January 2011

Second and third dormant spraying on fruit trees should be completed this month and in February. With all the rain it has bee hard to get it done. If you have not done your second spraying do it now and then the third should be done February usually around the middle of the month. You want to get it done before the buds are starting to show flower color. Use copper spray or sulfur spray and mix some dormant oil in with it to help it cling to the tree and also kill any overwintering insects. If you have apricot trees only use copper spray. Never use sulfur spray on apricots.

Prune fruit trees and roses. Fruit trees can be pruned this month or next month but roses should wait until mid February to be sure to get past all the heavy freezes before pruning. This year I plan to have pruning clinics for fruit trees and roses. I will send an email with the dates as soon as I have them set.

The ground is pretty wet right now but you can still plant bare root trees and shrubs. It is a good idea to mix compost in with the soil so that any air pockets that may be there because of the clay will be filled.

Remember the selection for fruit trees is the best during bare root season. We have many varieties with different ripening times so you can spread the harvest out over a long season.

Bare Root Season is Here— and it is a big item in the nursery busi- ness in January/February each year in this area. Note that we say “in this area”. Folks who come from much colder areas of the country, such as the mid-west and the east coast of the U.S., will notice the early and short duration of our bare root season. Deciduous roses and trees can only be handled bare root during their dormant period — in this area, commencing in November with digging, sorting, grading, tagging, then shipping in December and January, then selling in January and February. By that time most have begun to break dormancy and must be planted into the ground or into containers because they are putting out new roots that cannot be disturbed without potential damage to the tree or plant. We are well supplied with fruit and nut trees and shade trees, as well as many deciduous shrubs. This is the economical way to plant any of the aforementioned items because the cost of a container, planting mix, and the time and labor involved in planting has been avoided. We are going to send them home with you in a plastic bag instead. The roots are vulnerable to drying and/or freezing if not protected, so it is best if you are ready to put them in the ground right away. If that is not possible for some reason, then they must be protected in some other fashion. If it is a short term delay, you can lay them down somewhere, water the roots well and cover them with an old rug or something else with some insula- tion quality that will stay damp. If it is long term, do to frozen ground that can’t be worked for quite some time, or something else of that na- ture, then lay them down somewhere and cover the roots well with soil, sawdust, compost or other medium with thick enough cover to keep them from freezing. Water the pile well and be sure that it never dries out completely until you are ready to plant. If you live in an area where it gets especially cold, you might want to throw an old piece of rug over them for added protection from freezing. The best plan is to plant as soon as possible.

What are Chilling Hours? — That is the minimum cumulative number of hours during the dormant period when the temperature must be under 45 degrees F if normal fruit/nut production is to be expected. Most local area will record near 1000 chilling hours, somewhat less in mild coastal/Bay Area climates, and much less in southern California locations. For example, an apple requiring 1000 chilling hours might not produce a desired crop in Alameda or Contra Costa counties.

Not Available in Bare Root — There are several things that we have frequent requests for during bare root season. Citrus fruit is prob- ably the most sought after item that is not offered as bare root stock. It is evergreen, and even though it is at its most dormant state, it still can’t be taken from the ground and shipped with roots exposed. There are some others that are shipped that way, but can suffer high losses, such as figs and pecans. For that reason we sell those only in containers to avoid the disappointment for the customer of a season lost due to the trees

response to that kind of handling. A few popular deciduous shade trees that frequently will not break dormancy in the spring and are not offered as bare root stock are liquidambar, Chinese pistache and Chinese hack- berry.

Final Spraying For The Season for fungal problems on fruit trees is due in mid-February. Spraying will protect peaches and nectarines from curl leaf, and pears and apples from fire blight (ornamental pears can be affected by fire blight, too), plus fungus problems on other things. Use either cooper spray or lime sulfur, reading the directions carefully before use. Lime sulfur cannot be used on apricots, and copper spray can be used on all the fruit trees.

Pruning of and Care Roses — Many gardening books will recom- mend pruning roses in January which is fine for the very cold areas. However, in our local areas many roses do not go completely dormant, and as soon as they have been pruned they start to put on new growth again. We will frequently have a late, hard freeze that will freeze back the new, tender growth and the plant has to expend the energy to start over again. It is alright to wait until February when the threat of a freez- ing night is not so great to start the pruning. Climbers need only pruning to shape and control growth and miniature and landscape roses generally do not need heavy pruning — mainly for shaping and to get rid of any dead growth to make them look neat again. Hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses should be pruned back rather heavily, back to about five canes per plant, pointing outward and upward to resemble a bowl. Dur- ing this process, some of the oldest canes shoul be eliminated.

After pruning, to prevent fungus disease such as black spot, powdery mildew and rust, roses can be sprayed with copper spray or lime sulfur until they start getting leaves, then start using fungus spray specifically roses, or Neem Oil which is an organic

product that works well. In about February, alfalfa meal or alfalfa pellets can be used at the base of roses and watered in well to encourage the growth of new canes. In April, 2 to 4 ounces of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate) can be applied and watered in well to enhance the flower color. Roses should be watered adequately and fed monthly during the growing season for the best flower production.