sure it will not fall over on a structure or onto a parked car.

Q: I would like to plant asparagus this spring, but I do not know too much about it. Give me some hints on how to do this.

M.R. of Okawville

A: There are three main varieties of asparagus – Mary Washington, Purple Sweet and Jersey Supreme. You can buy it in the form of crowns/roots or seed. Crowns/roots grow faster and better. It will take longer to harvest asparagus grown from seed.

Choose a site that is well-drained and not soggy. Dig a trench about 6 inches deep and lay the crowns so that the buds are facing up. Refill the trench as the plants begin to grow and tamp the soil slightly.

The first year, you will not get many spears and it is best to allow them to branch out into the ferny looking leaves. The third year works the best for harvest. Once the spears get to the size of a pencil or larger you can harvest them. Stop harvesting in the middle of June.

Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to

Do it now

  • Seed the bare spots in the lawn.
  • Pick up tree branches.
  • Once the soil reaches 40 degrees, you can fertilize woody plants.