In the gardening world, winter is not considered the most exciting time of the year. In many places, snow covers the ground and gardeners stay indoors thumbing through seed catalogs dreaming about spring.
However, in USDA zones 9 and higher, some plants are blooming and not all of the trees have lost their leaves. There is still work to be done in the garden, including the not-so-glamorous tasks of cleaning up around the garden, pruning, and spraying to prevent insect and disease problems (in some cases).
Sanitation in Winter
Did you know that dead or diseased materials laying around your the garden may harbor pests? Old fruit hanging in trees (called mummies) and/or lying on the ground is a great hiding place for pests that can survive until spring. So are leaves from trees that previously had pests and diseases. Rake up leaves and compost materials including fallen leaves, or add them to your green waste container if your city provides one.
Pruning in Winter
When buds on plants begin to swell, it’s a sign that it’s time to prune roses as well as deciduous trees such as crape myrtle, pistache, and others. To prune trees, begin by removing dead, diseased and damaged material. Always use sharpened pruning tools and to dip them in a mixture of 10% bleach to water between cuts to eliminate the possibility of spreading disease. Never prune into the bark branch collar of the tree, but don’t leave a stub sticking out either. For more detailed information including drawings, read Pruning Trees and Shrubs.
You’ll also want to prune deciduous fruit trees with the exception of apricot and cherry. These two fruit trees are affected by fungal and canker diseases that are spread by rain, so wait to prune them until late May or early June instead.
If you have fruit trees or are thinking of planting some, I highly recommend my good friend Ann Ralph’s book, Grow a Little Fruit Tree. She has great information on how to care for a healthy orchard full of lots of varieties of trees in a small space.
Writing this post about pruning made me realize I haven’t written anything about how to prune roses! I will try to remedy that at the end of the month and hopefully make a short video too. You can wait to prune roses until February in case you were wondering.
Spraying in Winter
Even organic gardeners may need to spray to prevent disease such as leaf curl which affects nectarines and peaches. There are also dormant sprays (horticultural oils) to prevent insects such as scales, mites and caterpillars that may be overwintering on trees and shrubs.
If you have a tree or shrub that has problems with disease/insects every year, you may want to replace it with a variety that is less susceptible. Contact a local nursery for more information. Unfortunately, there aren’t any varieties of peaches or nectarines less susceptible to leaf curl that have great tasting fruit, in my opinion. But if you’ve found something you’d recommend, please let me know.
Once you’ve completed your winter tasks, you can enjoy a cup of hot cocoa, apple cider or other warm beverage while dreaming about spring.
Happy Winter Gardening!