When To Prune Blackberries and Raspberries

LC0143c.GIF When To Prune Blackberries and Raspberries

Blackberries and Raspberries have had their run by the time you’ve made it to the late fall, so it’s time to trim them back in October and early November.  These berries bloom and fruit on new growth, and as a vining plant that can grow to be a tangled mess when left alone any Blackberry and Raspberry bush that you depend on for your own fruit needs to be heavily pruned back to maximize the next year’s crop, and to be trained into shape for next year. The key with fruiting plants is to prune them for growth, and shape them into forms that allow for easy harvesting and lots of air circulation in the warm sumer heat. Your goal is to prune and shape your berry bushes so that you can see and access your fruit when it’s ripe, and minimize the spread of powdery mildews, and warm weather diseases that thrive in moist dark areas on your fruit leaves.

How To Prune:

The best way to set yourself up for success next year is to prune your Blackberries and Raspberries back down to the main canes every fall.  Trace each one of the berry stems back down to where the plant is sprouting from the ground, this is the main cane. Use a pair of bi-pass Fiskars 7936 PowerGear Pruner When To Prune Blackberries and Raspberries shears to make a clean cut, and trim the main cane back to a height of  8-12 inches above the soil line at a 45 degree angle, and remove all of this year’s growth to compost or discard. On the diagram above the proper pruning height is marked as the “first year cane.”

Even if there are no leaves or bud unions on the section of cane that remains after pruning this is the correct height, and will rejuvenate the plant for the following seasons. The canes may also leaf out again from the main cane before going dormant for the winter.

Prepare to shape next years growth on a trellis or up against a fence to support your fresh growth, and secure them into position with twine or string.

Photo Courtesy of: The Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, Canada.

Spring Tips: Inspecting Perennials For Winter Damage

Old Irish Cottage Spring Tips: Inspecting Perennials For Winter Damage

Winter is over, at least according to the calendar. Whether the snow has stopped in your neighborhood or not is less certain.  No matter where you live, your early Spring garden checklist needs to include inspecting your perennials for winter weather damage.  Snow, ice, and the wind blowing and laying around you yard can cause your garden favorites to shift and uproot themselves.

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The Perfect Shrub For DIY Bouquets & Arrangements

Bouquet The Perfect Shrub For DIY Bouquets & Arrangements

If you are like me, the winter months can become frustrating with the lack of floral fodder from the garden close at hand to create indoor arrangements. Craft stores, florists, and even your local grocery store have plenty of floral supplies to help you fill the house with blooms, but for the true DIYer who enjoys building their own centerpieces, the right floral accent to make your designs stand out is as close as your local garden center. Why not save some money in the long term, and plant the perfect “ting” alternative in your very own yard?

There is a great plant on the market that has become a favorite in the florist industry for winter weddings and crafts. It is easy to grow, and available a many garden centers now across the country. This fabulous find is Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick.

Decorator Designs For Every Season:

  • Spring: Mix curly stems into a tall vase of Daffodils, and hang Easter eggs and neatly strung spring cut-outs from the boughs.
  • Summer: Prune smaller branches off the shrub, pick the leaves off, and use the twigs in place of ‘ting’
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What To Do With Christmas Tree Lighting Embedded In Evergreen Trees

img 1816 1024x768 What To Do With Christmas Tree Lighting Embedded In Evergreen TreesIt’s important to perform regular checks on the health  of your trees, even when it comes to double checking that you’ve removed all the Christmas lights from the previous year!

It can be tempting to leave some lights up on trees after the holidays from one year to the next, particularly on the highest branches, but after many years of doing this your trees can actually absorb and grow over twist ties, looped cords and bulbs.  While some trees can grow to absorb these small decorations and continue to thrive, in many situations this abnormal growth will inhibit the growth of your trees, or kill the tree outright.

I was performing a health check on the Norway Spruce pictured above and discovered past years decorations embedded into several of the trees branches. The tree branches in this situation have grown over  looped light cords, and even covered over some of the bulbs. After cutting and pulling out all Christmas tree lights loose in the tree, it was easier to see which branches had embedded lights and ties in them, and to discover why many branches had decreased needle production in recent years.

What To Do With Cords Embedded In Tree Branches:

Objects that trees grow over inhibit and disturb the travel of nutrients inside the tree, even if  a tree is producing apparently healthy bark growth on the outside of a branch there can be serious damage occurring inside the tree.  Ties around the branches can eventually strangle the tree branch and damage the tree permanently, so the safest option for the tree is to prune off the area effected to save the branch from any potential long term damage. I recommend pruning sap producing trees in the fall months, when production is down.  In the case of debris grown into the trunk of a tree I recommend consulting a certified Arborist to help you decide what the best method will be to maintain the health of your tree.

Make sure you take time this summer to check your own trees for decorations and ties, and remove anything on your tree that has been in place for one year. Keeping your trees healthy will help your home retain value, and provide you with shade and beauty in the years in between. 

When To Cut Back Daffodils

spent daffodils 300x199 When To Cut Back DaffodilsI’ve noticed a lot of daffodil plants still lurking around a lot of people’s flower beds this year well into the summer months. Daffodil blooms are one of the earliest flowers to appear after the long cold winter, and while the blooms come and go in March, the green stems and leaves of the plant seem to remain indefinitely.  Many people seem to shy away from cutting Daffodils back until the greens are completely shriveled, for fear of damaging the plant. Unfortunately, cautious gardeners end up with the flopping leaves laying over their sidewalks and garden borders for the first several months of summer, and that really doesn’t look too good.

A good general rule is to cut back daffodil greens in May if you haven’t already. It is important to allow all the flowers on the plant to dry up and fall off, as the plant does need to complete it’s reproductive cycle, and transfer it’s energy from flower production back into the bulb for next year’s bloom. There do not need to be endless months of shaggy growth left on the plant before trimming though.  Once the leaves of a Daffodil plant begin to yellow and go limp, either bundle clusters of the greens in groups with rubber bands, or loop them over each other as shown above. These two methods will keep your garden looking crisp while assisting the plant into it’s dormancy period.

I usually keep plants in a form like this for one week, and then trim the plant down to about one inch from the ground.  For plants that are well into their yellowing phase, and those that are completely prostrate on the ground, immediately trimming the plant to one inch from the soil line will safely and effectively prepare the plant for the summer weather without harming the plant in any way. Daffodils can then die back the final inch of growth below the flowering zone of your summer plants, which will prevent your spring bloomers from detracting from the summer flowers..

HINT: Do not expect Daffodil greens to dry up and look obviously dead before you trim them back to the ground, they are hearty plants that do not die back completely on their own until late summer.

Photo courtesy of: clspeace

Why Did Only Half My Forsythia Bloom?

3139028770 c77f75dd7b o 300x225 Why Did Only Half My Forsythia Bloom?The Forsythia blooms are now almost completely gone across the USA, leaving the roadside gardens a light hue of green as leaves fill in their place – and a few gardeners perplexed as to why only half the bush bloomed yellow this year.  

If you are like many gardeners, your bush may be the picture of health, with branches showing healthy foliage buds, or even full leaves by this time.  If your Forsythia is healthy, and simply skipped putting out yellow blooms with several branches skipping right to the foliage stage, you have a bush that has been pruned within the past year, and that needs maturation before flowering.

Forsythia plants blooms on old wood, and branches need at least a full year of growth before they will produce flowers.  If you do annual shaping on your bush, try to trim the plant back to the same approximate place every year, to encourage a uniform bloom, and overall shape. After a few years of trimming, your bush should reach a full appearance, and will bloom throughout the plant. 


Photo Courtesy of: Arielle*

Roses: When To Begin Spring Pruning

img 0050 225x300 Roses: When To Begin Spring PruningEarly spring is the perfect time to do large scale cut backs on your rose bushes to encourage new growth, and a bush full of blooms!

The key to spring pruning is to trim just as the plant is budding and waking up from its winter dormancy. A bush that has grown “leggy” over the course of several years can be trimmed all the way back to about 8 inches in height at this time safely to encourage a fuller plant. The best way to identify your spring window of opportunity is to watch the blooming of the Forsythia plants for your cue.

Rose breeders recommend trimming your roses when Forsythias are blooming, usually at the end of March. Although roses will bloom through the summer and fall, the heaviest pruning and shaping of the plant should be done at the beginning of the growing season, when the cool temperatures, and lack of insects make pruning wounds easy to recover from. 

Successful Pruning

When considering your rose bush  for pruning, identify any “woody” stems on the plant that are giving the plant height, but reduced bloom production, and place these on the top of you list for pruning. Even an aging plant with dead sections can benefit from strong pruning in the spring to encourage new shoots to emerge from the roots.  

Most roses can benefit from a heavier pruning every few years to encourage blooming, and to keep the plant full and pliable. If your roses have had more bare stems than fruitful branches with leaves and buds in the past few years, your bush is ripe for a spring pruning. If you are hesitant to trim the whole plant at once, select a few feeder stems and prune them heavily to within 6-10 inches of the ground.

Spring thinning and pruning will rejuvenate your plants and soon have you reaping the benefits of a far healthier plant.

How To: Prune Geranium Flowers For The Summer

geraniums How To: Prune Geranium Flowers For The SummerThe smell of geraniums reminds me of my parents house when I was growing up.  The summer was always rung in with potted Geraniums on the front porch, and winter found those same plants waiting out the cold temperatures inside my parents bathroom, perching beside the soaking tub.

One of the great things about geraniums is that fact that they are constant bloomers when they receive enough water, and are pruned on a regular basis.  Having compound flower heads with multiple blooms on them, spent flowers can be pinched off singularly as they age, to keep a few flowers visible.  When an entire stem of blooms begins to look sparse, or is past it’s peak, the best thing to do to encourage more blooms is to remove the entire flower stem. With Geraniums, no tools are needed to efficiently remove dying flowers, and the method I suggest will also eliminate the unsightly dead, or dying stem left from using Pruning Shears.

geranium stem 002 225x300 How To: Prune Geranium Flowers For The SummerEvery Geranium flower stem has a large elbow at the base of it where it joins the main stem of the plant, on occasion, a flower stem will have an “elbow” half way up a flower stem as well (this usually happens in plants that have grown very tall, to maximize their exposure to the sun).  These elbows snap off easily with little pressure, to neatly and efficiently prune the plant in a way that the Geranium can heal from quicker than from pruning with shears.  Pruning entire stems at once encourages more vigorous growth of the plant, and cuts back the time between blooming flower heads.