Cutting Back: Winter Pruning For Health, Light, Air & Vigor

The first few months of the new year is the season for cutting back – in our lives and in our gardens. Throughout the region nurseries and gardening groups offer pruning demonstrations and workshops for deciduous trees (particularly fruit trees) roses, grape vines and more. This weekend Pam Geisel – Director of the University of California’s Statewide Master Gardener Program and co-author with Chuck Ingles of the UC “Backyard Orchard Book”, talks to us about the whys and wherefores of winter pruning. Pam will be hosting and co-leading a Master Gardener pruning workshop at Mills Orchard in Hamilton City on January 12. For details and a more complete list of pruning demonstrations and workshops around the region in January and February, please see end of article.

Q: So, why do we prune at all?

Pam: We prune our trees, shrubs and vines for five basic reasons: 1. To remove dead or diseased materials; 2. To improve shape and potential health by removing crossing or unnecessary limbs. 3. To improve future crops by diminishing overall mass of plant – this will help to increase or decrease cropping so that it is appropriate for the size and age of the given tree or shrub; 4. To open up the canopy of the plant (called thinning cuts) in order to improve both sunlight getting to interior leaves and flower/fruit buds, which will increase photosynthesis and vigor, and to increase air circulation in the canopy’s interior, which will decrease potential pests or diseases; finally, 5. To control the size and shape of a plant in order to keep it within bounds of the space in which it is growing and to improve a gardener’s ability to easily reach all areas of the tree, shrub or vine for pruning, spraying and/or harvesting its crop.

And I can attest to the fact that – again just like in life – when you get through a good cleaning-out prune on a tree or shrub, you have this deep sense of satisfaction; the lightness and calm of uncluttering.

Q:What kinds of plants specifically do we prune in their winter dormancy and why?

Pam: In winter we are generally pruning deciduous trees, especially spring flowering fruit trees, summer bearing vines of all kinds – fruiting and ornamental, roses, and other summer flowering shrubs and trees, like crepe myrtle. Again in general, we are not pruning non-fruiting winter or spring flowering plants such as camellia, forsythia, citrus. We tend to prune these after they are done flowering.

Some of the reason’s for pruning during a plant’s winter dormancy is that with the plant bare of leaves, we are far more able to see and evaluate the plant’s current structure in order to make decisions about what and how much to prune. We can see dead and diseased wood, we can see where limbs are crossing, and which might be good limbs to remove altogether in order to open up the canopy and improve the plant’s size and shape for the coming season.

A winter pruning, when the sap in a plant is down and when pests and diseases (bacterial or fungal) are far less active, is a stimulating prune. The cuts you make will cue the plant as to where to put on vigorous new growth come spring.

Pruning Workshops Around the Region in January and February:

Jan 5 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens Annual Fruit Tree Pruning Workshops 10 am and 1 pm. Freshen up your pruning skills and learn how to properly prune and care for your fruit trees. Classes are Free but Reservations are Required. Please call or email to reserve your seat. Wyntour Gardens, 8026 Airport Rd (1 mi. South of the Redding Airport, next to Kents Mkt). 530-365-2256/inform@wyntourgardens.com. www.wyntourgardens.com

Jan 5 – Redding: Shasta Rose Society Annual Rose Pruning Demo 10 am rain or shine, Shasta Rose Society will be pruning the rose garden at Redding City Hall, around the fountain, from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM. The public is invited to come and participate. Consulting rosarians will be there to give lessons and participants can learn, hands on, the proper techniques for pruning roses. Bring pruners and gloves. For more info email Robert Parker: bobsanpark@gmail.com. Photo: Some rose prunings can make very attractive arrangements.

Jan 9 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens Annual Fruit Tree Pruning Workshops 11 am. Freshen up your pruning skills and learn how to properly prune and care for your fruit trees. Classes are Free but Reservations are Required. Please call or email to reserve your seat. Wyntour Gardens, 8026 Airport Rd (1 mi. South of the Redding Airport, next to Kents Mkt). 530-365-2256/inform@wyntourgardens.com. www.wyntourgardens.com

Jan 12 – Hamilton City: Glenn County Master Gardeners Present Annual Tree Pruning Workshop at Mills Orchard, with Pam Geisel, Chick Ingles and Robert Fanno 10 am – 1 pm RAIN OR SHINE. Freshen up your pruning skills and learn how to properly prune and care for all kinds of trees. Chuck Ingles and Pam Geisel (both co-authors on the UC “Backyard Orchard Book”) will be conducting this hands on training. In addition, Robert Fanno from Fanno Saw will be coming to talk about pruning tool care. 7782 County Road 16 Hamilton City, CA 95951 Take County Road VV South from Hwy 32, just west of Hamilton City. Cost – $20.00 per person. Preregister at: http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=7857. Photo: Pam Geisel at her home garden, Mills Orchard in Hamilton City. If you have never attended a workshop with Pam, you are in for a treat. She is very very knowledgeable as well as good-humored and light-hearted. Hard to ask for a better teacher!

Jan 12 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens Rose Care & Pruning Workshop 1 pm. Freshen up your pruning skills and learn how to properly prune and care for your roses. Classes are Free but Reservations are Required. Please call or email to reserve your seat. Wyntour Gardens, 8026 Airport Rd (1 mi. South of the Redding Airport, next to Kents Mkt). 530-365-2256/inform@wyntourgardens.com. www.wyntourgardens.com

Jan 13 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens Annual Fruit Tree Pruning Workshops 1 pm. Freshen up your pruning skills and learn how to properly prune and care for your fruit trees. Classes are Free but Reservations are Required. Please call or email to reserve your seat. Wyntour Gardens, 8026 Airport Rd (1 mi. South of the Redding Airport, next to Kents Mkt). 530-365-2256/inform@wyntourgardens.com. www.wyntourgardens.com

Jan 14 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens Rose Care & Pruning Workshop 1 pm. Freshen up your pruning skills and learn how to properly prune and care for your roses. Classes are Free but Reservations are Required. Please call or email to reserve your seat. Wyntour Gardens, 8026 Airport Rd (1 mi. South of the Redding Airport, next to Kents Mkt). 530-365-2256/inform@wyntourgardens.com. www.wyntourgardens.com

Jan 19 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens Annual Fruit Tree Pruning Workshops presented by arborist Rico Montenegro 10 am and 1 pm. Freshen up your pruning skills and learn how to properly prune and care for your fruit trees. Classes are Free but Reservations are Required. Please call or email to reserve your seat. Wyntour Gardens, 8026 Airport Rd (1 mi. South of the Redding Airport, next to Kents Mkt). 530-365-2256/inform@wyntourgardens.com. www.wyntourgardens.com. Photo: Arborist Rico Montenegro surveys where he will make his next pruning cut on an historic tree at the Camden House near Whiskeytown Lake.

Jan 26 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens Annual Fruit Tree Pruning Workshops presented by arborist Rico Montenegro 10 am and 1 pm. Freshen up your pruning skills and learn how to properly prune and care for your fruit trees. Classes are Free but Reservations are Required. Please call or email to reserve your seat. Wyntour Gardens, 8026 Airport Rd (1 mi. South of the Redding Airport, next to Kents Mkt). 530-365-2256/inform@wyntourgardens.com. www.wyntourgardens.com

Feb 2 – Whiskeytown: Annual Fruit Tree Restoration Pruning at Historic Camden House presented by arborist Rico Montenegro Though the information is applicable to all types of trees especially fruit trees, the emphasis will be on the restoration of the old 100 to 150 year old apple trees at the site. Please bring your own tools and be prepared to have some hands on experience at the site. This is a wonderful way to learn some new information about tree care, but also to give back to the community by volunteering to help with the restoration of these historic old trees. Contact Rico at 365-1920 for more information or please RSVP at ricosplants@hotmail.com and additional information will be sent. Photo: Historic Camden House near Whiskeytown Lake.

Feb 2 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens Grape Pruning Workshop 11 am. Learn When and How to Prune and Care for your Backyard Table Grapes. Classes are Free but Reservations are Required. Please call or email to reserve your seat. Wyntour Gardens, 8026 Airport Rd (1 mi. South of the Redding Airport, next to Kents Mkt). 530-365-2256/inform@wyntourgardens.com. www.wyntourgardens.com

Feb 9 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens Berry Pruning Workshop 11 am. Learn When and How to Prune and Care for your Backyard berries – from cane berries to strawberries. Classes are Free but Reservations are Required. Please call or email to reserve your seat. Wyntour Gardens, 8026 Airport Rd (1 mi. South of the Redding Airport, next to Kents Mkt). 530-365-2256/inform@wyntourgardens.com. www.wyntourgardens.com

Feb 16 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens Grape Pruning Workshop 11 am. Learn When and How to Prune and Care for your Backyard Table Grapes. Classes are Free but Reservations are Required. Please call or email to reserve your seat. Wyntour Gardens, 8026 Airport Rd (1 mi. South of the Redding Airport, next to Kents Mkt). 530-365-2256/inform@wyntourgardens.com. www.wyntourgardens.com

Feb 23 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens Berry Pruning Workshop 11 am. Learn When and How to Prune and Care for your Backyard berries – from cane berries to strawberries. Classes are Free but Reservations are Required. Please call or email to reserve your seat. Wyntour Gardens, 8026 Airport Rd (1 mi. South of the Redding Airport, next to Kents Mkt). 530-365-2256/inform@wyntourgardens.com. www.wyntourgardens.com

Additional Pruning Resources:

Many books are also available on the topic of pruning, including a small paperback pamphlet-style book (that Rico thinks every gardener should own) entitled: “How to Prune Fruit Trees”, by R. Sanford Martin, originally published in 1944 by Martin Bio-Products and in its 21st Edition in 2006. I bought my copy at Wyntour Gardens in Redding several winters ago.

Many free write-ups and other resources are available through Fruit Tree Planting Foundation web site, and at the UC Cooperative Extension website: http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/The_Big_Picture/Pruning_&_Training/.

Available at or by order from the regional independent bookstore Lyon Books in Chico, other good books on pruning generally include:

“The Pruning of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers”, 2nd Edition, by George E. Brown and revised by Tony Kirkham, of Kew Gardens in London; Timber Press, 2004.

“Royal Horticulture Society Encyclopedia of Practical Gardening: Pruning”, by Christopher Brickell; RHS, 1996.

“Rodale’s Successful Organic Gardening series: Pruning”, by Kris Medic; Rodale Press, 1995.

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In a North State Garden is a weekly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum – Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time. Podcasts of past shows are available here.

Jennifer Jewell
In a North State Garden is a bi-weekly North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, two times a month.
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