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Late February: Tree Pruning Time!

By MJ (Mary-Jane) Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Last year at around this time on a beautiful, sunny and mild Saturday, I found myself in an apple orchard south of Norwood learning the intricacies of pruning apple trees. Fruit trees need to be pruned in order to open up the tree canopy to sunlight and air circulation which promotes fruit production and a healthy plant.

Most trees benefit from some pruning, but an important aspect of the task is knowing when to prune. Proper timing helps to insure attractive, healthy, productive trees and shrubs.

February through March is generally regarded as the best time to prune most deciduous trees. The absence of foliage at this time of year gives the individual a clear view of the tree and allows the selection and removal of appropriate branches.

The best time to prune flowering trees or shrubs is right after they’ve finished blooming. Unlike other trees in this article, pruning of these is unlikely to have anything to do with February or March!

Prune evergreen shrubs, such as juniper and yew, in late March or early April before new growth begins. Light pruning may also be done in mid-summer. Avoid pruning evergreen shrubs in the fall as fall pruned evergreens are more susceptible to winter injury. Late winter is the best time to remove unwanted lower branches on evergreen trees.

Back to the apple orchard. Late February to early April is the best time to prune fruit trees in our area. Pruning should be completed before the fruit trees begin to break bud (leaf out) in early spring.

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I learned that the first rule of pruning is to remove any dead, injured or diseased branches. Cut just past the “branch collar”–the wrinkled part where the branch connects to the trunk or another branch.

Then, moving up and around the tree, look for branches that cross each other and eliminate the ones that are not evenly spaced or are not at the best angle. Competing branches will cause problems for the tree. Fruit trees should only have one central leading branch. If two or more exist, choose the healthier one and remove the others.

It was definitely an interesting afternoon. Much thanks to my friend Carl for the lesson!

Three Items of Likely Interest

While we’re on the subject of trees, I thought the following timely items would be of interest to our readers.

Ecology Park Spring Sale, Victoria Day Weekend. Mark your calendar now and plan to support Ecology Park programs with purchases of over 150 species of edible and native plants, shrubs, and trees that thrive in our region of Ontario and provide important habitat for wildlife and pollinators.

ORCA Seedling Program — Otonabee Conservation can assist you in reforesting or planting additional trees on your property through the Tree Seedling Program. Orders for trees can be placed in early March for delivery in late April. Tree whips (3-4yrs old) come bare root. Trees range in price from $1 per tree to $4 per tree, but there is a minimum order of 25 trees of a single variety so you may want to split an order with a friend or two (or three). See the link below for more information. Order deadline this year is March 10, 2020.

Coincidentally, the Peterborough Horticultural Society speaker this coming Wednesday February 26 (2020) is Vern Bastable from Peterborough Green Up. Vern will be speaking about “Choosing the Right Tree”. Guests are always welcome for a nominal $2 charge. The meeting is held at the Peterborough Lions Centre in Ashburnham from 7pm-8:30pm sharp and refreshments are served before the meeting.

Lastly, here are some resources that you may find helpful.

Agastache: Herb of the Year 2019

By Christine Freeburn, Master Gardener

agastache-3966329_960_720Agastache (pronounced AG-a-stak-ee) has been chosen as Herb of the Year 2019. This name is actually the plant genus and includes many different species native to North America. All species attract bees and butterflies and deer do not usually eat. The plant we are most familiar with is Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) which has a strong anise or licorice fragrance to its leaves. It is a prairie plant that likes sun and grows 3′- 5′ tall in any type soil as long as it is well drained. Anise Hyssop has average moisture requirements and is a perennial herb zone 4. Bloom time is mid summer and common flower colour is purple, but it can be found in white and pink. The native strains can reseed, but you can find sterile cultivars like Blue Fortune which may need support. Use the leaves in teas, green salads, or fruit salads. The flowers are edible also. You can use as cut flowers or dry the flowers for arrangements.

(Agastache scrophulariifolia is known as Purple Giant Hyssop and is similiar to Anise.

Agastache nepetoides is the native Yellow Giant Hyssop or Catnip Giant Hyssop that grows in forests which blooms yellow in summer and grows 2′ to 8′. It is rare in southern Ontario, being more common in the eastern states.

Other varieties of Agastache are Korean Mint (Agastache rugosa) which is zone 6 and Rose Mint or Mexican (Agastache pallidiflora) which is zone 7.

 

The Peterborough Garden Show

By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener

It’s coming in 25 days.  It can’t come soon enough.  In our city, “The Garden Show” is a true sign of spring.  It’s an occasion that brings together speakers, workshop leaders, vendors, horticultural society members, master gardeners, exhibitors and many others for one reason:  “For the Love of Gardening”.PGS-logo-small

This year marks the 19th fantastic show: 
April 26 – 28, 2019 (Friday 5-9pm, Saturday 10am-5pm & Sunday 10am-4pm).

And there’s great news ! The show has MOVED – to Fleming College’s brand new Trades and Technology Centre on Brealey Drive with lots of FREE parking and a $10, one-price ticket so you can enjoy the show all weekend.

The Peterborough and Area Master Gardeners will have a booth at the show, and will be happy to answer any gardening questions that you may have. Watch for our red aprons!

The theme “Coming Up Roses” is reflected in several of the amazing speakers along with educational and fun workshops and demos.

This award-winning show was honoured in 2017 with both a “Canada 150 Garden Experience”, and “Garden Event of the Year” by the Canadian Garden Council, so come and see what all the fuss is about.

You will find many of your old favourite vendors along with some new ones.

…and don’t forget the popular “Little Green Thumbs” Children’s Garden that is always teaming with liveliness and action! There are learning activities, face painting, crafts and even a take-home project. Their theme this year is “Miniature Gardens for Elves and Fairies”.

All the show profits go back into our community to fund scholarships for post-secondary students studying in horticulture-related fields,various local projects & Community Gardens.  Since 2002, the show has put over $200,000 back into our community.

Please save the date, visit and and learn why “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” in 2019.

Learn more about the incredible speakers, workshops, bus trips, places to stay and tickets here: peterboroughgardenshow.com.

 

Happy New Year from the Peterborough & Area Master Gardeners!

By Sharleen Pratt, Master Gardener in Training

As 2018 comes to a close, we can reflect on what was successful in our garden, what surprised us and what we would never do again! Gardening has evolved over the years and some of the trends come and go. There is new excitement from the younger generation who are embracing food gardening and are experimenting with more unusual fruits and vegetables, such as cucuzzi summer squash, kohlrabi and goji berry. Gardening without herbicides and growing for pollinators are both becoming increasingly more important. We are also realizing the value of trees and continue to encourage cities to increase their tree canopy. Community gardens are very popular and some are even grown for local food banks. I believe that gardening connects us all. It is a universal language and not only has wide ranging mental health benefits, but also improves physical fitness and connects us to the natural world!planting-865294__340

For me gardening is my ‘happy place’. It can be very meditative. Whether I am splitting perennials, planting something new, discovering a plant that has appeared from seed or just plain weeding, time passes quickly and I always have a sense of ‘being in the moment’. Gardening enthusiasm is contagious and social media has helped to promote the joys of gardening.

One of the reasons many of us become Master Gardeners is because we love to learn. Together we volunteer several thousand hours to the cause of horticulture and gardening education. In 2018, the Peterborough and Area Master Gardeners gave advice at the Ecology Park, the Purple Onion Festival, the Farmers Market, the Activity Haven Garden Tour, the Peterborough Horticultural Society and the Peterborough Garden Show. We ran a successful Day for Gardeners in March, had an amazing Plant Sale in June and continue to run a gardening program for seniors at Princess Gardens.

We went on our annual bus trip, this time exploring parts of southwestern Ontario. We visited Vineland Research & Innovation Centre and learned all about their 49 Parallel roses. We had a tour of the ongoing St. Thomas Elevated Park Project, and learned all about the running of Orchard Hill Farms; a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. On Day 2, we were charmed by Will Heeman, manager and grandson at Heeman’s Garden Centre and visited Cuddy’s Farm Gardens for an interesting tour by some very enthusiastic students. We enjoyed lovely meals and as always came home with a busload of plants!

happy-year-3848864__340As we hibernate through the winter months, now is the time to browse through gardening magazines or seed catalogues, learn about new plants for 2019 and dream about those first warm spring days when the snowdrops, hellebores and crocus will wake up and say ‘here I am’.

We would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year! Talk to you again in 2019.

Bringing Outside Plants Indoors

By Chris Freeburn, Master Gardener

The long hot summer is coming to an end. Now is the time to start thinking about what plants you are going to bring into your home to overwinter and how you can do that successfully. During the summer months, many houseplants can become outdoor plants.thumbnail_DSCN2619

It is relatively easy to overwinter ivies which can go into outdoor containers. Take cuttings from your ivies, spray them with a safer soap solution to eliminate pests and place the stems in water to root in a bright window. You can also try this with other annuals like coleus or wandering jew. Once the stems have rooted, plant them in good potting soil and you can enjoy them through the winter months and have them again for outdoors the following year. In early summer put plants such as oxalis, kalanchoe, asparagus fern, or wandering jew outside to enjoy on your deck. Most can come back into the house in early September after a thorough spray with safers soap.

Tropicals

Tropicals like hibiscus and bouganvillia love to be outside during the hot summer months but it is sometimes a challenge to overwinter them indoors. The trick to avoiding plant shock is to bring your plant in before the nights get too cool. Tropicals like a warm, even temperature so if you wait too long to bring into your home, the plant will shock, drop leaves and look like it is dying. I have had a bouganvillia drop almost all its leaves when I left it out during a lovely fall season. The trouble was the nights were down around +10 while the days were up over 20 degrees. I cut the branches back, saw there was still green in the stems, so put it in indirect light, watered lightly and eventually new leaves began to sprout and it came back to be placed outside again the next summer. If you can stop that reaction by bringing in earlier, it is worth the effort.

Spray for Bugs!

Any plant that comes inside should be sprayed for bugs. There is nothing worse than an indoor pest infestation which can travel from one plant to another. Using a good safer soap product and completely spraying leaves, stems and soil a couple of days before you bring them in will help. Now is also the time to transplant plants into fresh new soil. Over the summer, your plants will have grown below the soil as well as above. If you are bringing in plants from a container, plant up in a pot that is just larger than the root ball with new soil. This will help to eliminate those pests as many will lay their eggs in the soil to hatch and attack your plant. You can also prune back plants that have gotten large. Most annuals do well with a bit of a haircut.

Bringing plants indoors and extending their life can be a fun and rewarding task. Don’t be discouraged if you experience some failures. It is always nice to have to go out and purchase something new to add to your collection!

Building Natural Ponds by Robert Pavlis

Book Review by Cheryl Harrison

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What does the dedicated gardener do on cold Canadian winter days? Read gardening books and day dream, of course!
Santa brought me “Building Natural Ponds”(ISBN 978-0-86571-845-6) by Robert Pavlis. Mr. Pavlis is an experienced Master Gardener. He owns and developed an extensive botanical garden. He is a speaker, teacher, writer and blogger.
We have two ponds on our large rural property. Both are natural ponds. The previous books that I have read about creating and maintaining gardening ponds usually talk about pumps, filters and chemicals. They talk about the need to clean your pond regularly, what to plant and how to care for your fish. All of this requires lots of effort….seems like not much time to enjoy your pond when coupled with all of the other usual garden chores.
“Building Natural Ponds”, although a small book, takes the reader from the pond ecosystem and environmental benefits, through planning, pond design and building to fish, plants and maintenance. There is even a short chapter on “pools, bogs and rain gardens”. I was able to easily follow the pond building process and with the diagrams and photos included in the book, I could picture each step. I could also imagine how the information can be applied to our current ponds. For example, Mr. Pavlis talks about algae. He eloquently explains the science around the balance needed to ensure that algae growth is controlled. The book is also indexed and includes a list of helpful references.
My only very small criticism would be that not all the pictures are in colour. The colour pictures that are included, are lovely and do contribute to successful day dreaming!
I would recommend “Building Natural Ponds” by Robert Pavlis to anyone considering a future pond build, to anyone who would like to learn more about their current pond or just to anyone who likes to learn and dream gardening!