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Pruning home deciduous fruit trees is not a difficult task, although one that requires knowledge, skill and patience.  Pruning methods change as the tree grows from a newly planted young tree to pruning a fruit-bearing tree.

To plant and prune a new deciduous fruit tree place the tree on a slight mound for correct drainage. The bud union should be at least 3-4 inches above the soil height. The uppermost large roots should be below the surface of the soil. Cut the trunk at 18 to 24 inches from the soil.   I recall hearing this information to cut the tree ‘knee high' during the Master Gardener training class, and hearing the audible gasp from the trainees. 

If the branches below the cut are not developed well, cut them off at the truck. In warm climates, paint the trunk with a mix of 50% white latex paint to 50% water.  Using a sponge brush paint from 2 inches below the soil to the top of the tree.

Major annual pruning is necessary for most deciduous fruit trees to produce regular crops of acceptable sized fruit.  Mid spring through summer fruit trees can be pruned for shape and height. Backyard growers are often reluctant to do major pruning on a tree in fear of hurting or killing it. This fear is unwarranted as proper pruning invigorates the trees and will extend their years of bearing fruit.

The ideal time to prune is when the tree is dormant. During the first 5 years of the trees life, it should be pruned for structural strength and correct height for thinning and harvesting fruit.  As the tree matures (over 5 years), it is pruned to maintain and renew fruiting wood and to distribute fruitwood properly throughout the tree.  It will also reduce its crop so the fruit will size better and limbs will not break from the weight of the fruit. During this time, any dead, damaged or diseased branches should be removed, along with water sprouts and suckers.

Pruning correctly is the most important practice used to train young trees. Pruning mature trees helps reduce tree height, create sunlight penetration into the canopy and reduce the amount of fruit thinning the tree will require.

Tools needed to accomplish pruning chores are an orchard ladder, good pruning shears and a sharp pruning saw. There are other tools available to help with this job including a pole pruner or ratchet type pruners.

The photos below are of two mature persimmon trees in our neighborhood. One pruned correctly and one chain saw pruned. Which one would you want to have in your yard? The photos were taken the same day, one month apart.

Posted on Monday, April 24, 2017 at 11:06 AM

Seeing Spots at the Bohart

The Bohart team includes (front, from left) graduate students Charlotte Herbert and Jessica Gillung and undergraduate student Wade Spencer. In back (from left) are UC Davis biology student Emma Cluff; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; Bohart Museum director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology; and Steve Heydon, senior museum scientist. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

If you walk into the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, you'll see spots. No, don't contact your local...

California peaches are in good shape

The warmest winter since 1907 in south-central Texas has left its peach crop with inadequate chill hours this year, reported Lynn Brezosky in the San Antonio Express-News.

Without sufficient chill hours over the winter, the buds didn't get the re-boot they need to bloom in proper synchrony, which is important for blossoms to set fruit. The leaves have also been slow to emerge. "The trees look like it's still winter," said Jim Kamas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extenson horticulturalist.

“The lack of chill hours is a big deal,” said Larry Stein, extension horticulturalist with AgriLife Research & Extension Center.

The Texas trouble combined with a cold blast that destroyed half the crop in Georgia and North Carolina this spring mean peaches are likely to be in short supply this year.

The sweet spot, Brezosky wrote, may be California, the No. 1 peach producer in the nation. Roger Duncan, UC Cooperative Extension pomology adviser, could think of no major problems affecting the southern part of the state's fresh market peach crop.

“I think in general it's probably going to be just fine,” he said.

The Elegant Lady peach is one of many excellent varieties that are produced in abundance by California peach growers.
Posted on Friday, April 21, 2017 at 1:10 PM
Tags: peaches (15), Roger Duncan (14)

Larry Godfrey: 1956-2017, Friend of Alfalfa, Rice and Other Crops

Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey presenting a talk at the 2016 California Rice Field Day in Biggs. He spoke at the annual field day for 25 years. (Photo by Evett Kilmartin, UC ANR)

UC Cooperative Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey, a 26-year member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty and widely...

Posted on Friday, April 21, 2017 at 10:45 AM

The Language of Flowers

Spring is here in all its beauty.  Trees are in bloom and flowers are in profusion from all the glorious rain.  As we begin working in our gardens or even just taking a casual walk, those flowers speak to us in a special language.  And, sometimes we like to answer back!

All of these flowers—(or maybe it's the wonderful PBS series, “Victoria”!)  have me thinking about the Victorians and how they used flowers to adorn everything from wallpaper to bonnets.  And it was the Victorians that had an elaborate way of communicating by using their well-loved flowers and plants.

The origin of “the language of flowers” actually predates Victorian times.  Flowers and plants have  had religious, mythological and symbolic meanings for centuries.  The first flower dictionary was written in 1818 in Paris by Mme. Charlotte de la Tour—and it was an overnight sensation.  Then, in 1879, the Victorian lady, Miss Corruthers, wrote an entire book on the subject.  It became the standard source for flower symbolism in England and the United States.

After that, both men and women assigned meanings to flowers—known as “floriography.”  Thus they could express their ideas and feelings within the boundaries of the strict etiquette of the time.  Flowers gave them a “silent language” that allowed them to communicate many sentiments.  Not only were pictures and embroideries methods of letting others know one's feelings—but the scent of a particular plant or flower on a handkerchief could carry the same message.  So much more exciting and expressive than an email, text or tweet!

Because spring is for a bit of folly—just for fun—here is a list of flowers and their meanings.

Match them and see how you would do as a Victorian!


Morning Glory




























Energy in Adversity

























Thought of an Absent Friend







Answers: A-3; B-6; C-9; D-7; E-4; F-1; G-2; H-12; I-8; J-11; K-10; L-5


Score: 2 correct: 1 petal;  correct: 4: 1 blossom; 7 correct: 1 bouquet; 12 correct: an entire garden!

Posted on Friday, April 21, 2017 at 10:42 AM

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