Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

January, 2002
Regional Report

Prune, Prune, Prune!


Everything that has lost its leaves for the winter needs attention now. Dormant season pruning keeps plants healthy and shapely. Here are some basic rules for dormant pruning: Remove any dead, diseased or injured wood. Remove any growth that passes through the middle of the plant. And prune for shape. Keep fruit trees relatively short so you can reach the fruit, and keep roses pruned down so they don't produce their flowers 10 feet in the air. Wait just a little while longer to prune hydrangeas and fuchsias.

Apply Dormant Spray


After you have finished pruning your deciduous plants, apply a dormant spray such as lime/sulfur or copper and oil. Don't forget to spray the ground beneath the plants too. Dormant spraying kills insect eggs that may survive the winter in bark and on the ground. Lime/sulfur and copper/oil are both organic products; however, please use your safety gear whenever you spray pesticides.

Sow Peas Please


Peas are a cool season crop, best planted when the soil is still cool to the touch. Presoak seeds in damp paper towels for best germination. Plant in deep, loose soil which has been amended with organic compost. Provide support in the form of a trellis or wire pea cage. Protect young seedlings from hungry snails and birds.

Protect Young Trees


Trees planted in the fall have ample time to grow new roots and anchor themselves into the soil before the spring growing season begins. However, the trunks need protection from the sun. Otherwise, here's what happens: During the winter months, the sun is low in the sky. On clear, windless days, the sun heats up one side of the trunk of a young tree, while the rest of the trunk stays cool. This temperature differential causes the bark to split, damaging the cambium layer beneath the bark. To prevent the trunk from splitting, wrap the trunk with cardboard, tree wrap or cloth strips.

Winter Lawn Rx

Soggy lawns suffer in wet weather. Poke a spading fork into the soil at regular intervals, or walk around with spiked golf shoes, to create holes that will allow oxygen to reach the grass roots. The more air you incorporate into the soil, the less trouble you will have with fungal diseases. Don\'t fertilize yet -- new growth is very susceptible to disease. Wait for the weather to warm and the days to get a little longer before applying fertilizer. After mowing, wash the underside of the mower with a 10% solution of bleach or Lysol to prevent the spread of fungus diseases.

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