Winter Gardening Chores

When it comes to chores, Mom never missed an opportunity to remind me of just how endless they are. You can bet that the same rules apply to the garden.

So, as winter approaches, bear in mind there are some important chores we should consider because those sleepy plants still need your care and attention. Mulching, minimizing irrigation, and protecting plants from freeze are among many. But one chore that’s often overlooked is pruning.

Pruning Basics
Trim trees, especially live oaks, in late winter 
Know when – on current or previous year’s growth – your plant blooms 
Keep pruning tools clean and sharp

Pruning is a task that can be done throughout the year. When a shrub becomes too tall and blocks a view, we prune it. If a tree branch cracks during a windy spring storm, we prune it. We can also prune many of our flowering perennials in the fall to encourage one last gorgeous flush of blooms. However, some pruning tasks — tree trimming — are best done during those last few weeks in winter.

This is especially applicable to our most cherished and valuable trees: live oaks. Trimming these trees is best done in late winter because the beetle known to transmit oak wilt is inactive. Consider hiring a professional to get the job done safely and correctly.

Don’t get carried away with pruning though. It’s wonderful to see trees, roses and other shrubs clean and opened up, but not everything will benefit from a late winter haircut. It’s important to find out if your plant flowers on this year’s or last year’s growth. Most climbing roses bloom on last year’s growth so if you remove last year’s branches you may have to wait an additional year to see that rose bloom. And, always remember to keep your tools sharp and disinfected for optimal healing and health after pruning.

Picture of Erin Conant
Erin Conant
Erin Conant has a passion for all things related to plants. Our former SAWS conservation consultant is now at home with her family passionately establishing their own urban farm and spreading the word of water conservation.
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