What to know about pruning and trimming garden plants and trees in the…

247 News Around The World
247 News Around The World

From the threatening snow-filled scenery outside the Overlook Hotel in “The Shining” to Ned Stark’s grave warning that winter was coming in “Game of Thrones,” pop culture has taught us that winter can be scary, but seasoned Southern California gardeners know better. 

Here, fall and winter offer gardeners a chance to do things they can’t during the rest of the year and one of those is giving everything in the garden a trim, including vegetables, herbs, ornamental trees and fruit trees. 

Pruning helps refresh garden spaces, stave off unhealthy insects and encourages additional growth come spring. An additional assistance? The weather’s better.

“You can trim without the additional stress of sunlight coming in and hitting the inside branches,” said Justin McKeever, a plant specialist at H&H Nursery in Lakewood. 

Here’s a look at what pruning can be done in the garden right now. 

When pruning leafy greens like spinach, use a pair of scissors and clip from the outside, instead of the center where the new growth comes from. (Getty Images)

Cut back leafy greens, herbs and veggies 

This time of year is when gardeners tend to grow leafy greens such as lettuces, chards and spinach and the time of action for pruning them is simple. 

McKeever said something as basic as a pair of scissors can be used on leafy greens and that gardeners should clip from the outside (instead of the center where the new growth comes from). 

Trimming can help keep plants manageable while also spurring growth. 

For most vegetables with a long stem, McKeever recommended to cut the above a node or directly above where you see two horizontal leaves coming out from the stem of the plant. 

He said that this will communicate to the plant to grow outward. The two nodes on the plant will effectively become branches.

“The more you trim, that truly encourages growth on a lot of plants,” McKeever said. 

Pruning allows for easier application of copper sulfate, a spray that can be applied in the fall and winter.  The spray helps to keep away borers that could drill into a deciduous fruit tree during its dormancy. (Getty Images)

How to prune deciduous fruit trees 

McKeever said the same rule applies to fruit trees and that where you cut them will consequence in the growth of new branches. For example, if you have a whip or a young tree that only has a singular stem cutting that stem will create the presence of side branches. Trimming those side branches will consequence in more branches and help form the canopy of the tree. 

A shorter trunk is also easier on the plant’s root system because energy doesn’t have to travel so far up the tree, McKeever said. 

He said a good rule of thumb is to cut back no more than a third of the total length of the main stem. 

By cutting back a deciduous fruit tree in fall before the winter comes, gardeners set it up for success because in the spring it will have lots of new growth points in the places where it was trimmed, McKeever said. 

Another assistance is that pruning allows for better airflow by the canopy of fruit trees and easier application of copper sulfate, a spray that can be applied in the fall and winter. 

The spray helps to keep away borers that could drill into a deciduous fruit tree during its dormancy, said Carrie-Anne Parker, owner of Rolling Hills Herbs and Annuals in Redlands. 

McKeever said that if you’re making cuts that are more than four inches in diameter, use a sealer over the area to help keep out moisture, diseases and burrowing insects. 

“It’s like when we get a cut, we put a Band-Aid on to keep that area clean so nothing else gets on top of the wound,” McKeever said. 

He said a shared sealer is tar-based and from the company Bonide and gardeners can simply apply it and let it dry. It won’t hurt the tree and will flake off over time.

If stems are growing from the bottom of your fruit tree near the graft line, you’ll want to get rid of those, Parker said. She said that those are coming from the rootstock and won’t fruit. 

A tip for pruning citrus

Winter is generally when a lot of citrus trees finish the fruiting course of action. 

Parker said now is when she’ll take a look at her citrus trees and remove any branches that might be touching the ground. She’ll also remove some fruit if it looks like it might be too heavy for the tree’s branches. 

Prune to prevent pests

Some trimming is less about production and more about keeping insects and diseases under control. 

McKeever said if the plants in your garden have leaves touching the ground, trim them so they’re not prone to fungal diseases that come from touching the dirt or being splashed by water. 

Parker likes to trim her herbs and perennial plants so that the bottom leaves of the plant are 4-6 inches off the ground so that she can see all around the base of the plant — and if anything is growing up under it. 

Some grasses and weeds that grow beneath plants can compete with them for nutrients and can shelter insects, she said, so it’s nice to be able to see when those things are growing and pull them out. 

Parker said that gardeners who have tropical varieties of milkweed will want to cut those down to the soil line and not have any leaf material visible above the soil during the fall and winter. She said the tropical varieties can shelter a parasite that can be unhealthy to monarch butterflies. She said native varieties of milkweed do not need to be trimmed back because they do not great number the same parasite. 

Pruning to help your garden grow

What you trim now can be a raise to your garden later. 

For some plants, you can propagate trimmings. Parker said she likes to cut the runners on her strawberry plants and then put those cuttings in vermiculite to grow roots. Those become next year’s plantings. 

Parker also said that provided that your trimmings don’t have diseases, you can throw them in a compost pile and let winter rains break them down and as the spring arrives you’ll have fresh organic material that you can use in your garden.

“Fall is when we can really start to build for next season,” she said.

This post first appeared on ocregister.com

The post What to know about pruning and trimming garden plants and trees in the fall and winter appeared first on 247 News Around The World.

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