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Unsure about pruning? Workshops provide guidance

January is prime time to sharpen your skills – and your pruners

The orchard at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center looks quiet in winter, but crucial pruning happens at this time. It will be open to visitors and staffed  by master gardeners during Open Garden Day on Jan. 21. Bring questions!

The orchard at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center looks quiet in winter, but crucial pruning happens at this time. It will be open to visitors and staffed by master gardeners during Open Garden Day on Jan. 21. Bring questions!

Kathy Morrison

OK, gardeners, the holidays are behind us, even if the rain is not. Time to focus for real on winter garden care, especially the pruning of trees, shrubs, berries and roses. (Pruning of grapevines should wait until February.)

Debbie posts frequently here on rose pruning, and will do so again soon. Links to some of her past posts are at the bottom of the page.

The focus in this post is the other types of pruning, a topic that can provoke confusion and anxiety among gardeners: What if I prune my favorite fruit tree wrong? Will the perennial shrub blossom or even grow back properly if it is cut back heavily, as some suggest? What happens if a raspberry bush is left alone and never pruned?

It’s not a good idea to prune anything in the rain, so stick to indoor learning when it’s soggy out. Certainly reading material and videos on the subject abound. Just be sure of the source of the information, and stick with knowledgeable experts as opposed to self-anointed ones – less danger to yourself and the health of your plants.

The UCCE master gardeners in the region are an excellent source of information on pruning. If you’re the type of gardener who prefers in-person workshops, January includes several opportunities to watch and learn. Unless otherwise noted, these events are free and do not require registration:

– Saturday, Jan. 7, 9 a.m. to noon, Open Garden, Sherwood Demonstration Garden, maintained by the El Dorado County master gardeners. With 16 garden areas to peruse, there’s plenty to see and learn. This event is part of the El Dorado group’s First Saturday series, which offers a docent-led tour starting at 9 a.m. sharp. Note: Watch the weather forecast if you hope to attend. The garden will be closed if the chance of rain is 60 percent or more between 9 a.m and noon, or if temperatures below 40 degrees are expected. 6699 Campus Drive, Placerville

– Saturday, Jan. 14, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., “10 Tips for Backyard Orchards,” presented by the Placer County master gardeners. In addition to discussing fruit tree choice and planting, the workshop will discuss pruning tips and care advice. Loomis Library, 6050 Library Drive, Loomis.

– Saturday, Jan. 14, 10 a.m. to noon, “Pruning With Purpose,” presented by the City of Roseville and the Roseville Urban Forest Foundation, covering many types of pruning. Free, but requires registration. A few spots remain as of this writing. Register here for Jan. 14. An evening workshop also will be offered, 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26. Register here for the evening session; many spaces remain. And another Saturday morning class will be offered on Feb. 4.

– Saturday, Jan. 21, 9 a.m. to noon, Open Garden Day at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center, the demonstration garden of the Sacramento County master gardeners. The primary focus of this first 2023 Open Garden is pruning, especially in the Orchard, but also in other areas of the FOHC such as the Berry Garden and the Water Efficient Landscape. Ask questions, take notes and gain some pruning courage! 11549 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks.

– Saturday, Jan. 21, 9 a.m. to noon, “Fruit Tree Pruning Demonstration” presented by the El Dorado County master gardeners at their Sherwood Demonstration Garden. 6699 Campus Drive, Placerville.

Here are some of Debbie’s previous posts on pruning roses:

-- December rose care: Start pruning now

-- Late pruning is better than no pruning

-- How do you prune carpet roses?


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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