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IN THE GARDEN: February Duties; Potato Planting Tip; and Pruning Fruit Trees

It's the time of year to prune your fruit trees. See tips below.

With Valentine’s Day upon us, mid- to late February is the time to prune your roses.

Also:

• Hope you were able to get your corn gluten put out. If you haven’t, there is still time to get it done. It’s OK to do it until first week in March.

• Spray fruit trees with dormant oil. Fruit trees should be sprayed two or more times with dormant oil through the season.

• Fertilize your asparagus, strawberries, and cool-weather annuals such as pansies. The Natural Gardener suggests an organic fertilizer such as Rabbit Hill Farm’s Bud and Bloom or Ladybug fertilizer. Add a good manure compost at the same time.

• If you haven’t had at least an inch of rain in the last four weeks then give your beds, trees, and shrubs a good deep soaking.

• Don’t be fooled by the day-by-day weather; remember the season.

POTATO PLANTING TIP

Did you plant some purple potatoes for fun? This tip comes from Josh Hudgins in Burnet.

Instead of piling compost or soil around the plants as they grow, he places a 5-gallon plastic bucket with the bottom cut out over the plant as it emerges. He continues to place compost, etc., on the plant as it grows. When it is time to harvest, he simply pulls the bucket up and all the potatoes fall out.

He also harvests only a few plants at a time and does not disturb the other plants. By gardening this way, the compost is already on the ground and ready for next year’s crop.

Josh, that idea was just brilliant! Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us. I tried old tires one year, and it was a disaster.

NEW ADVENTURE

I asked Dad: “How will I know when it is time to pull up the plastic wrap?”

With the harsh winds and hard freezes, I was getting anxious to take a peek and see how the process was progressing.

Dad gently said: “Martelle, lifting the plastic often is like opening the oven door repeatedly to see if the cake is done, and then you wonder why the cake didn’t rise.”

In conclusion, we have plenty of time before we plant our spring vegetables; therefore, we sit tight and wait. When it’s time to plant, we will lift our plastic, test the soil, and till.

LET’S PRUNE FRUIT TREES

The main idea of pruning peach trees is to remove the old, gray-colored, slow-growing shoots, which are non-fruitbearing. We want to keep the 1-year-old, 18- to 24-inch, red-colored bearing shoots. Removing 40 percent of the tree annually stimulates new growth each spring.

The second objective of pruning is to lower the fruiting zone to a height that is comfortable to harvest the fruit. The third objective is to open the center of the tree — this increases air circulation, reduces disease pressure, and allows sunlight to accelerate fruit color and sweetness.

Tools needed for the job are loppers, hand saws, hand clippers, a rake for the pruned limbs, good gloves, head and face protection, a ladder, something to sharpen your tools, and lots of drinking water. It helps if you have someone there to encourage you. Be sure to pace yourself.

First, remove all the dead limbs, rootstock suckers and water spouts in the lower three feet. Next, remove all shoots above the 7-foot mark other than the red colored 18- to 24-inch fruiting shoots. Then, remove all shoots, which grow toward the middle of the tree. Picture an upside-down umbrella — that is what you want the finished product to look like.

Finally, remove all the old, gray wood in the 3- to 7-foot fruit production zone.

Things to remember: Always wear protective clothing, eyewear, gloves, and a hat that covers your ears. Sometimes, those limbs can really slap you hard.

Pruning paint is not necessary.

If this sounds too confusing, go by your favorite nursery and let them give you a demonstration and other helpful hints.

Peach tree production is the purpose of all this work. Each peach tree can produce two bushels per tree. That converts to 100 pounds of peaches. So, when you are hot, tired, and sweaty, just think of all those delicious peaches that you are going to enjoy this summer.

Now, take it easy and steady and be good to yourself and your fruit trees.

Keep your souls and soles in your garden!

Remember the True Master Gardener: Jesus said, “I am the vine; my Father is the Gardener.” John 15:1 Contact Bill Luedecke at The Luedecke Group Realtors at (512) 577-1463 or email him at bill@texasland.net. Contact Martelle Luedecke at (512) 769-3179 or luedeckephotography@gmail.com.

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