February is the time for gardeners to prune. Pruning tells the plant it’s time to wake up and grow.
Begin with the correct tools. Hand pruners are the main pruning tool you will need. Thorn- proof or gauntlet gloves are useful when you prune your roses. Other tools include a keyhole saw and large loppers. Make sure they are clean and sharpened. Use alcohol to dip or wipe your pruning shears after pruning each plant to prevent spread of disease.
Hardwood fruit trees need to be pruned. The Open Center pruning technique is used for hardwood trees including peach, plum and nectarine that grow in our area. The Central Leader pruning technique is used on apples, pears, mayhaws, pecans and persimmons. The Open Center pruning technique for a first-year tree creates a main trunk with 4 main supporting branches that form a circular shape that should be large enough to hold a beach ball in the center of the plant. The Center Leader pruning technique creates one main trunk with alternating side branches.
From Valentine’s Day through the end of February is the recommended time to prune. Look for buds that begin to swell in February. Choose outward growing buds. Cut ¼ inch above the bud at a 45-degree angle above the outward bud. This will make the rose grow outward. Remove canes that rub against each other. Clear the middle of the plant to increase air circulation to prevent fungal formation and to deter spider mites. Remove spindly or diseased growth back to the newest healthy cane. Trim vining roses after they bloom. Knockout roses can be pruned anytime to keep their shape. Multi-petaled roses will spring bloom in 45 days and fewer petaled varieties will bloom in 35 days. YouTube videos from colleges and big nurseries are available online if you want to view in detail how to prune a rose bush.
Valentine’s Day is also the day to prune citrus trees. Limited pruning is done on citrus. Prune citrus trees of dead branches, branches crossing over each other and water sprouts arising from the center of the tree. Branches touching the ground should be removed. Instead of topping the tree, control the height of the tree by finding where the long shoot begins on larger branches. Cut the shoot off flush at that point. Freeze-damaged trees should be pruned in July after the second flush of growth. Pruning a freeze-damaged tree consists of removing the dead wood to the point where the live wood starts. If you live in a limited city lot space like me, you may need to unfortunately prune limbs when they get too close to your neighbor’s yard or when the limbs begin to grow into your fence line.
Reach Jefferson County Master Gardener Eileen Slater at email@example.com or call the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at (409)835-8461.
One of my childhood memories is watching my grandmother can pears. At that age, I didn’t understand that there are two different types of pears. Oriental pears are picked hard, ripened off the tree and used in baking and canning while European pears are softer like the ones bought in the store. Even though most people want to grow European pears, they do not grow well in Texas. Most of the pear trees in Texas are an Oriental variety because they have a strong resistance to fire blight.
Pear trees are one of the easiest fruit trees to grow in Texas. If you choose the right variety, there is not much maintenance needed to grow pears. The best tasting Oriental varieties for our area include Warren, Ayres and Magness. Warren is the best tasting of these varieties with a smooth, buttery taste. Some Asian varieties of pears are being planted in Texas, but there is not enough information to recommend them yet.
When planting a pear tree, it is good to note that most pears need a pollinator, so it is best to plant two trees. When planting any fruit tree, it is best to plant in the fall. When planting, dig a hole big enough for the roots to spread naturally, but not bigger than the root ball. Fill in with dirt and water, making sure there are no air pockets and the top of the root ball is at or above ground level. Gently adjust the tree if necessary. Weed competition can kill a young pear tree or stunt its growth, so make sure there are no weeds from the trunk out to the width of the canopy.
It may take a few years for a pear tree to begin bearing fruit, but once it does, they normally ripen in August or September. Fruit on Oriental pear trees is best picked while still firm and allowed to ripen off the tree. You can tell the fruit is ready to pick because it will turn from green to a slightly greenish yellow color. If the fruit is allowed to become too ripe, the pears will be grainy. There are many ways to cook pears, but my favorite is a chocolate pear jam. There are several recipes on the internet.
For more information on growing pear trees, visit https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/fruit/Pear/pear.html
You can reach Jefferson County Master Gardener, Melissa Starr, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension at 409-835-8461 to reach extension agent, David Oates.
I Dig Techy Garden Journaling
January is the month to start new resolutions to reorganize your life. Our New Year’s resolution is to update our garden journal. Free and inexpensive ways to journal are available on your computer, iPhone and iPad. Let’s dig a little deeper.
The first dig is for free garden journals that can be printed and arranged in your own ring binder. Check the following websites: frugalliving.about.com/od/gardening- this site has a front and back outside cover along with 18 practical journal pages to use. One practical page is the Plant Profile page. www.gardensandcrafts.com- this printable garden journal includes an excellent soil analysis chart worth adding to your journal.
The second dig is free online. The Vegetable Garden Planner includes a garden journal, gardening “to-dos”, uploading pictures and smart phone apps. Your Gardening Journal from Dave’s Garden is a website to create your own gardening journal and participate in a gardening blog. You can share seeds or plants with other gardeners. The plant database is extensive.
The third dig is free with an iPhone or iPad? MyFolia Gardening Tracker is a social tracker and organizer. It includes a garden organizer, an area to showcase your garden, and communication with other growers in your area and the world. You can write a garden journal and track your plantings. Delve down in this tracker. Mobile apps using the camera include the Garden Journal. Post the photo, document where it is purchased along with the cost, and record the growth of the plant. Gardening companion includes articles, blog, gardening know how, journal weather and more. The last app tested was Photo Garden. It lets you take pictures of plants and place them in plots on the phone. Links are given for garden ideas, designs, planters and lawn maintenance.
The fourth dig will cost you. Texas Gardener magazine offers for a nominal fee a 2016 Texas Gardener Planning Guide and Calendar. The calendar includes: when to plant, fertilize, prune and spray. Room is available for recording planting dates and rainfall.
The fifth dig is an online website that costs. The Old Farmer’s Almanac sends you email messages as to when you should start seeds or transplants in your area. It has a garden planner with a voice activated demonstration to guide you on ways to draw your garden plot.
This is just a small sampling of ways to plan your garden journal for the New Year! Can you dig it?
Reach Jefferson County Master Gardener Eileen Slater at email@example.com or call the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at (409)835-8461
M.G.s & Interns,
Well, March is about roll in like a lion bringing some chilly temps by the week end and we’ll be scampering to protect all the great Market Day plants we received last week; and, by the way, thanks to all of you who showed up to help unload them. This Wednesday we’ll need some help to move the hibiscus and hanging plants into the greenhouses to protect them from the possibility of frost. Yesterday (Sat), Jerry Jobe and I scored a real bonanza at Lowes when we were given 6 sheets of 22′ x 6′ double paneled, corrugated plastic panels that were being taken down from over the nursery area. We had to get them moved by noon and thanks to the quick loan of a flatbed trailer from Kathryn and Frank Stelly we were able to pick them up and get them to the garden. If new, these would’ve cost us $3600!! The size is a perfect fit to close the open sides of the porch area, giving us some much needed extra greenhouse-like protection for our plants which are on the hanging rods there which Jerry hung single handedly – thank you sir for that. It may be a little chilly for our workdays, but should be dry, so hopefully you can come out and play musical plants with us. We’ve now officially entered Market Day countdown – it’s only four weeks away and every workday will be geared toward getting the plants ready. Spread the word and fliers and help to make this the most successful Market Day ever.
The Garden Team
M.G.s & Interns,
Want to inform everyone that we’ve moved up rose pruning at the garden a week. We will start pruning this Wednesday, 2/6 and not 2/13 as I had earlier stated, and hopefully we can finish on Friday. The weather forecast is looking very favorable for undertaking this project now; I’m fearful that if we wait we could be surprised by another front. We don’t want to risk a delay as many of the bushes are already starting to show new growth. We really need any and all experienced pruners and if you are a novice, there will be on the job training. Bring your sharpened by-pass pruners(not anvil), gloves and I would suggest wearing long sleeved shirts unless your skin is as tough as leather like mine (and not fine Corinthian). If you have time to stay a while you may want to bring a sandwich, we’ll have water and soft drinks.
Thanks to an abundance of help these last work days we’ve accomplished a great deal in getting our current inventory of plants ready for Market Day by grooming, pruning, re-potting and transplanting our propagations, donations and seedings. This will allow us time to focus on new plants which we’ve already begun purchasing. We really appreciate all you serious, dedicated gardens who continue to show up week in and week out to help tend our little oasis.
Come on out and enjoy these warm, spring-like days and the camaraderie of your fellow gardeners – we really do have a great time sharing laughs and stories.
The Garden Team
M.G.s & Interns,
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and you’ve finished off the last of those leftovers – sick of turkey this and turkey that yet? Just had a cornbread dressing sandwich – yum. We’ll be back on our regular work day schedule this week, so if you’re looking for ways to work off some of those holiday calories come on out Wednesday and/or Friday. A good chance of rain is predicted for early in the week but should be cleared out by Wednesday. The cannas are starting to show the effects the recent run of temps in the 30s and will be cut back this week. Some are in need of thinning, so this would be a good opportunity to get a few clumps for transplanting to your home landscape. Would you believe that the bluebonnets are already sprouting in Ann Abshiire’s Texas bed?
Don’t forget that we have two rain barrels at the garden up for bids, starting at $25 per barrel. If you’re interested, bids need to be submitted to me in writing (e-mail, in person, or U.S. mail) by 12/10/12 and the successful bidder will be announced at the December meeting(party) on 12/13/12.
See you at the garden………
The Garden Team
MGs & Interns,
As the MG course winds down and the last day of class approaches I just want to remind all the interns that not only the garden team, but the executive committee, members at large and team leaders all stand ready to assist you in any way we can to meet your certification requirements over the next year. It has been a pleasure getting to know many of you at the garden and I look forward to working with the rest of you over the coming months. I hope you take full advantage of the many opportunities provided at the garden to expand and put to use your new horticultural knowledge.
Many thanks to all of you who braved the gusty north wind Saturday to come out to the Veteran’s Memorial Park to help in cleaning out and replanting the flower beds and planting the Blue Point Junipers at the park’s entry wall. The park looked so much better for our efforts and I’m sure will please those attending the Veteran’s Day ceremonies.
It looks like we have found a new, dependable source for mulch for our test garden beds just in time for winter. Luckily, we have access to a front end loader, tractor and trailer through James Butaud and Herbert Bass and if the weather co-operates, we’ll begin hauling some of this new found bounty to the garden next Friday. The weather will be warming again and the winds will be dying down by mid week so I hope to see many of you out there enjoying our ever improving garden.
Thanks again to all of you who have been putting in so much extra work and time and have even “adopted” a bed.
The Garden Team
MGs & Interns,
We have several opportunities this week for putting all you gardening knowledge to work or, to learn some new skills. We will have our normal work days on Wednesday and Friday at the garden and on Saturday, as part of our continuing efforts to add an educational aspect to a work day, we will meet at the Veteran’s Memorial park with the focus being: “Planting Colorful Fall Annuals.” The park is on Hwy 87 in Port Arthur near the Rainbow Bridge and we will meet there at 9:00 and work until about noon; bring your hand tools and water – bathroom facilities are available. This can be counted as community service hours as well as education. If you’re coming from Beaumont take Hwy 69 to Hwy 73 to Groves and stay on 73 to the Hwy 87 Taft Ave exit, and stay on the feeder road to the park. Local VFW members may be there as well so let’s show up in force to let them know how proud we are of their service to our country.
For MGs who are mentoring interns who do not have computers would you please phone them to advise them of the activities listed above and please keep them posted on any pertinent information in these garden team weekly updates. This would really help to keep the lines of communication open with them.
If you can come out for any, or all, of next weeks activities your help will be greatly appreciated. The Veteran’s Park event is very special to us so if you can spare only one day, that would be a day well spent.
Thanks for your continuing efforts in helping to improve our garden. Feel free to call at any time with questions or suggestions.
M.G.s & Interns,
For anyone that may have missed the meeting, you’ll notice that this week we’ve added a third work day on Saturday. This was done to help those who work full time and can’t make the regularly scheduled Wednesday/Friday work days. We know that Saturday is a busy day, especially if you work all week, so we’ll be out there just from 9:00 – 12:00. Also, something new has been added to this extra day which we hope will help with getting your certification hours: the first hour, 9:00 – 10:00 will be the “Education Hour” during which we will focus on specific areas of gardening with lectures and /or demonstrations with hands on participation. The first educational session will be on “Preparing and Planting a Fall Vegetable Garden” : how to choose and prepare a site, selecting vegetables for the season, and planting these vegetables from seeds or seedling transplants. After “class” we’ll then devote the last two hours to general garden work like tending the beds, pruning, weeding, etc., etc. You’re welcome to come for any or all of this Saturday morning session; if, for instance, you are already well versed on the topic of the day, you can work while we’re teaching. Or, you can come just for the demonstration if you are getting your garden hours during the week.
Initially, we’ll schedule these Saturday educational/work days twice a month, and if the interest and attendance level is high enough we’ll continue it through the year. Other proposed topics are: “Pruning Techniques for Roses, Muscadines, Blackberries and Shrubs”, “Starting Plants by Propagation”, “Growing Herbs”, “Lawn Care and Fertilization Schedules” and many more. We’d like suggestions for any other areas you might need help with, or want to learn more about.
The county commissioner has informed me that more mulch will be delivered this week. This will enable us to finish the beds that need it, just in time for the plant sale on Saturday, Oct 6. He is also ordering more of the “millings” so we can resurface and raise the pathway around the herb bed as we did in the Texas bed.
This week we will place two new memorials in the garden; one is a bench with a plaque honoring recently deceased MG, Helen Duron and the other is a statue of St. Fiacre, the patron saint of gardens, honoring Paul Binagia. Paul was not a MG but loved gardening with such an avid passion that his family wanted him to be remembered in the beautiful setting of our garden. Both families will be invited to the plant sale to view these memorials to their loved ones.
Spread the word about the plant sale to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, church members, etc. Let’s make this the best fall sale ever.
You’ve got three chances this week to come out and practice your gardening skills and, now, to even learn new ones. Hope to see you on one of these days, or heck, all three if you feel energized by the great fall temps heading our way.
The Garden Team