Late winter or early spring is one of the best times to prune fruit trees.

Pruning improves fruit size and quality. When more light is admited to the tree, better fruit color results. More spray coverage is possible on pruned trees and so insect and disease control improve.

With an apple tree that has been bearing fruit, the main job is to keep it within bounds, remove broken and diseases limbs, thin out limbs that become too thick and remove water sprouts and limbs that rub together.

Usually, the first years after begining to bear fruit the tree produces only partial crops. Little pruning is done since the tree is still largely making vegetative growth.

As the tree begins to bear heavy crops, the poorer growing, less leafy branches, and those receiving the least sunlight, should be removed. Such branches produce few apples.

When one branch is shading another, the least desirable of the two should be removed. Cut off dead and diseased wood, branches growing inward toward the center of the tree and any suckers.

Peaches are borne from buds on shoots that developed the previous year, so stimulation of new shoot growth by pruning and fertilization is important. Remove branches that are broken, diseased, slender or weak, especially on the inside of the crown; remove those growing straight up and those growing downward.

Then thin out the top to let sunlight into the center of the crown and permit more effective spraying. Branches that grow long without having side branches on them should be cut back in order to stimulate side branches nearer the trunk.

Pear trees require less pruning than apple trees; in fact, very little pruning is necessary after they begin to bear. When needed, it should be done in late fall. The pear tree is susceptible to fire blight, a serious disease; new growth is more susceptible; and spring pruning may stimulate a lot of new growth.

The sour cherry tree often grows in a spreading manner and is pruned like the peach. It grows slower than the peach and less pruning is required after the first few years. If twigs are too dense, remove some. The object is to keep the tree open enough to allow light to enter the crown. Q. I have outside flower boxes 5' long, 8" wide and 10" deep. Can I grow some evergreen plants in them during the winter? A. Most likely, no. The soil temperature in the box is the same as the air temperature and that's too cold for survival of the roots, which are not as hardy as the top of the plant. If the air temperature goes much below freezing, the roots may be killed. Q. How can you tell how old a big tree is without cutting it down? A. The age of a tree can be determined by counting its annual growth rings.To count the rings, a cylindrical sample of wood is taken from the tree by means of a hollow auger, called an increment boner. Q. We have a number of cedar trees that have grown too tall for the patio they surround. They're about 20' tall and I'd like to cut them back to 6 to 8'. Can it be done without killing them? A. These conifers can be kept small by pruning them year after year, starting immediately after they are planted. Once they're too big it's too late to cut them back and have them look attractive.