Summer Pruning / Pinch an InchWritten by Tom Ogren
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Most of us gardeners have done some pinching of geraniums, begonias, and especially fuchsias, trying to make them bushier. It works pretty much same with fruit trees, too. The more often you pinch, more bud breaks you get and bushier your tree becomes. I have found with very vigorous branches that in a season of growth, I may have to pinch that same branch three or four times, but it seems well worth effort. The end result of all this tip pinching is a shorter, more compact fruit tree…and one that won’t need much pruning in winter. The tree benefits too, since it no longer has to pour all that energy into re-growing all that wood each spring. This same energy can then be converted into producing a larger crop of fruit. There is another pleasant benefit, too, from all this constant snipping and pinching…fewer bugs. Aphids in particular can be a problem on apricots and apple trees, and they almost always take hold first on softest, newest, fastest growing wood. The pinching removes this soft tip, part most attractive to insects. The pinching also interrupts natural apical dominance present in terminal end of any fast sprouting branch and encourages branching. Summer pruning, pinching, isn’t recommended for trees that are growing slowly since it will further slow down growth. It is most desirable with trees that naturally have a tendency to get much tall than we want them to be. Where late spring frosts can be a problem (with apricots in particular) summer pruning can result in a tree of a much more manageable size. Some apricot lovers have now discovered that with enough summer pinching you can get a smaller tree, one that is low enough to throw a plastic cover over on those cold spring evenings when branches are loaded with white blossoms, but a late frost threatens. But, take note: be sure to remove frost cover promptly when morning arrives. If a program of summer pinching is undertaken, following winter’s dormant pruning needs will normally be minimal. However, once every few years it would still be a good idea to make a limited number of large cuts, cuts that remove considerable wood. This would be done to encourage more vigorous new growth. The reason this would be needed now and then is because most deciduous fruit trees fruit on either first or second season’s wood. Dormant pruning would still be used to remove any dead wood, criss-crossing branches, and to shape tree. If there is a large branch that needs removing, time to do that is always in dormant season. One word here about dormant pruning of fruit trees: in mild winter USDA zones 8-10 it is best to do your dormant pruning just after Christmas. In colder winter areas it is safest to delay dormant pruning until worst of winter’s cold has passed. Thus in a very cold zone 3, such as in northern Minnesota, best time to prune fruit trees would be in March or early in April. But summer pruning, pinching, can be done all summer long. The results will please you and tree both. So get out there, and pinch an inch.
Thomas Leo Ogren is author of five published books, including Allergy-free Gardening (Ten Speed Press), Safe Sex in Garden (Ten Speed Press), and, What Experts May NOT Tell You About: Growing Perfect Lawn (Time Warner Books). Visit with Tom at his own website at www.allergyfree-gardening.com
Thomas Leo Ogren is the author of five published books, including Allergy-free Gardening (Ten Speed Press), Safe Sex in the Garden (Ten Speed Press), and, What the Experts May NOT Tell You About: Growing the Perfect Lawn (Time Warner Books). Visit with Tom at his own website at www.allergyfree-gardening.com
How to Plant a Heather GardenWritten by David and Alissa Dewitt
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FOUNDATION PLANTINGS - Use heather in a foundation planting to eliminate straight lines and formality that is often created with more typical plants. In Northeast, Taxus, Rhododendron and Juniper are commonly used; heather is a natural companion to these evergreens. Use them to hide bare branches at base of shrubs, to fill voids between larger shrubs, and to bring entire plantings away from house. A long, curving line is more natural and can be creatively designed with different heights and foliage colors of heather. The evergreen foliage can be finishing touch needed to bring a foundation planting together.
PERENNIAL BEDS AND BORDERS - Gardens of perennials often lack visual interest during winter months when herbaceous species are dormant, waiting for spring's call of warmer temperatures. In late summer months when many perennials are waning, many of Callunas are flowering heaviest. The structure and foliage color of these evergreens can also be used to an advantage. The winter blooming Ericas are natural selections for winter color. Erica carnea and E. x darlyensis start forming buds in early summer, that open as early as November in shades of pink, rose or white. These long lasting flowers are colorful all winter until first of May when many of spring bulbs are in full bloom. The soil requirements are a bit different than those of some perennials but you may be able to provide them with a site that has a well drained soil that has not had a lot of fertilizer and manure added.
NATIVE AND WILD GARDENS - Fifteen plants of Calluna vulgaris were originally planted some 80 years ago at edge of a pine barren here on Cape Cod. Over years, seedlings have taken a foothold in sandy native soil and have naturalized . Little care has been given to this area that is now over 80 feet long and 30 feet wide. The natural succession that has occurred has left this area with 3-4 dominant natural cultivars which bloom in August and is spectacular. The same effect can be achieved by planting some of taller cultivars we offer, spaced about 2' apart . Prune heavily first 3-4 springs to obtain a broad sweep of thick foliage and heavy flowering.
David and Alissa Dewitt are the owners of Rock Spray Nursery, the largest US grower of the hardy Heath and Heather plants. Visit their informative website at http://rockspray.com