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Summer Pruning

Friday, August 18th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Fall vegetables can be planted now for a fall harvest of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard and lettuce.
    • Pansies and snapdragons can be planted now to replace long, leggy annuals. They will give you color this fall, winter and next spring.
    • Cut off the flower stalks of foxgloves, lupine, and delphinium after they bloom and you will get a second wave of flowers.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with a “bloom” fertilizer to encourage flowers for next spring.
    • Mums are the beauties of the fall garden. Choose plants now in a wide variety of colors.

Summer Fruit Tree Pruning

For many years pruning of fruit trees has been a winter activity. Pruning books tell us to prune when the trees are dormant, usually in January or February. But there is a new understanding of how trees respond to pruning that makes summer pruning the best way to control the size of your trees.

Winter pruning stimulates new growth because in spring the food stored by the tree over the winter bursts forth in a flush of growth. Pruned branches will burst out from many dormant buds. This works well with roses, for example, because the flowers are borne on new growth. So proper winter pruning will give you a healthy plant full of flowers.

In summer, food is made by the leaves through photosynthesis and this food is taken down into the roots and main branches and stored for next year’s growth. So summer pruning does not usually result in new growth.

There are two main kinds of pruning cuts used to prune fruit trees: heading cuts and thinning cuts. A heading cut is made to the middle of a branch, usually just above a leaf or bud, leaving a stub or short branch. Heading cuts are used to improve the shape of the plant by refocusing growth in a different direction. Winter pruning involves a lot of heading cuts to the tree.

A thinning cut removes an entire branch down to where it connects to another branch. So thinning cuts reduce the bulk of the tree and result in minimal regrowth. This is the kind of pruning best used for summer pruning.

Summer pruning can be spread out over July and August. It’s a little tricky because it’s harder to see the branch structure, but most summer pruning is done for size control. An apple tree cut all summer to a height of 7 feet tall will only grow, flower and fruit at that height or less. So next summer it can be maintained at that height without sacrificing any of the current crop.

Summer pruning can also be used for thinning the tree. Thinning cuts can be used to remove rampant growth and to let more light in through the canopy. More light to the interior branches will result in more fruit on the tree. Always leave enough foliage to protect the trunk and main scaffold branches from sunburn.

Watch your trees carefully and remove the “weedy” growth of suckers and watersprouts  as soon as they appear. Suckers are rampant growth that comes from below the graft and watersprouts are vigorous, upright branches that appear along the main branches of the tree. Both take energy away from the healthy growth of the tree.

It is recommended that apricot and cherry trees be pruned only in the summer. They are quite susceptible to disease when pruned during cool, rainy weather.

August is the last month to do summer pruning, so check your trees this week and make thinning cuts as needed to keep your trees under control.

Fall Vegetable Garden

Friday, August 18th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Feed summer annuals, fuchsias, begonias and container plants to keep them green and blooming right up until frost.
    • Ceramic containers brimming with flowers make any outdoor living space more attractive and inviting.
    • Wisteria trees need to be trimmed throughout the summer. Keep long tendrils trimmed back to maintain the shape of the tree.
    • When perennials have finished blooming, cut them back by about one third, or to a flush of basal growth, to promote repeat bloom on coreopsis, lavender, penstemon, phlox, salvia, scabiosa and Shasta daisy.
    • Take care of your roses: feed, water, weed, mulch and remove faded blooms regularly. Spray if necessary at first sign of insect or disease problems.

Growing a Fall Vegetable Garden

Planting a fall garden will extend the gardening season so you can continue to harvest fresh produce after summer crops have finished. Many vegetables are well adapted to planting in the summer for fall harvest.

Many cool-season vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, produce their best flavor and quality when they mature during cool weather. In spring, the temperatures often heat up quickly. Vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach, tend to bolt or develop bitter flavor when they mature during hot summer weather.

Growing a productive fall vegetable garden requires thoughtful planning and good cultural practices. August and early September are the main planting times for the fall garden.

Vegetables that have a 60–80 day maturity cycle should be planted in early August. This includes broccoli, cabbage, carrots and collards. Quick maturing vegetables, such as turnips, lettuce, kale and other leafy greens, can be planted in late August or early September.

Transplant seedlings into well-prepared moist soil in the evening, so they have the cool night temperatures to settle in and minimize shock. In hot weather it is best to shelter newly transplanted seedlings for a few days with shade cloth or row covers.

You can start seeds of leaf lettuce, bok choy, spinach, Swiss chard and roquette or arugula now. These are fast-maturing crops that will be ready before frost. Although most seeds will germinate quickly in the warm summer soil, some, such as lettuce and spinach, will not germinate well if the soil temperature is above 85°F. Shading the soil with a board or a light mulch will keep the soil cooler, enhancing germination. Remove the temporary shade when you see sprouts emerging.

There are many kinds of lettuce to choose from on seed racks that will give you color and variety in your salads. Swiss chard comes in green, red or “rainbow”, a mixture of colored stalks.

Root crops, such as beets, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas and turnips, can be left in the ground through the fall. Green onions, chives and radishes can also be planted through September for harvest in the fall.

It is important to rotate your crops from year to year. Do not plant the same crops in the same place that they were planted in the previous year because the soil will be weakened through continual loss of the same nutrients and the plants will also attract the same insects and diseases to that part of the garden.

Before planting your fall crops, turn over the soil and mix in some fertilizer to replace what earlier plants have used up.

A major benefit of a fall garden is that it gives you fresh vegetables long after most of your summer crops have been harvested and killed by the frost. So start your fall garden now to extend the productivity of your garden.

Silk Trees for Summer Beauty

Friday, August 4th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Set out starts of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and lettuce for a fall harvest. Spray weekly with BT to keep the cabbage worms at bay.
    • Birdbaths will attract our feathered friends to your backyard so you can enjoy them close-up. Place them a few feet from a bushy shrub to give the birds protection.
    • Japanese maples may be pruned now in order to shape them.
    • Mottled leaves are often a sign of spider mites. Check for them with a hand lens or bring a leaf into your nursery for identification and treatment options.
    • First-year fruit trees need to be well-watered through the dry weather. If they are neglected the first year, they may never be strong, productive trees.

Silk Trees for Summer Beauty

One of the prettiest summer-flowering trees is the silk tree or mimosa. A native of many parts of Asia, this tree goes by the botanical name Albizia julibrissin. It is known as mimosa because its leaves resemble those of the sensitive plant which is the true Mimosa. It is called the silk tree because it comes from that part of the world where silk is made.

This tree has feathery, fernlike foliage that creates an umbrella of dappled shade. The leaves are made up of many leaflets and they fold up on cool evenings, like the leaves of a sensitive plant do when you touch them.

The flowers, which bloom in the summer, are very showy and look like pink powder-puffs resting on top of the dark green foliage. The variety ‘Flame’ has fluffy bright red flowers and ‘E.H. Wilson‘, which has pink fluffy flowers, is more cold-hardy than the species. The flowers attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.

The silk tree is used in parking lots, in lawns and parks and can be grown in large containers. It is popular for use as a patio or terrace tree for the filtered shade that it provides and the tropical effect. The flowers are most attractive when viewed from above, so it is nice when planted on a slope below the house.

This fast-growing, deciduous tree has a low-branching, open, spreading habit. It is often grown with multiple trunks which make a nice pattern when the lower branches are removed. It adds a tropical effect to the landscape.

Albizia are generally tough trees. They take a wide range of soils including wet soils and poor, dry, gravelly soils. They can withstand summer drought, once established. Give them regular watering during the first few growing seasons to establish a deep, extensive root system.

They are fast-growing trees to 25-30 feet tall, spreading to 35 feet wide, but are easily kept to 15 feet tall with annual pruning.

Silk trees are considered to be messy trees. After they bloom they shed their flowers and then produce numerous seed pods that resemble wisteria pods. These will also fall in time. In autumn, the leaves fall at the first frost, having no fall color.

Each winter, Albizia trees should be pruned to remove dead limbs and to thin out the tree, removing poorly attached branches. Other than that, they require little care.

The summer beauty and versatility in size of the silk tree makes it a good choice for many landscape situations.