Snippets April 9 2015
Pruning is done at different times of the year for different reasons. Winter pruning – while plants are still dormant, before they start leafing out – can stimulate growth. Roses respond well to quite drastic pruning. People often cut their roses back in fall – if you didn’t, do it now, to an outwards facing bud which is where the fresh growth will spring from.
Raspberry canes live for two seasons, bearing fruit the second year. It’s simplest to prune summer-bearing raspberries in summer, after fruiting – clip the old growth back to 15 or 30 centimetres from the ground. If you didn’t do so, take out that brown and woody growth now. All canes of everbearing or fall-producing raspberries can also be cut back.
Other trees and shrubs can be shaped now, but will be weakened if you cut too much - the rule of thumb is to take no more than a third of healthy wood, and on a larger tree, that’s too much. Do cut out water sprouts, the long straight shoots that grow straight up through the tree.
There’s no need to paint over the cut, the tree’s cambium layer generates disinfectants and new cells to seal over the wound, painting actually interferes with that process.
Some trees need to be summer-pruned – for instance, peaches and flowering cherries, because they are susceptible to disease, and wounds heal faster in the summer. Some trees like apricots and pears can be shocked by pruning into coming into flower too soon, and then are damaged by a late frost – so leave them until after bloom-time.
Wait until your flowering shrubs flower before you prune, but whether they’re spring or summer bloomers, prune soon after flowering or you’ll be taking off the buds for next year.
Push the lawnmower A question on the British radio show Gardeners Question Time (I listen to the weekly podcast) was, how can gardeners reduce their carbon footprint in these times of global warming. Avoid digging and don’t buy new stuff made out of plastic, said one panelist, while another urged a return to the push lawnmower and waxed lyrical about the mesmerizing cadence of the metal cylinders revolving late on a summer’s evening, as opposed to the thundering chug of a gas machine. I’m not the one who cuts the lawn, and I have to recognize my lawn is still too large for a pushmower, even though I have taken large chunks out of it and turned them into beds and paths. For small lawns, it’s worth considering.
Get seeds for direct sowing There are a whole lot of veggies that are not bothered by frost and can be sown as soon as the soil can be worked, before the end of the month. Get the seeds so you’re ready when the time comes: for instance, peas, lettuce, arugula, kale, swiss chard, parsley and radishes. Beans will not tolerate frost with one exception, the “old world” broad (fava) bean, that is quite impervious to cold and should be seeded as soon as possible so it comes into flower before blackly appear in midsummer.