Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs January 2002
Pruning, Poinsettias & Carobs


January is generally cool, if not downright cold, so it's a good month to dig future planting holes without the usual sweat and to get rid of winter weeds and grasses.  This is also the month to prune deciduous (i.e. lose leaves in winter) fruit trees, roses and grapes.  Pruning can be an involved subject, so for specific information consult the Sunset Western Garden Book or call the Maricopa County Extension Service at 602-470-8086.  For Grapes, if you are not interested in lots of fruit production, just cut them back however you want.  For good fruit production, you must prune back established plants severely following different rules for different varieties.  Sometimes stems will ooze lots of sap after pruning but this will stop after a couple of days and will not hurt the plant.  Established Grapes are fast growers that rebound quickly from pruning and that can cover an arbor or trellis in one season.  Deciduous fruit trees (e.g. Apricots, Apples, Plums, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears) are pruned when trees are dormant and leafless so that they don't lose lots of sap from the cuts.  Before embarking on a major pruning, snip off a branch to see if lots of sap comes out.  If so, wait.  Since this season has been fairly warm so far, many trees have held leaves longer and may not be completely dormant.  Pruning methods to promote fruit production differ according to type.  Peaches and Nectarines require the most pruning.  Major Rose pruning should be done during January before new growth starts.  Seal cuts with white wood glue or use a commercial sealer.  Since leaves harbor insect eggs and fungus spores, strip off any remaining leaves and dispose of all old debris.

All young trees with smooth bark and exposed trunks are subject to sunburn on the south and west sides even in winter.  If the trunk has been shaded by a large stake next to it, this area will burn if exposed to the sun.  Burning is evidenced by a reddening and eventual blackening and cracking of the bark usually on the sun exposed side.  Avoid this problem by applying tree paint, trunk wrap, shade fabric or latex paint diluted by half with water.  Citrus, Ash, Bottle Trees & Fruit Trees are especially susceptible.


Christmas Poinsettias looking ratty?  You don't have to throw them away as they are actually a tropical perennial that will grow outdoors here.  They need rich soil, protection from frost and from full summer sun.  A south or east exposure with an overhang is best.  Unpruned plants in the ground will get huge (10' or more tall) and will begin producing colorful bracts in the late fall.  Keep potted plants in a cool, well lighted room.  Plants may lose leaves and go dormant during which time they need very little water.  Plant out when frost danger has passed.  Fertilize several times through summer and early fall with an all purpose plant food.


Most varieties of citrus except Valencia Oranges will have some ripe fruit in January.  Taste fruit before harvesting and remember that fruit stores best on trees.  Limes and Lemons are the most frost sensitive trees, while Tangerines and Grapefruits are the most frost hardy.


"Plants are a dirty business." says Barbara our shady garden lady, "so let's talk about sex!"  Among Carobs that is.  Also known as St. John's Bread, the Carob Tree (Ceratonia siliqua) is an evergreen tree or large shrub from the Mediterranean Region.  A slow growing plant, it is quite drought tolerant once established.  Old trees may be up to 30' tall and as wide.  The edible seed pods have a sweet, sugary pulp which when ground is used as a chocolate substitute.  Trees have only male flowers, only female flowers or both male and female flowers.  You can tell its orientation when the tree flowers or fruits.  The male flowers produce stinky pollen, the female trees (when in the vicinity of a male tree) produce messy seed pods, and the trees with both sexes both stink and make a mess.  Presumably the latter situations could be avoided by planting a female only tree and making sure that there are no males lurking about.

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Web Comments September 13, 2004 Shady Way Nursery 2004