Tag Archive | summer pruning

July Already?!

vegetable-garden1Seems like summer has barely started and we’re already looking ahead to July — the height of summer. Days are long, temperatures are most likely at their highest and may even exceed 100ºF for days at a time in the South, Southwest, and Midwest. If all goes well, you’re harvesting something delicious from your garden almost every day, and this is also the peak time for picking herbs. But, like June, July is often a dry month, too. Watering is crucial. Most crops need a steady, unbroken supply of water. Interruptions cause problems such as flowers falling, fruits failing to form, skins splitting, premature bolting, and diseases such as tomato blossom end rot. Spreading mulches helps conserve moisture from any rain you do get — and will also control weeds.

Top tasks for July

  • Harvest French and runner beans, zucchinis, carrots, beets, onions, shallots, new potatoes, and summer salads.
  • Pick cherries, strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, and blueberries.
  • Sow salad crops and the last of your beets, Florence fennel, French beans, and peas for this year.
  • Climbing beans don’t really know when to stop. Pinch out the growing tips when they reach the top of your canes or they will quickly become tangled and top-heavy.
  • Plant out cabbages, cauliflowers, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale for the autumn and winter.
  • Continue to ensure that peas, brassicas, and soft fruit are all securely netted to keep off scavenging birds.
  • Pull earth up around the stalks of brussels sprouts and other brassicas if they seem unsteady, and give them a top-dressing of nitrogenous fertilizer or an organic liquid feed. Keep an eye on potatoes and if necessary continue to earth them up.
  • Start regularly watering tomatoes and peppers with a liquid feeding as soon as you see that the first fruits have formed. Feeding encourages both flowers and fruits.
  • Water as often as you can to keep crops growing healthily and to prevent them from bolting.
  • Feed tomatoes regularly and pinch out side shoots.
  • Thin out apples and pears if it looks like you’re going to have a bumper crop.

“Weed, water, mulch” should remain as much of a mantra as it was in June. All three are still high on the list of the most important tasks of the month. Regular watering, in particular, is vital for the successful growth of crops. July is the month for summer-pruning certain fruit trees and bushes as or just after they finish cropping — cherries, currants, gooseberries, and summer-fruiting raspberries.

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Enjoy Beautiful Clematis

41e8e1011b15529bfcc1bc2d9df3806aA clematis in full bloom can take your breath away. Who hasn’t erected a trellis with the dream of seeing it covered with vibrant red or purple flowers in late spring? But how do you get your clematis to grow as lush and beautiful as you see in magazines or in your neighbor’s garden?

First, you need to know your vine so you can understand the proper pruning that it needs. Your clematis will survive, and even bloom, with no pruning. But with the right pruning, it’ll grow and bloom more vigorously.

Before that, though, let’s understand how to plant for success.

  1. Start with the soil. It is true that clematis prefer slightly alkaline soil. If a soil test* tells you that yours is on the acid side, your vines will benefit from some agricultural lime. But if it’s already alkaline, don’t add lime — you can overdo it. A pH of 7 to 7.5 is just right. Dig the hole 18 in. deep and wide, and work in lots of moisture-holding compost. Set young plants deeply so the first two sets of leaf nodes will be underground. This encourages plants to send up more stems so you’ll have a thicker plant.
  2. Mulching matters! “Head in the sun, feet in the shade” is old clematis advice. However, a 4-in. layer of mulch keeps the roots cool and moist just as well as shade does. To prevent stem rot, keep the mulch about 8 in. from the stems.
  3. The best place to prune a stem is just above two strong buds — where two leaves were growing the previous year. These buds will quickly develop into new vines. Don’t worry about making angled cuts — it’s not necessary.
  4. Recognize disease quickly! Clematis wilt is easy to spot: a portion of your vine wilts quickly, often just as the plant starts to bloom. Wilt is caused by a fungus that enters the stem, usually just above the soil line. There is no cure other than to cut the entire stem to the ground and dispose of it in the trash. Do this as soon as you notice the wilt. That’ll prevent spores from moving to other stems. Systemic fungicides can help prevent wilt from spreading to healthy stems and the rest of the plant will usually survive, providing there are enough other healthy stems. That’s another reason to plant clematis deeply: if a stem becomes infected and has to be removed, more will come from the base to replace it. Cultivars that have proven resistant to wilt include ‘The President’, ‘Ville de Lyon’, Nelly Moser’, ‘Betty Corning’, and ‘Jackmanii’.
  5. Clematis like to be well fed but not overfed. Feed them once a year right after pruning with an all-purpose, granulated fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10.
  6. Choose the right trellis. Clematis climb by twisting petioles, or leaf stems. The vine 3670663326_9f7e6f0a29_bitself does not twine. So, if your structure is too large, the leaf can’t wrap around it. Anything over 3/4 in. in diameter is too large for a leaf to grasp. Nylon fishing line is a great way to get a clematis to climb a light pole or arbor post. Put a knot every foot or so to keep the vine from sliding.

Pruning Pointers

So, how do you prune a clematis? Timing is important: don’t prune in the fall. It will encourage the plant to emerge from dormancy at the first hint of a warm day — which could be in January and your plant will die. No matter where you live, let your clematis stay dormant until spring.

Before you start cutting, you’ll need to know which pruning group your clematis is in: A, B, or C. If you don’t know, just watch it for a year. First pay attention to when it blooms. Second, notice whether it blooms on woody stems that grew last year and then survived the winter (old wood) or green, flexible stems that came from a main stem this year (new wood). Once you know this, you can usually put your clematis into group A, B, or C.

The University of Maryland Extension has created a wonderful little brochure that explains exactly how to prune each of the categories of clematis to ensure the best results.

HG107_Pruning_ Clematis

Now that you know these secrets, you no longer have to wonder how to get those spectacular flowers you see in photos — you’ll be enjoying your own!

 

*Not currently testing your soil before planting? Shame on you! To ensure the best success for your gardens, it’s important to know if your soil is helping or hindering your efforts. Read our earlier blog post on doing soil testing here.

 

 

 

Pruning Water Sprouts

by Sharon Morrisey, Milwaukee County consumer horticulture agent

apple-watersproutsAs a general rule, pruning of woody landscape plants should not be done in midsummer. The one exception is water sprouts on fruit trees, particularly apples and crabapples. Both are in the genus Malus and have a greater tendency to produce water sprouts than most other genera. Water sprouts form in response to pruning out large, diameter branches.

hqdefaultIt has been shown that if the removal of water sprouts is delayed until late July or early August, fewer new water sprouts will form. If pruned out in early spring when all other pruning is being done, more water sprouts will be stimulated and a vicious cycle begun.

Water sprouts are branches that grow straight up from a larger-diameter branch. They grow very quickly and arise from latent buds buried deep inside the larger branch. The sprouts push through the outer layers of wood and bark.

As they grow taller and thicker, they become top heavy. Since they have no real connection of the branch, summer and winter storms can blow them over, and in the process, break the branch they are growing on. These sprouts also look awkward and out of place.

To avoid having to prune out large branches, begin developing the structure of trees when they are young so you remove only small branches.