by Charlene Burgi
It is so tempting for me to cozy up to a roaring fireplace with a good book on these cold, damp days we’ve been experiencing in Marin. I try to convince myself that the plants are dormant and there isn’t anything I really need to do in the garden. But, as I gaze outside, the roses and fruit trees remind me it is time to sharpen the blades of the pruning shears. The plants need to be shaped, thinned and retrained to encourage new growth, flower and fruit production. It is also time to open up evergreen trees to protect them from wind damage.
It would be foolhardy of me to try to detail how to prune all the different types of plants and trees. Books are available that discuss the pruning techniques for each species as they require different methods of pruning to sustain their health. I recommend that you find a good pruning book suitable for the types of plants you need to prune, or check some of the excellent sites on the web for reference. Look for detailed pictures or diagrams on how to approach the task at hand.
I would be remiss not to share some basic knowledge that applies to this job. Safety first. Use the right tools. Chain saws, blades on saws, and pruning shears can do serious damage if you are not careful. Make certain that everything is sharpened and oiled for maximum performance and that you are, at a minimum, wearing protective gear such as leather gloves and safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying wood shavings.
In general, when pruning your plants, cut above an outside node (it looks like a tiny bump on a branch) or to a side branch. Do not prune back more than a third of any wood bark plant. Remove any branch growing to the inside of a plant, or crossing another branch. Unless you are pruning a hedge, do not round off the plant or tree. And please be kind to trees. They do not like to be cut across the top like they are sporting a flattop haircut.
Understand that fruit trees require special pruning knowledge. Some varieties of fruit trees produce on last year’s wood and some produce from spurs. This type of pruning requires some research before starting. If the intricacies are too great, I would suggest that you hire someone who specializes in pruning for maximum production and tree longevity.
Rainwater Harvesting Workshops January 19-21
For those of you interested in rainwater catchment, Marin Municipal Water District is co-sponsoring two rainwater harvesting workshops later this month. The first is a one-day introductory workshop perfect for homeowners, and the second is a two-day course geared toward professionals. Or, join us for all three days to learn all about this ancient practice now enjoying a revival. Click here for details.