Cyclone Rake Blog: May 2016

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Healthy Trees, Healthy Fruit

Fruit trees are moving past the time of danger from spring freezes. Now it’s up to you to coax the sweetest tastes from your fruit trees. Here are some keys to remember this spring toward a successful harvest this summer.

Soil Fertility

A common failing for keeping home fruit trees is applying the wrong amount of fertilizer – and applying fertilizer at the wrong time of year. Fertilizer is best applied before bud break. A rule of thumb is one-tenth of a pound of balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) for each year of tree age, up to 10 years. Iowa State University extension horticulturist Richard Jauron recommends limiting fertilizers to one pound for trees older than ten years.

Fertilizer should be spread in the tree’s root zone. Begin sprinkling fertilizer about two feet from the trunk, spreading it in a circular pattern, moving out to where rainwater would drip onto the ground from the farthest branches.

Critters and Weeds

Young trees are tasty to wildlife. A fence or other barrier can keep rodents, rabbits and deer from nibbling on or damaging your tree. Spiral trunk guards, made of white plastic, should be removed during the summer to prevent shelter for trunk-boring insects. Ripening fruit will attract birds and deer; it’s not too early to plan your fence, netting or bird scare strategy.

Mulch helps discourage weeds, but too much mulch around a fruit tree can actually hamper water penetration and attract rodents and insects. Some mulch, as it decomposes, may compete with the tree for soil nutrients. A good mulching strategy is to rely on a thin layer of compost, like decayed shredded leaves collected with a Cyclone Rake. Inorganic mulches (like plastic landscape fabric) may also be helpful, especially for younger trees; keep such materials tight to the ground to discourage pest penetration.

Insects and Diseases: Be Vigilant

To grow great fruit, you must keep an eye on your trees and their environment –whether or not you decide to use synthetic chemicals to control pests. Integrated pest management is the term professional fruit growers use to describe putting all available tools to work to produce quality fruit. That can range from trapping or picking off threatening insects to using chemical sprays for homeowners.

We found a fantastic, free online resource from The Ohio State University that describes good insect and disease control principles. It also links to many other resources. Good information can be obtained locally at garden centers and through master gardener groups and university extension offices.
Midwest Home Fruit Production Guide (The Ohio State University)

And of course, there’s always the wisdom from friends and neighbors nearby; great gardeners find joy in both growing delicious fruit and showing others how to grow their own.


Planting and Early Care of Fruit Trees (University of Maine)

Spring Care for Fruit Trees (Iowa State University)

photo credit: branch pattern, via photopin (license)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Pruning Roses - A Primer

Roses are among the most loved flowering plants, and spring pruning is necessary to keep most varieties blooming. While you should always check your local gardening calendar for proper spring pruning, here are some proven pruning tips to keep roses blooming in landscapes, especially in areas from the Rocky Mountains east to New England.

Know What Rose is Your Rose
Different roses get pruned differently. The main categories of roses are:

1) repeat bloomers, like hybrid teas as well as grandifloras and floribundas
2) climbers/ramblers
3) shrub roses, also called old garden types

There are two pruning “seasons” for roses. One is spring pruning, just as buds break dormancy. The other pruning happens just after roses flower.

The type of rose determines whether the rose needs spring pruning. Repeat bloomers usually need a heavy spring pruning just as the buds break dormancy. Climbers and ramblers, as well as old-fashioned shrub roses, are only pruned after flowering. Other types, especially newer climber/rambler cultivars like climbing hybrid tea roses, need little or minimal pruning.

The time has passed in many areas for spring rose pruning. But if you live in a colder zone – or are just a little late to the spring pruning party – here’s a helpful article on spring pruning, from Purdue University.

Tips for All Types
Again, we can’t emphasize enough: you must prune your rosebushes in the way that’s suited for the rose type and your particular growing zone. But no matter what your zone or rose type, here are some surefire tips for successful pruning, courtesy of Clemson University Extension:

  • Remove damaged, dying or diseased stems and canes as soon as you spot them.
  • Use a pruning tool that minimizes damage to the rosebush. Pruners that cut like a pair of scissors are usually better than “anvil” style pruners that crush stems.
  • The center of the canes or stems should appear white, not brown, after cutting. If there is brown discoloration, cut more of the stem off.
  • Keep the center of the rosebush open by making pruning cuts above buds set to grow outward from the plant.
  • Seal pruning cuts made on rose canes thicker than a pencil; Clemson recommends using nail polish or wood glue. This will help keep out cane pests.
  • Older climbing/rambling varieties produce the best flowers on one-year old wood. Prune away only the oldest stems, after flowering.

Proper pruning keeps your roses delivering beautiful blooms for many seasons. For more information, here are some free information resources that we found most informative:

Pruning Roses (Clemson University)

Roses: Care After Planting (University of Missouri)
Includes detailed pruning diagrams

Pruning Roses (Colorado)