Dormant season pruning continues in February

English: Pruning the vines
English: Pruning the vines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

See the Raintree Plant Owners Manual for basic pruning information, or check out our selection of pruning books.

Finish pruning grapes, kiwis, figs, maples, and other heavy sap producers this month, before the weather starts to warm, to avoid excess bleeding from the wounds.

Prune stone fruits (plum, cherry, peach, apricot, and almond) after buds begin to swell for the best healing response to your cuts.

Deciduous, summer flowering vines, such as Honeysuckle, Variegated Porcelainberry, or Tasmania Vine, will have dense stem networks after a few years. Thin out selected canes at their base to open the vines up and shorten remaining stems as needed to maintain desired size. Delay pruning of spring flowering vines until after they have bloomed, then apply the same approach to pruning as for the summer flowering vines.

Once the most damaging winter weather seems to be done, inspect shrubs, berries, and trees for dead and damaged wood and remove.

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It’s planting time for moderate winter climates!

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Fruit_tree_forms_at_Gaasbeek
A test site with several fruit tree forms located at Gaasbeek Castle. (Wikicommons)

Planting time has arrived for those in moderate winter climates including people living west of the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest. So long as the ground is not under water or water-logged, frozen or covered with snow, and the temperature is above freezing when you plant, you can plant dormant potted or bare root plants starting in February.

Planting at this time is almost as good as planting in the fall. Roots have plenty of time to dig in and establish before the tops of the plants start demanding water and nutrients.

Colder areas of the country may have to wait until March, or later, to start planting. Be sure to read the Plant Owners Manual we send with your new plants for specific planting instructions. Sometimes you might not be ready to plant when you receive your order. Or maybe weather conditions or your ground are temporarily not appropriate for planting. Hold your bare root plants, in the bag they came in, in a cool location that stays above freezing (35-40°F) up to two weeks, or heal them into a pile of loose soil or shavings if you will need to hold them longer.

Add a little water to the bag if you do not see humidity collecting on the inside. It is important to keep the tops of the plants cool until planted, and the roots protected from drying out. See page 1 of the Raintree Plant Owners Manual for more details if you have to delay planting your new arrivals.

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Dormant Season Spraying: Now Is the Time

Shothole blight on a peach tree. Photo credit: Utah State University extension

Late winter is the time to apply dormant oil spray to control insects or eggs over-wintering on the trunks or limbs of your trees. Focus on trees you saw significant infestations of aphid or scale in last year. Some dormant oil products may have insecticide in them to enhance their effectiveness, or fungicide to allow you to accomplish more with a single spray. I prefer to know what insect or disease I am treating, and use the best product and spray schedule for it in my area. Sometimes overlaps in timing may occur, in which case a combination product could be used.

Fungal diseases can be prevented with fungicides, but often not eradicated, once infections occur. Sanitation is important, cleaning up leaves and debris that may harbor fungal spores helps reduce the amount of innoculum present. Start applying Fireblight controls in early spring, fixed copper sprays or Bordeaux mix are effective. Fixed copper sprays are also effective against pseudomonas or bacterial canker, applied in early spring and late fall; and Corynium blight (shothole disease) in stone fruits applied early fall, winter, and spring.  Brown rot can be controlled with copper, sulfur, or lime sulfur sprays, applied at petal fall, mid-summer, and fall. Apply your third spray to control peach leaf curl, about 4 weeks after your last spray in late January.

Scab in apple or pear trees can be managed with lime sulfur, sulfur, fixed copper, or Bordeaux spray, applied when conditions are right for infection to occur. Apply the spray immediately following an extended wetting period in which the fungal spores are able to germinate. At cooler temperatures (below 48°F) the wetting period is 12-24 hours, or longer. Above 48°F, the wetting period will be less than 12 hours. Or spray by the calendar, starting just prior to the flower bud scales starting to open, and every two to four weeks, depending on the amount of rainfall and the temperature you are experiencing. Do not apply spray when the blossoms are open and bees are visiting the flowers. The most critical time for scab control is from the breaking of the flower buds until leaves are fully expanded.

Contact your local co-operative extension service to find out what the typical disease and insect problems are in your location, and the best recommended products and treatment times. Always follow label directions for mixing insecticides and fungicides.

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Dig Up Potted Bulbs Now to Force Early Spring Color

English: Tulip, 2005 Floriade, Canberra
English: Tulip, 2005 Floriade, Canberra (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dig up potted bulbs you sunk in the ground last fall to force early spring color.

Keep them in a cool greenhouse or basement and provide 12 hours a day of supplemental light.

When flower buds start showing some color bring them inside to enjoy. The flowers will last longer if they are kept cool overnight.

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Soil Testing Is Important to the Health of Your Garden

Homeowners are encouraged to test their soils ...
Homeowners are encouraged to test their soils for nutrient needs, and to apply only what nutrients are needed for a healthy lawn. Farmers practice the same testing procedure. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How well did your plants grow for you last year?

A soil test might be needed if you noticed last years’ growth was weak, off-color (red summer leaves on blueberries, yellow leaves on bamboo, etc), or you are planting in a new soil area.

You have two choices: At-home testing or lab testing

If you are using a soil test kit at home, use distilled water to mix with your soil sample, or you will be testing the water from your tap. A home soil test kit can give you an idea of the pH (acidity or alkalinity) of your soil, as well as the approximate amount of available nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.

You can also collect soil samples and send them off to a lab for a more professional test and supplement recommendations based on the crops you tell them you intend to grow. Ask your local cooperative extension office for soil test lab recommendations.

It is important that the pH of the soil is within the preferred range for the plant you are growing. Plant roots can not do their job of absorbing nutrients properly if the pH is wrong, even if there are plenty of those nutrients in the soil.

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