Experts say now is time for pruning, planting, planning

Published 12:06 am Sunday, January 11, 2015

SAM GAUSE/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Live Oak Nursery employee Brittany Anders prunes a double red knock out rose bush at the nursery Friday. Cutting back parts of plants during winter helps stimulate growth for the spring.

SAM GAUSE/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Live Oak Nursery employee Brittany Anders prunes a double red knock out rose bush at the nursery Friday. Cutting back parts of plants during winter helps stimulate growth for the spring.

Never fear, gardeners, winter is here.

Blooms are few and work is plenty, but the winter months in these parts are a time gardeners should welcome, the experts say.

Adams County Extension Service Director David Carter said, first, local gardeners shouldn’t worry much about losing their beloved plants to cold temperatures, especially the ones that are well established.

“When it gets cold like this, you don’t see additional growth or plant loss,” Carter said. “We are going to be fine. I don’t see any major risk. Worst case scenario you can cover your plants.”

Carter said gardeners can lay or wrap light fabrics over plants and flower beds if they are worried, but there are some cold weather plants such as a magnus coneflower or tulips that do not need covering.

“If it’s not a cold weather plant, then you need to be cautious,” Carter added. “Ferns need to be covered up and taken care of properly.”

The next two months offer a planting season of sorts for trees and shrubs, Adams County Master Gardener Beth Dudley said.

“Winter is the perfect time to plant shrubs because we are going to get rain and water,” Dudley said.

Dudley encouraged local gardeners not to be afraid of the winter weather, but to embrace it.

“Winter is really the busiest time for a gardener because they are doing all the prep work for spring,” Dudley said.

Spring preparation also requires ridding a garden of disease, she said.

“Late January or early February is when you spray your weeds with pre-emergent spay to keep them from coming up,” Dudley said. “Also, if you have any kind of visible disease or infestations, now would be the time to spray your plants with pesticide.”

Dudley said gardeners could plant trees and shrubs during the winter also.

However, owners of crepe myrtles, an ornamental Asian shrub or small tree with pink, white or purplish crinkled petals, should be sure to prune their trees, Dudley said.

“Now is the time to prune (crepe myrtles) and keep them properly shaped,” Dudley said. “But really any kind of tree that is dormant should be pruned.”

Dudley said it’s important to prune a crepe myrtle in order to provided sufficient yard space. The Master Gardeners, though, recommend following proper pruning methods to avoid injuring the tree.

They will offer a lesson on crepe myrtle pruning as part of a meeting at 9 a.m. Friday at the Natchez City Cemetery.

Dudley said keeping the tree trimmed would create more open space for sun and air movement while the tree is dormant during the winter.

Adams County Master Gardener Kelley Bradley said crepe myrtle trees hold up similar to any other tree during the winter season.

“They can withstand freezing temperatures as long as they are in our climate zone,” Bradley said.

To protect the crepe myrtles, Bradley said, the trees must be pruned around late January or early February.

“You want to remove any dead branches from the tree, remove any suckers that might inhibit its growth and you want to trim up the tree to give it a pretty shape,” Bradley said.

Bradley said most plants, trees and shrubs do not need to be fertilized yet.

“You want to get the first new growth first,” Bradley said. “It’s best to do it later in the spring when you start seeing new little leafs grow.”