January 2016 Edition
Beginning of our garden year
This is not only the New Year but the beginning of our garden year. This is the month that you must perform certain garden tasks. Our Southern California gardens are year round and this is very much the beginning of our spring. It’s a very busy time.
Pruning Deciduous Fruit Trees
All deciduous fruit trees need to be pruned and shaped from the beginning. To bear fruit well these trees need to be pruned once a year. Major pruning is best when the leaves have fallen off the tree and the new buds have not swelled yet. During this brief dormant state the tree shape is easier to map. January is the month to prune!
Each type of fruit tree and each individual tree vary in the type of pruning it will need. Some of the things to note are the placement of the main framework of branches, the age and vigor of the tree, and if the tree bears its fruit on spurs. It can get a bit complicated so call on an expert or consult a pruning manual.
After pruning the fruit trees, clean up the ground underneath and apply the dormant sprays. Many of our organic gardeners use the dormant sprays. These help to safely control over-wintering mites and insects, such as scale and certain caterpillars.
Peach and Nectarine trees suffer from a fungal disease called Peach Leaf Curl.
Dormant sprays can control this disease in winter without damaging fruit or harming the beneficial insects in the garden. Beneficial insects are less active in the cooler weather. As with all chemical products be careful to read the directions and use protective clothing, boots, rubber gloves and a mask.
Southern California rose growers do not hard prune the rose bush to 12-18” high like in the cold-winter climates. Here we keep the healthy, productive cane with as much good wood as possible. Don’t cut your plants lower than your knee and keep some canes as high as 4’ tall if they are thick and vigorous. This method will produce flowers earlier and the plant will live longer. When you make a cut use clean, sharp pruning shears that slice like scissors in a straight, not angled manner. Cut out all dead or unproductive wood. Remove all twiggy growth and old, spent canes. Remove all suckers that spring up from below the graft union. Leave four or five of the good strong canes in place.
Clean up the ground under and around the plants. Remove all leaves and debris.
Clip off all leaves that are still hanging on. Apply a fresh layer of mulch and don’t feed until new red growth begins to turn green.
Bare Root Planting
This is the time to visit the nursery for bare root stock. Bare root is when a plant is dormant and all the soil has been taken off of its roots for shipping. Sometimes they are packed in moist sawdust.
Roses, cane berry bushes, deciduous fruit trees, ornamental deciduous trees and vines, strawberries, artichokes, asparagus and short-day onions are all available this month. Keep the roots moist until you are ready to plant. Many gardeners will soak the roots in water before planting to give them that extra boost.
Do your homework first before heading out to the nursery. Make sure you know if you want a dwarf, semi-dwarf or standard size tree. Choose low-chill varieties and check if you will need a pollinator.
If frost is predicted make sure that the plants are irrigated unless we have had some good rain recently. Cover tender plants at night and be sure to remove the cover before the sun shines on the covered areas. Heat builds up and can damage the foliage as much as the frost can.
If frost damage has burned the foliage wait to prune until you see signs of new growth. Some branches may take until summer to recover, so be patient.
Start a garden notebook to keep track of what you are doing and when you are doing it. Note the results and ideas that you come up with so you can change methods if you need to. We are always learning and the garden is always going to be better this year.
contact Marilyn’s Garden Design.