By now, you've probably moved your holiday poinsettias out to the patio, and are counting the days until the air is sweet with the scent of orange-blossoms, and you can slice into that first sun-warmed garden tomato. It will be a while, but it's time to get started. The first tasks are maintenance steps, pruning, treating and feeding to ensure a productive summer.
WINTER CARE FOR FRUIT TREES AND ROSES
PRUNE deciduous fruit trees (stone fruits)
Remove crowded or crossed branches, to open the center for good light exposure and air flow. Pruning now also repairs structural weakness, and it's the perfect time to remove vigorous vertical growth, i.e., suckers. If you want to control size, we recommend you visit Dave Wilson Nursery (www.davewilson.com) for detailed information on controlling the size of your fruit trees.
As you work, wipe your shears with rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol after several cuts to prevent the spread of disease.
SPRAY deciduous fruit trees with dormant sprays
The "dormant" here refers to the fact that the trees have not yet begun to bud. You'll need to spray again when buds are swollen but don't yet show color. Taking care of this now will prevent common problems like peach leaf curl, mildew, scale, moths, aphids, mealybugs and common fungi, blights and rot. Be sure to spray the ground and make sure there are no leaves on your dormant tree when you spray.
Established roses need to be pruned in January, even if they've lost all their leaves. Prune branches at a 45-degree angle just above a bud that faces outward or toward a side that needs filling in. Remove any leaves that have dead or diseased portions, and destroy (don't compost) them.
If you're worried about pruning your beauties, check out the tutorials from the San Diego Rose Society (sdrosesociety.org)
FEED your citrus trees
This is most important during the most active growing months, before the trees bloom. For coastal gardens, begin feeding this month and every month through June. Further inland, wait until March.
This relatively quiet period of preparation can be a great opportunity to re-evaluate your overall gardening concept. For example, if you're still watering that stretch of emerald lawn, perhaps 2020 is the year you'll want to reimagine your space with indigenous plants and other adapted drought-friendly options. Perhaps you'll want to replace ornamental plantings with a raised-bed garden that's more about food for the family than eye-candy. Whatever your vision, let's talk soon – spring will be here before you know it.