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Pruning

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Pruning

Keeping a garden journal and your eye on the weather will help you anticipate when to prune or move tender plants from under the eaves or back outside. Frost-burned parts of twigs, plants and leaves can actually protect the plant so resist the temptation to prune them until you begin to see some growth. Only then trim off the damaged area.

Try to find middle ground when cutting roses for flowers. Cutting stems too short or too long will determine how fast they will re-bloom and effect the strength of the stem. If you cut flowers with long stems, it will take longer for them to bloom again. If you cut flowers with short stems they will bloom, but you’ll end up with inferior flowers on short weak stems. Natural long-stemmed roses can be cut with longer stems but keep at least two leaves at the bottom of each plant. Continue to disbud Hybrid Tea and Grandiflora roses. Wait until a rosebush is over a year old before cutting for flowers. Cut above the first 5-leaflets that point away from the center of the plant. Deadhead blooms that have faded on the bush.

Tip: To make cut roses last longer, put them in a sink filled with tepid water for 20-30 minutes. Leave the thorns and clip off the lower leaves under the water. Fill a vase with one of the following solutions: 1 quart water, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of bleach. You can try 16 oz of regular 7-up, 1 pint of water and 1/2 teaspoon of bleach.

When the leaves go brown and die back, cut off the flower pods and use a well balanced fertilizer to ensure good performance next year. Continue to water. (See the Fertilize and Disease Control section for more information on bulbs).

Cut back stems to the second leaf joint from the ground after the flower clusters fade to encourage better flowering next year

Potted chrysanthemums should not be cut to stubs—they will die. Just take off the blooms when they’ve faded and cut the stalks back very lightly. Once they start to show new growth, remove the stalk above it. Chrysanthemums planted in the ground can have the stalks cut back to 6-8 inches. Be sure to clean up the ground and don’t add the discarded cuttings to the compost pile as they often carry diseases.

Use good judgment when pruning, but improve the shape by cutting out old woody and crossover branches and enjoy the beautiful cut flowers inside the house. Don’t over water azaleas, but don’t let them dry out completely. Prune just beyond the bump created from last year’s growth (you’ll notice a difference in color).

When you see some growth, begin pruning standard and shrub fuchsias. Old bark is dark and has a rougher texture than the smooth bark of last year. Cut off twigs and 1-2 inches of older wood. To make them bushy, pinch them back. When a sprout has made three pairs of leaves, cut off the top pair. Stop pinching and let them bloom when really full.

It is very important for flowering to prune hibiscus regularly. To encourage bushiness in shrubs, prune three or four branches back to two or three growth buds from the center. Be sure to take branches from opposite sides so it doesn’t loose shape. Continue this about every six weeks through the summer. If you want a hedge, keep the tips on one third of the shrub cut back to about one or two feet all over the sides and top. Continue cutting back one third each month throughout the summer. Follow up pruning with fertilizer and water.

If you want to keep potentially tall shrubs from becoming trees, you’ll need to prune them frequently during warmer months. Work toward a flowing form–wider at the bottom than at the top. This will allow the bottom branches to get the sun they need. Cut plants with small leaves on the outside like a hedge. Cut branches from deep inside the shrub if it is a large-leaf plant. Prune plants like oleander and heavenly bamboo that grow and spray out at the top like a fountain by cutting entire branches to the ground after blooming. Start pruning myoporum, photinia and pittosporum now. Consult a garden book for details on how to best prune these shrubs.

When the blooms have finished, cut stalks to the ground. Ginger blooms just once on a stalk then dies so, continue cutting them back throughout the year. Encourage new stalks and refresh cannas by cutting the stalks that have bloomed to the ground. Keep them deadheaded throughout the year. Revitalize an asparagus fern by cutting it to the ground then fertilize it and it will come back quickly. Don’t prune until you are sure frost is no longer a possibility.

Trees and shrubs with dense growth can be damaged from winter rain and winds. Remove dead and weak branches so wind can pass through. Young trees need to flex to develop strong trunks, but they have to be staked so winds don’t damage or blow them down all together. Run a wire through a cut hose when staking the tree to keep from damaging the bark. Remove the stake once the tree has become well rooted, the trunk will try to grow over the staking material.

After deciduous fruit trees have lost their leaves, and before the buds begin to swell you can begin to prune them. By starting to lightly thin deciduous fruit trees this month you’ll have less June drop and larger fruit. Thin again in four to six weeks. Pruning is tricky and depends on the kind of tree, variety of fruit, age of the tree and placement of branches. For our mild climate, you may have to consult more than one book for proper guidelines. Follow up pruning with dormant spray to prevent disease.

Kiwis fruit mostly on growth from last year, which is smoother wood. Prune young kiwis lightly to develop a primary trunk and assist growth on an espalier, overhead wire or pergola. To produce fresh fruiting growth, prune mature kiwis hard. Remove all dead, diseased and tangled growth. Encourage growth and reduce crowding by removing a few 2- or 3-year-old branches each year. Keep only about 30 canes that grew last year. Shorten canes by leaving only four or five buds. Shorten the fruiting spurs, to two buds each.

Pinch off suckers and side branches above leaf joints on tomato plants and cut back to two major vines if they are staked or on a trellis. If plants have too much shade, have been allowed to dry out, or are experiencing temperatures below 55° or above 75°, you may have flowers but no fruit. If temperature is causing the problem try a different variety or use a blossom-set spray specifically for tomatoes.  Be sure to use this product exactly as directed. 

Keep thinning your vegetable rows. This part of vegetable gardening is often forgotten or considered wasteful. In overabundant gardens many plants begin to compete with each other which stunts its growth. It will also allow you to continue planting and offer your family a variety of different crops throughout the season.

Mound the soil high around the stalks of potatoes to keep them cool and healthy. Skins turn green (which is poisonous)  when exposed to the sun. Mix some nitrolized wood shavings or compost in with the soil and keep it 5-6 inches high when the plants start flowering. Dig up only the number of potatoes you want to use for dinner and re-mound them. Once the leaves yellow, harvest as many full-grown potatoes as you want. Dig up the rest of the rows with a garden fork once the tops of the plants wither and die. Leave the mature potatoes out on the ground for two to three hours to dry then store them in a cool (40-45°) dark place.

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