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Pruning basics covered in quick, informative local videos

Topics include salvias, blueberries, grasses and more

Sacramento County master gardener Pat Schink explains winter pruning of woody sages, aka salvias, in a video available on YouTube.

Sacramento County master gardener Pat Schink explains winter pruning of woody sages, aka salvias, in a video available on YouTube. Screen grab from "Pruning Woody Sages," UCCE Master Gardeners of Sacramento County

No need to look far for great gardening advice: The Sacramento County group of master gardeners, not to mention other counties in California, have produced terrific -- and short -- videos on all kinds of topics.

This time of year the A-Number One topic is pruning, of course. Trees, roses, perennials, berry bushes all are dormant and can be pruned.

But pruning a plant you've invested time and money in can be scary to some people. What if it's ruined forever? They fret and then don't do anything. But ignoring pruning may ultimately hurt more than help that plant.

Below are suggestions on videos to watch that will explain the pruning process succinctly. But first, a few plants that should NOT be pruned during winter:

-- Apricot and cherry trees. Pruning cuts on these trees are susceptible infection from a fungus (Eutypa) and bacterial canker diseases that flourish in wet weather. Save those pruning duties for late summer.

-- Citrus trees. Pruning stimulates growth, and new growth is highly susceptible to frost damage. Wait until after harvest (usually April or May, depending on the type).

-- Lilacs, camellias and other spring-flowering shrubs. Easy reason: The risk of cutting off all those flower buds!

Here are my favorite master gardener pruning videos:

-- "Pruning Mature Blueberry Plants." Blueberries are fun to grow, but they can be mysterious to care for. Master gardener Tamara Engel demonstrates the best tools and techniques for thinning the plants before spring growth begins.

-- "Pruning Rosemary." Master gardener Karen Martin explains when and how to cut to keep this popular landscape herb looking great. A "hard pruning" to reshape the plant is recommended annually, usually in early spring, but any dead stems can be removed now. (Hint: Look near ground level for these.)

-- "Pruning Woody Sages." You know those wild-haired salvia plants? This is for them. They do so much better in the summer after a hard pruning in winter. Master gardener Pat Schink covers both growing-season pruning and dormant-season pruning, so bookmark this one for reference later in the year, too.

-- "Pruning Ornamental Grasses." This is a job for the February garden.  Pat Schink explains the process for keeping these low-maintenance plants looking their best.

-- "How to Prune a Hybrid Tea Rose." Yolo County master gardener Marcia Nelson covers the basics in just 6 minutes. I also like Sacramento master rosarian Charlotte Owendyk's video, "How to Quickly Prune Roses," filmed for Green Acres and the Sierra Foothills Rose Society.

-- Of course, clean and sharp pruning tools are important to the process. "Sharpening Hand Pruners" is a must-see master gardener video, whatever type of plant will be pruned.

-- Winter pruning of fruit trees. For trees other than apricots and cherries, this is the time to shape deciduous fruit trees. Santa Clara County master gardener Allen Buchinski, in 2021 filmed a long presentation, "Pruning Fruit Trees," that covers many details. The county used to be known for its orchards, and this master gardener group has several fruit tree videos on its YouTube channel.

For more growing info from the UCCE master gardeners of Sacramento County:


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For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

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

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

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

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

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

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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