Jan. : Getting Ready for Spring

Welcome to our January edition. I hope that Christmas went well and that the New Year’s resolutions are reasonable and attainable. I also truly hope that our Christmas article was a blessing to all that read it.

Winter is a time that we think of the garden and go brrrr. Yes, I know it is cold, and the last thing we want to do is yard work. Even so, you would be surprised how with a little movement the body warms up, and there is no cold that a cap and long underwear can’t  handle. Trust me I know. The love of the garden and being out in it is a cultivated love (no pun intended), and it is worth doing. There is something so healthy and healing about being in the garden. It drops our stress down, better than a glass of wine, and ties your efforts to beautiful results. So the purpose of this edition is to highlight some of the pruning work that should be done during this time of year to prepare our gardens for Spring.

Before we begin, let’s review a principle rule. ALL PRUNING of trees or shrubs always starts with the question, “What am I trying to correct or achieve?” You must answer this question before a pair of pruners ever touches the branch, and you may need help with the answer. So Google the plant or tree and see what a properly pruned one is supposed to look like. With that said, let’s get to work.

At this time of year, Hybrid Tea Roses receive their “hard prune.” The objective is to reduce the number of canes down to about 5 evenly spread canes (if possible) and reduce the size to about knee height, roughly between 12” for smaller growing roses, 15” to medium growers and 18” for very mature roses and for climbing roses. I will say with climbers, if they are established on arbors or trellis, you do not want to go through the whole process of re-growing and retying them, but you can selectively thin them. Roses need air circulation and for light to reach the inside of the plant. When the plant is too dense, fungus can develop and you will see interior leaf drop. Remember to prune the canes to an outside bud, which are noted by a “line” in the cane. Prune just above it, at a slight angle and make sure your pruners are sharp. Crushing the branch via dull shears can cause infection.

Although winter pruning for fruit trees is a long established practice in orchards, new studies indicate that fall is the preferred time. The concern with winter pruning is infection. So my suggestion would be to prune the cross branches a couple weeks prior to flowering and keep the pruning to ¼” diameter branches. Be careful as you pull the branches out of the canopy to not knock off the flower buds of the remaining branches. The heavier fruit bearing branches can be pruned in late spring. Though you will be removing fruit, it is better than having the branches break or bend later in the season as the fruit matures. Remember to apply dormant oil for insects hibernating in the crotches and bark of the tree, and fungicide for leaf curl.

With our fruit trees well cared for, let us turn our attention to deciduous trees and shrubs. There is nothing sadder to me, relatively speaking, than a tree that is ill shaped, and /or one sided. Mature trees with proper shape are so beautiful to look at; they give great shade, and reign as the Kings and Queens of the garden. I have a beautiful Raywood Ash in my front yard, must be about 35’ tall, and as it grew I would climb up into it and thin out all the excess branches making sure each branch was approx. 2′ from the next branch. It has developed beautifully, shading our house from the southwestern sun, and the leaves turn a reddish yellow color in the fall. You have about three years to establish a nice structure while the tree is still young and growing, after that most of the pruning that will be done is more corrective in nature.

Finally, remember to feed the plants. It takes a lot of energy to grow and produce blooms. Top dress with an organic fertilizer; most will include beneficial fungi that makes the soil friable (loose) and helps the plants to absorb nutrients. The composition of the organic fertilizer is that it needs the organisms in the soil to break them down. Stay away from synthetic fertilizers, they by-pass the natural process and contribute to excess phosphorus  in our water (In Jan.2010, I did a complete article on fertilizers).

Caring for your garden takes time and energy—something not everyone has. Please remember that we can help you keep
your garden fit and beautiful with our quarterly maintenance service. Our goal in both landscape design and maintenance is to make your garden a place that gives you great joy. There is no manmade object that exceeds the grandeur found in nature, and our gardens are our own little mirror of nature’s beauty, providing a perfect retreat in it.

I trust we learned something new, or at least it was a good review. If you need landscaping help, call Executive Care Landscaping, Inc. at (916)765-9040. Please visit us at the Cal Expo Home & Garden Show; we will be in the pavilion sharing a booth with Patio Perfection. I would enjoy meeting you. Take care and Good Gardening.

Plant Talk-Bare Root

January is a unique month for the garden. It is the only time of year when we can purchase bare root fruit trees and roses. They are a good buy, giving you a lot of plant for the money.I always encourage that a portion of the yard be given to growing food crops, and fruit trees
definitely qualify. For the fruit tree to do well it needs as much sunlight as possible; I would say a minimum of 7 hours, and a minimum area of 8′ by 8′. I would encourage buying semi- dwarf or dwarf because the fruit is easier to reach. For those of us who have limited space for fruit trees, a good suggestion is a tri-grafted tree, which has three different kinds of fruit grafted onto a single trunk. It is quite interesting to see, for example, nectarines, peaches and plums, all growing on the same tree. Tri-grafts are a good choice for smaller households, say two to three people. Often times a “normal tree” produces too much fruit for one household to eat, so you end up giving the fruit away, or letting it fall to the ground, which makes a mess. For families with plenty of mouths to feed and yards with ample space, there is nothing better than home grown fruit. So decide what fruit you would like and research the different varieties by going to the Sunset Western Garden book or online to learn about the differences within the same fruit category. The trees come minimally pruned and branched, so you will need to prune them approximately to half of their size to encourage lower fruit production and branches. Do not expect fruit the first year. If you are still unsure about the pruning needed, consult your local nursery for help.

Until next time- Blessings

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