Got your pruners and lopers sharpened? By mid-February it will be safe to prune all that is dormant or dead. You can easily tell if a branch is dead by making a small scrape with your thumbnail to remove a bit of bark. If it is green underneath, then the branch is simply dormant. Most bougainvilleas will need to be pruned back and they will return with full vigor in the spring.
If you are the proud owner of fruit trees, now, today, is the best time to prune for size, to remove any rubbing branches or dead or diseased or dangerous branches, etc. Apple, peach, apricot and plum trees should be pruned now. However, citrus trees do not need any pruning. Your citrus may still have fruit and the only thing they need now is fertilization. Many citrus trees around SaddleBrooke have yellowish leaves so I suspect they have not been fertilized in a long time. Don’t count on your landscaper to take care of this for you. Get a bag of fertilizer and do it yourself. Now! This time of year Mother Nature will carry the fertilizer into the soil because of the rain. Citrus tend to sprout new branches in all directions and some grow low to the ground. This is a good thing as the lower-hanging branches protect the tender sun-sensitive trunk. By the time the fruits develop on my citrus trees, the weight of the fruits brings the lower branches right down onto the ground. This does not seem to harm the fruits that are hanging on the ground, so don’t worry—just eat them! And leaving grapefruit on the tree is okay as they continue to get sweeter as time passes.
When pruning any trees it is really important to remove any branches that are rubbing against another branch. Now is a good time to find these branches and take care of them. When one branch is rubbing against or crossing over another branch, the bark on both branches will be damaged at the contact site as the breezes blow and cause the branches to move. If you do not remove one of the branches, both will eventually succumb to bacterial or insect infection and you will lose them—and perhaps the whole tree or shrub. Suring dormancy when the leaves are gone, it is very easy to spot these problem branches. Remember that even if you have to remove a rather large branch, new growth will fill in the empty spot in due time. When removing any branch, make sure you cut it off at its point of attachment from which it first grew. This will prevent new branch sprouts and avoid that ugly lopped-off look that we see on most pruned trees around SaddleBrooke. Don’t get me started on that topic! Finally, any stakes that have been attached for more than one year have already done their job so remove them.
Remember: Nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.