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.

Pruning Fruit Trees

Friday, January 27th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • It’s bare root season, which means you can save money on fruit trees and shade trees by planting them now. A wide selection is now available.
    • Onion plants can be set out now for early summer harvest. Choose your favorite varieties.
    • Blueberries are a delicious fruit that can be planted now from young plants. Give them a rich, acid bed prepared with lots of peat moss.
    • Spray fruit trees with a dormant oil spray after you prune them. Spray from the bottom up, including the undersides of limbs and the ground around the tree, to prevent early spring insect infestations.
    • FREE Fruit Tree Pruning Class this Sunday, January 29, from 10 AM to 3 PM. Meet at Mendocino County Museum, 400 E Commercial St, Willits, and look for the signs. Call 459-9009 for more information.

Pruning Fruit Trees

The main purpose of pruning a fruit tree is to create a tree with delicious high quality fruit at a height where you can pick it safely.

When fruit trees are young, 1-4 years old, the main object of pruning is to establish a well-formed framework of branches that will be capable of holding and bearing the fruit. This framework can take many forms from the traditional open-vase or central-leader systems to the newer spindle-bush system.

The traditional open-vase is an excellent form for most fruit trees and it is the easiest to do. Remember that as the tree grows, a given branch will always be the same distance from the ground: it does not grow up with the tree.

For a fruit tree to fruit properly, it needs 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. Proper pruning will allow sunlight to penetrate throughout the tree so that all the flowers, fruit spurs, and fruit get all the sun’s energy they need in order to grow properly and produce fruit.

In order to maintain a balance between fruiting wood on the tree and vegetative growth, which will become new fruiting wood in time, trees must be pruned moderately, avoiding large swings of growth brought about by heavy pruning. This will also help the trees bear regular crops every year, especially on trees that tend to bear heavily one year and lightly the next.

Proper pruning also distributes the fruit evenly throughout the tree. And it creates better air circulation, which helps prevent certain diseases.

The two basic pruning cuts are a heading cut, which removes part of a branch, and a thinning cut, which removes a branch all the way back to where it meets another branch. We use these two types of pruning cuts at different times to achieve our pruning goals. Height control on fruit trees is best done with summer pruning, while winter pruning causes lush regrowth, especially in the top of your tree.

Sometimes a large, old, neglected fruit tree must be pruned in order to bring its height down to a more manageable level and to improve its fruit quality. This takes careful work over 2-3 years.

Pruning should always include the removal of dead, diseased and broken branches, cutting out unwanted growth like water sprouts, suckers, and crossing or rubbing branches, and improving the structure of the tree by removing narrow or weak branch attachments.

Learn where the fruit is produced on your trees so that you can prune your trees properly and not prune off the fruiting wood.

Proper pruning will make for a strong, healthy tree that will give you bushels of fruit for years to come. There is a lot to know about pruning, so take a pruning class, read books and observe carefully the results of your own pruning on your trees. Have fun and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Rose Care During Drought

Saturday, February 8th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Apples and pears are the easiest fruits to grow in our area. Choose early, mid-season and late varieties for a continuous harvest from late summer into winter.
    • Fill your winter garden with color from primroses and pansies.
    • Stop peach leaf curl by spraying now with copper spray to help prevent this disfiguring disease from attacking your trees this spring.
    • Start an asparagus bed so you can enjoy their young, tender shoots straight from the garden.
    • Plant strawberry plants now for delicious strawberry shortcake this summer.

TLC for Roses during Drought

Roses are a valuable asset to your permanent landscaping. They should be given high priority when planning water allotments for the drought season. But roses will adjust to prolonged water shortage better than many flowering plants.

Because roses are so resilient, caring for them during drought is not difficult. There will be less growth, fewer and smaller blooms, and fewer and shorter blooming periods. But despite these disappointments, your roses will survive. Follow these tips keep your roses healthy during this challenging time.

To decrease the stress on your roses you must help them make the most of the available water. Infrequent, deep watering is the key. Deep watering ensures that moisture will penetrate down into the root zone where mycorrhizal fungi and root hairs maximize the surface area of the roots and provide the most efficient use of the water.

Drip irrigation, soaker hoses or other slow delivery systems conserve more water than sprinkling. Build some sort of edging around the rose bed to keep the water in the root area and prevent runoff.

When you water your roses, mark it on your calendar. Then wait and watch. When the roses start to droop, note the date, count back the number of days to when you last watered, subtract one day and that is how often you need to water. Repeat this occasionally and you will likely see you will need to water less and less as the roots push deeper into the earth. In other words let your roses tell you when they’re thirsty.

To retain the moisture and moderate soil temperatures, mulch heavily with 3 to 4 inches of shredded mulch. This will stretch the time between waterings and reduce the number of weeds competing for available water.

If summer temperatures are high, cover the plants with shade cloth to further reduce transpiration.

Prune lightly to avoid stimulating vigorous new growth. Remove only dead, diseased or damaged wood and shape lightly, but leave as much material as possible. The root system and the top stay in balance with each other. You want to maintain a robust root system that can reach out to find water in the soil.

Do not cut blooms from the rose bush as they start to fade. Allow them to form seed heads which will help postpone the new growth that normally follows each blooming period. But once the seed heads have formed, remove them because they will use water to mature.

Do very little fertilizing. Use a mild fertilizer in the spring, giving them just enough to keep them healthy without stimulating growth.

New roses need to be kept moist during their first summer to encourage a strong root system. Two gallons of water per week should be sufficient. Feed them lightly and mulch.

With a little extra TLC, your roses will survive the drought to enhance your garden for years to come.