Master Gardener News Blog
Pruning Fruit Trees
By Jutta Thoerner UCCE Master Gardener
Please tell me how to prune different types of fruit trees? Mark, Atascadero.
Here is a list on how to prune the fruit trees that are common in your area:
Apricot: these trees have an upright and vigorous growth habit. Apricots produce fruit on short-lived spurs. It is best to cut back all the previous year's growth by ½ or more which will encourage new growth and new spurs. Apricots (and Cherries) should not be pruned in wet weather. Six weeks of dry weather assures that they don't get infected with Eutypa, a form of wood canker. It's safest to wait until summer to prune for the following year's fruit set. Prune apricots annually.
Apple: a tree with a spreading habit. Most of the fruit develops on spurs 2 years old and older. The productive life of spurs is about 5 years. Therefore, don't remove spurs. Do, however, remove all dead wood and branches which rub together. Thin out branches to let in sun light and remove water shoots. Prune annually and when dormant.
Pear: trees can be upright or spreading, depending on varietal. Fruit matures on spurs 2 years or older. The productive life of spurs is 10 years or more! Prune lightly only removing dead wood or rubbing branches. Prune annually when the tree is dormant.
Peach and Nectarine: trees have an upright and spreading growth habit. Fruit is borne on the previous year's growth. This means new fruiting wood must be produced every year in order to have good fruit production. Heavy, annual pruning is recommended. Pruning a minimum of ½ of last year's growth, mostly done by heading, is a must. Prune when dormant.
Plum: European plum is upright; the Japanese plum is variable and can be spreading. Fruit is born on spurs 2 years old and older Spurs are productive 6-8 years. Prune lightly, thin and remove dead wood. Prune annually and when dormant.
Don't forget to use tools that are sharp and clean. It is advised to disinfect all pruning tools between each tree. A solution of one part rubbing alcohol to one part water is a sufficient disinfecting dip for the blade or saw end of your tools.
For further information the UC ANR Publications website offers books such as Home Orchard: Growing Your Own Deciduous Fruit and Nut Trees.
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By Jackie Woods UCCE Master Gardener
Succulents are trendy, cool, beautiful, inspiring and are esthetically pleasing to the eye. Their popularity continues to grow and for good reason: they are easy to keep and care for, there are many varieties to choose from and planting possibilities are endless.
So, what exactly IS a succulent? The word succulent means ‘juicy.' Succulents are plants with fleshy leaves and stems with extensive, shallow root systems. They are indigenous to arid or semi-arid regions and their ‘juiciness' is but a mere evolutionary adaptation to the immense heat and dryness of their environment. They are more efficient with water consumption than other plants. Succulents are drought-tolerant due to their ability to store water, are generally pest resistant, and they are super easy to propagate. They prefer well-drained soil and definitely do not like soggy or freezing conditions.
Common succulent plant names: Burro's tail (Sedum morganianum), Hens-and-Chicks (Echeveria elegans), Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi), Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii), Medicine plant (Aloe Vera) and Panda Plant (Kalancho tomentosa). There are over 60 plant families that are considered succulent. Most do best outdoors where sunlight is abundant but there are some, Echeverias for example, that can be grown in low to medium light conditions and thus can do well indoors.
Succulents can be planted almost anywhere; in a hanging wreath, a vertical wall, hanging in a basket, planted in a pot, in an old boot, in a seashell, in an old rusted birdcage, in a rock garden or in a piece of driftwood. There are thousands of ideas on Pinterest alone! Have an old water fountain but are drought-conscious? Plant succulents in it. Be forewarned: Growing succulents can be addicting!
Craving a more hands-on learning experience? Join the UC Master Gardeners Advice to Grow By free workshop on “Living With Succulents.” The workshop will be held Saturday, February 18th from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm in the auditorium at the UC Cooperative Extension office located at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Please register as seating in the auditorium is limited. Visit the UC Master Gardener website to register - http://ucanr.edu/sites/mgslo/.
Deer Resistant Shrubs
By Lee Oliphant UCCE Master Gardener
I've just moved to a new home and want to plant shrubs that will not be devastated by local deer. Jeanette, Cambria.
Experienced gardeners know that there is no such thing as a “deer proof” plant. Deer fencing is the only way to keep deer out of your garden. Even when a plant is considered deer resistant, hungry deer will sample a newly planted shrub that may later be undesirable. Fawns will also nibble on plants as they learn what is edible and what is not.
Gardeners in deer inhabited areas must find alternatives to shrubs, such as roses, unless they are willing to install wire cages around them. Research what deer like, then choose varieties of shrubs less enticing. Buy a single potted plant and place it in the chosen location. Observe it for at least a week and make note of its desirability to local deer.
Many of the more deer-resistant plants available are California and Australian natives. These plants have been able to reproduce and thrive in areas of pervasive deer populations for centuries. Some have a strong odor, such as the scented geranium (Pelargonium) and herbs. Their strong odor repels deer. Fuzzy-leafed plants or prickly plants also deter deer. The mild toxicity of the berries and/or leaves is the discouraging element of plants such as the big-leafed hydrangea.
Flowering shrub options that add both color and structure to a garden include the blue hibiscus, barberry, Buddleia (butterfly bush), sweet box, canthus, flowering quince, choisya, cotoneaster, flannel bush, toyon, holly, juniper, lavatera, Scotch heather and heath, Oregon grape, tea tree, oleander, plumbago, rhododendron, rosemary, evergreen barberry, wax myrtle, viburnum, holly, Echium (pride of Madera), salvia (sage), rock rose, saucer Magnolia, dwarf coyote bush, and princess flower.
As a last resort, and to protect your shrubs when first planted, try spraying them once every two weeks, and after a rain, with a commercial product that has an offensive smell to deer (and unfortunately to humans also). There are ultra sound and sprinkler type devices that act as deer deterrents as well.
Before you plant, carefully consider which plants will fulfill your design requirements while letting you relax and enjoy the wildlife that inhabit your neighborhood.
By Leonard Cicerello UCCE Master Gardener
I just moved into a home that has several fruit trees. My neighbor said I need to dormant spray. What is this and why should I do this? Katie L. Atascadero
Dormant sprays are horticultural oils which include some insecticides and fungicides. Dormant sprays are applied when plants and trees are in their dormant stage, once all leaves have fallen. These sprays kill fungal diseases that are hidden beneath the bark and within cracks and crevices of your plants or fruit and nut trees. The sprays can also suffocate overwintering insects and eggs on a plant.
Dormant sprays are usually combined with an oil for easy application and can be applied in late fall, winter, and early spring. Winter and early spring applications should occur before the trees form flowering buds. Spraying when flowering buds are present can disrupt bees and other pollinating insects resulting in little or no fruit.
Copper and sulfur sprays are used in combination to control a variety of diseases including leaf blight, shot hole, and peach leaf curl. Dormant sprays are the least disruptive to beneficial insects and the environment when they are applied properly. It may be necessary to make several applications for diseases with a long infection period, such as fire blight.
Water trees well before applying to prevent burning of plant tissue. Choose a windless day when the temperature can remain above 50 degrees for at least 24 hours. Be careful of spray drift because it can harm evergreen plants, trees and annual flowers. If you have a fish pond, spray drift can also harm fish. Apply thoroughly to coat the entire surface of the plant or tree. The spray is not effective once it dries.
Fungal spores and some insect pests can overwinter among the fallen leaves. Therefore, it is important to rake and dispose of leaves to minimize the harboring of pests and diseases that can cause damage the following season.
Dormant sprays employed at the right time and in the correct way can be one of the most satisfying tasks you perform in your garden to maximize flower and fruit production and enhance your garden's productivity.
By Jutta Thoerner UCCE Master Gardener
I would like to change my front yard to an edible garden. What can be done now? Francine, Atascadero.
This is a good time to get your front yard prepared for planting spring edibles. To start, turn off all the irrigation lines at the water source. Next, remove the drip tubing, soaker hoses etc. Now you can dig out all the scrubs and plants without damaging irrigation lines that you might want to reinstall.
Once all the plants are removed, take a soil sample and send it to a lab for an analytical soil test. The results generally come with recommendations on how to improve your soil fertility. Take the soil printout to a trusted nursery or agriculture retail supplier and stock up on soil amendments. Unless you have already a high percentage of organic matter (see test results) add some quality and well-cured compost to your soil. Incorporate amendments into the compost. In general, you will add small quantities of micro and macro minerals that are lacking in your soil. Spread a 4-6-inch layer of compost plus minerals onto the top soil. With a large garden fork or spade, work the compost into the top 6-8 inches of your soil. If the soil is very compacted, you need to loosen the soil first and then fold under the compost.
It is helpful at this stage to draw the layout of the planting area, orienting the garden towards the south. Mark pathways and irrigation lines and indicate areas that are shaded from the sun. This preplanning will help you when selecting the right plants for this area of your edible garden. Group water loving plants together, arrange herbs close to garden entrance for easy access. Check out books and garden magazines, and order seeds of edible flowers: Nasturtium, borage, calendula, pineapple- sage, tulips, scented geraniums, roses, and begonia. Trees that have edible flowers and fruit include apple, orange, elderberries, pineapple-guava. All flowers that bloom from herbs are edible and don't forget the flowers from vegetable plants. My Tip: Only plant what you and your family like to eat!