Most fruit trees, berry bushes, and fruiting vines benefit from pruning throughout their lives. The process may seem complicated, but follow these guidelines to make it easier.
No matter what trees, shrubs, or vines you're growing, it's a good idea to prune out any dead or diseased branches and stems. This helps the plant look better and can prevent disease from spreading.
Test Garden Tip: Dip your pruning shears in rubbing alcohol or a 10 percent bleach solution between cuts. This prevents the disease from spreading to healthy branches. Dip pruning shears in oil after use to prevent corrosion.
Prune out wayward stems that block pathways, driveways, or grow into the side of a house or other structures. Remove branches that cross and rub against one another; as the bark gets rubbed off, it makes the tree more susceptible to disease.
It's best to prune most fruit trees in late fall, winter, or early spring when they're dormant and leafless. Avoid pruning them in early fall -- otherwise you make the trees more susceptible to winter injury. Currants and gooseberries also should be pruned in the dormant season, removing approximately one-third of their oldest stems. Grapes and kiwi vines require severe pruning during the dormant season to keep them productive. Most raspberries and blackberries fruit on two-year-old canes. Remove the old canes in summer right after they are done bearing. Tip prune them in summer to make them branch.
It may seem like a tough thing to do, but remove the blossoms on your strawberry plants the year you plant your strawberries so they put their energy into rooting and making new plants rather than producing fruit. If they bloom more than once the first year, allow them to produce a crop beginning with the second cycle of bloom.
To keep strawberry beds productive, renovate them right after they finish bearing their early summer crop. Rototill or dig under the oldest plants and save a narrow row of daughter plants. The daughter plants will send out runners to fill in the bed and produce the crop the following year.
Continued on page 4: Watering