Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

February, 2008
Regional Report

Prune Wisteria

Wisteria vine is very aggressive and, if left alone, will take over New York! The flowers come from those little, dark brown buds. Remove the long, gray stringers close to the main branches, especially if they are growing into nearby trees or overhead wires. Ideally, you want clusters of the dark buds on the tips of branches, but that takes years of training. Keep reducing the overall size of the vine until you develop a main framework of branches. Then, each year, tip prune the branches and remove the stringers. Wisteria requires substantial support. Set 4 x 4s in concrete footings or provide a metal trellis.

Prune Deciduous Trees

Prune and shape deciduous trees while they are still dormant. First, use a pole pruner to remove any dead, diseased, or injured wood. Next, remove any growth that crosses through the center of the branching structure to improve air circulation and allow light into the interior. When removing large branches, make your cut on the outer side of the branching collar. The branching collar is an area of slightly wrinkled wood at the base of each branch. It is a fast-growing bark that covers wounds in a short period of time. If you remove a branch too close to the trunk, the tree may take longer to heal and allow insect pests, canker, and fungus disease to develop.
Finally, make heading cuts on the small outer branches to reduce the overall size of the tree and direct new growth.

Improve Planting Beds

It's almost planting season. This is the perfect opportunity to improve the existing soil in your garden beds by adding organic compost. Organic compost will improve any kind of garden soil, including clay and sand. It's available at garden centers and nursery supply stores, or even better, make your own from garden debris and kitchen scraps. If the soil is wet, simply lay the amendment on the surface to till in later when the soil is workable.

Plant Spring-Blooming Annuals

While the soil is still cool, plant early spring-blooming annuals from nursery cell packs. Calendula, English daisy, fairy primrose, Iceland poppies, pansies, snapdragons, stocks, and violas will brighten your winter-dreary garden. Use a slow-release fertilizer in the soil at planting time to get young plants off to a good start. If you desire, plant annuals in large containers using fresh potting soil. And for goodness sake, try something new this season! Schizanthus (also called poor man's orchid) and nemesia are both colorful additions to a spring garden.

Prune Fuchsias

Prune frost-tender fuchsias just as winter comes to an end. Pruning stimulates new growth, so by waiting until late in the season, you eliminate the danger of frost damage. Fuchsias can withstand severe pruning. Hanging plants can be cut back to several inches from the surface of the soil. Leave a basic five-branch framework so that new growth has good shape.

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