Monthly Archives: February 2015

  1. Pinching Back Plants

    Pinching back sounds like it would hurt doesn't it? I remember getting pinched when I was younger and it usually meant I had done something to deserve it.  It sure didn't help me grow, even though I did learn not to do whatever caused the pinching again. Even so, I did grow, didn't I? As counterintuitive as this sounds,  pinching back plants can actually produce more flowers and even more foliage on a plant. It helps the plant to put out energy on new growth. To pinch back, you will want to make sure that the plant is at least 2-4 inches tall.

    I will use Petunias as an example as I look forward to pinching them back every year and seeing the new growth and flowers appear. To pinch back I would locate a new shoot and pinch it back at the center of the stem between the leaves. Just take your fingers and pinch it off. The pinching will not only cause the plant to fill out but will also cause more blooms. For me, that's why I enjoy it because I know how it will improve the plant in the long run. If I don't pinch back, I will have long stems with few flowers that will straggle over the sides of the pots. Still pretty, but not as pretty as it can be.

    You can also pinch back your vegetable and herb garden to produce more yield. Many plants that do very well with pinching back are Petunias, Chrysanthemums, ColeusHosta, Tomatoes, Herbs, Lettuces and many more.

    I think you'll find it a fulfilling, productive and enjoyable thing to do.

    Happy pinching!

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  2. Pruning Lilacs

    Lilacs are low-maintenance, easy to grow, and are very hardy plants. They offer good summer shade once they have reached their mature height, and do provide privacy from the neighbors! The average size for a lilac bush is approximately 10 feet (3.04 m). Tackling the job of trimming, shaping, and pruning lilacs is easiest when you know how. Pruning should be done immediately after the flowers have died off. With a little pruning knowledge and how to replenish the old wood with new shoots, the shrubs can last a lifetime.

    Plan to prune your lilacs at the end of the bloom season, which occurs in early summer. Pruning too late will result in a reduction of blooms in the next season. Pruning too early will lessen the amount of time you have to enjoy your bush or lilac treeduring the season.

    Pruning Lilacs

    You will need pruning shears, a small saw and gardening gloves.

    Decide on the lilac bush height: Prune fewer old stems at the top of the bush if you prefer tall bushes. Since the older stems produce the flowers, trimming too many of them will cause the lilac bush to have less flowers.
    Clip off the dead flowers: Spent lilac flowers are primarily located at the top of the bush.
    Trim shoots near the ground: Keeping the new shoots trimmed off ensures the bush will not become overgrown and cumbersome.
    Reach into the bush and clip a few larger stems: This will allow more sunlight to reach the inside stems.
    Prune dead or unhealthy-looking stems: These are stems that are broken, withered and often hanging haphazardly on the tree.
    Trim branches: Focus on cutting the branches that stick the farthest out from the bush and any branches that are twisted around each other. Use the saw to cut the branches if your lilac plant is older and the branches are thick.


    It is best to mulch two to four inches to maintain soil moisture and to keep weeds down. Add compost and humus that is worked into the soil to provide added nutrients and retain water during dry spells. Use a general-purpose fertilizer in early spring to promote blooming. Do not give too much nitrogen since this will result in too few blooms. After the lilac has stopped blooming, add some more general-purpose fertilizer. Lilacs do not like wet soil over a prolonged period of time. The roots run very deep, so if there is an extended drought period, water infrequently but thoroughly. They bloom best in full sun and prefer organically rich, slightly acidic soils with good drainage. With its lovely spring accent, it makes a wonderful screen or border specimen! Or try some of the new dwarf lilacs such as the Dwarf Korean Lilac.

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  3. Tree Pruning

    Tree pruning videos at times can get somewhat long and actually boring. This tree pruning video is approximately 1 minute in length and gives several great tips.

    This video covers pruning small branches to an example of a tree that was improperly topped, along with tools you will need to prune your tree.

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  4. Growing Amazing Fruit: Techniques for Success (public domain image)

    Growing fruit trees in the continental United States normally dictates that we plant deciduous fruit trees. An exception would be citrus fruit trees, which are grown in subtropical zones (zones 9 and 10), or in containers for inside temperature control. Nursery grown fruit trees are usually orchard quality trees that are grown by fruit growers and the backyard gardener for producing backyard fruit.

    The zone in which the fruit grower is located is critical for success for the many fruit varieties that are offered. All nursery grown fruit tree varieties have zone recommendations on the tags or in the nursery advertisements. Zone specifications are just as important to the backyard fruit grower as the professional orchard fruit grower.

    Most subtropical fruit trees are evergreen. The subtropical fruit trees will withstand some below freezing weather if they are in their dormant season or semi-dormant season. In temperate climatic zones, the fruit grower will need to move the citrus varieties inside during the winter months. Temperate zone fruit trees would include apples trees, cherry trees, pear trees, and peach trees. Subtropical fruit trees would include orange and lemon trees.

    Cherry Tree

    Caring for fruit trees is much the same as caring for any plant. Proper soil, drainage, moisture, and fertility conditions would need to be maintained.

    Proper care for the fruit bearing branches is unique as compared to other trees. Pruning fruit trees should begin at an early age. Most fruit trees produce more quality fruit, and live longer, healthier lives if properly maintained and pruned.

    Fruit tree pruning does not need to be complicated or confusing. Many times the nursery will do the initial pruning on the dormant fruit tree. If the fruit tree arrives already pruned from the nursery, it can be planted without further pruning. If the dormant bareroot tree arrives with long branches and over 3 foot tall, prune the tree to knee high and cut the side branches back by at last 2/3rds to promote vigorous new growth.

    Top pruning induces lateral branch growth, and in fruit trees, this produces a more easily accessible tree branch and shapely form. Pruning also diverts the expenditure of nourishment to form woody growth to that of buds and fruit. Fruit trees are fast growing. After the spring flush of growth, cut the new growth back by ½. In late summer, prune the new growth on the branches back again by ½.

    The 2nd year pruning of the backyard fruit tree is the same as the first. Cut back new growth by half in the spring and again in late summer. In the 3rd year, choose a height and do not let the tree get any taller. Tree height is a decision for the pruner. When there are vigorous branches above the chosen height, cut back or remove them. In late spring or early summer, pinch back all new growth.

    Size development and low fruiting wood is determined in the 3rd year. Each branch should have at least 6 inches of free space around them. Remove all crossing branches that are too close together. Keeping fruit tree branches open to allow more light and freedom for bee movement is important. Sunlight and bees carrying pollen should allow for more and larger fruit. All varieties of fruit trees can be maintained at a predetermined height if pruned consistently.

    Pollination of backyard fruit trees is just as important to the small property owner as it is to a professional nursery. Many varieties of fruit trees are not self pollinating and require another fruit tree for pollination.

    Every fruit tree needs pollen to set fruit regardless of zone. Nursery grown apple trees will have pollinators by every row of apple trees. Even if the apple tree is known as self-fruitful, pollen from other compatible apple trees can assist in setting more fruit. Cross pollinizing varieties should bloom at approximately the same time as the other apple tree.

    Crabapple trees are exceptional pollinizers because of their heavy blooming characteristics and their length of bloom period. Other fruit trees, such as sweet cherries, need pollinizers to produce fruits. Sour cherry trees are mostly self-fruitful. Many peach, pear, and plum trees are self-fruitful and will benefit from having a compatible pollinizer close by. Lemon and orange trees are mostly self-fruitful.

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