By Cecilia Rice
We wish everyone a “Happy New Year” as we enter 2019. We have had a moderately wet and mild December so far. But as we get into winter, be prepared to protect frost sensitive plants if a freeze is coming. Check on plants to be sure that they are not excessively dry. That is especially important for containerized plants since dry roots will freeze more easily than wet ones will. Cover frost sensitive plants with frost cloth or sheets. Avoid using plastic. It does not insulate. Fabric does.
Bare root season is the big thing many people look forward to in January. Bare root fruit trees and roses are now available. We usually have some folks who are new to gardening and the term ”bare root” may not be familiar to them. It is simply what it says. The trees have been taken out of the ground and the roots are exposed, thus, “bare root” . They are less expensive since the pot, soil, and time and effort to plant them into a container has been avoided. It also requires that it must be planted right away, or otherwise stored in a way to protect the roots from drying out or freezing. We have availability lists at the nursery to help one to make decisions. Bare root season for fruit trees is usually considered very late December or early January to the end of February. By then the trees are beginning get too many new fragile roots and new leaves to handle them “bare root” without possible damage. There are advantages to planting your own fruit trees. You make the decisions of what fertilizers etc. are used and avoiding many of the unknows of commercial grower’s methods. Allowing the fruit ripen on the tree allows much better flavor to develop as the fruit ripens than that picked early and ripened in cold storage. Often kids and adults are encouraged to eat more fruit just because they like picking it themselves and it is close by.
There are many questions about the fruit trees, one being, do they all need pollinizers? Some are self fruitful and don’t need a different pollinizer and others do. Many of the peaches and nectarines are self fruitful, but not all of them. Most of the cherries need a pollinizer, but again, not all of them, and so it is with plums, and pears. Most fruit trees have a tag giving some of that information, but be sure to check when you are picking out varieties to make sure you have the proper variety needed to pollinate if necessary.
One thing that won’t be found during bare root season are citrus and avocado trees. They are evergreen trees. They are semi tropical trees and need protection when the weather is very cold. They will be available in the spring.
Chill hours may be noted on the tag. That refers to the cumulative number of hours required under 45 degrees during the entire winter season to provide normal fruit production and is generally not a concern in our area. We historically average 700 to 800 chill hours in our area.
Many camellia plants have finished blooming for the year and the flowers have fallen causing a pile of debris at the base of the plant. That debris should be bagged and sent to the landfill rather than added to a compost pile you may have. It can carry a fungal disease that develops in the debris that then can scatter the spores and spread a problem that is easily avoided by the proper disposal of the debris.
Bare root roses are now available and have been pruned by the growers. If you have roses that are growing in your yard already, we suggest delaying the pruning until the danger of a heavy freeze is past. In our area roses usually don’t go completely dormant. What happens when you prune a rose? It starts putting out new growth at that point. That new growth is too tender to survive a hard freeze and dies back. We have lots of micro climates in the foothills, so consider the temperature range in your area and delay the pruning until freezing danger is past and do the pruning in early spring if it seems more appropriate. If by chance you do prune them and are then hit by freeze that damages new growth, no great harm has been done – the rose just has to expend more energy that might otherwise have been saved for its beautiful first bloom and has to start over again.
Some maintenance chores to be done in January – weather permitting –
Annual pruning of dormant deciduous plants – allow spring blooming plants to bloom, then prune
Prune dormant vines, grapes and cane berries
Prune deciduous fruit trees
Rake up heavy litter of leaves and apply pre-emergent if weeds were a problem last year
Shop early for the best selections in bare root fruit trees.
Cecilia Rice is a partner wither son Jeff Rice at Bald Mountain Nursery on Bald Mountain Road in Browns Valley
Tel.(530) 743-4656 We are the unexpected nursery on a little country road.