It’s time to prune, plant and transplant

 Image courtesy freepik Image courtesy freepik In most regions of South Africa July is traditionally known as the month when we prune, plant or transplant deciduous fruit trees, grape vines, roses and other deciduous plants. Many evergreens can also be moved at this time. Because the flow of plant sap is low in winter, pruning and transplanting at this time reduces the risk of infection, and the shock of transplanting.

In June and July garden centres around South Africa sell deciduous fruit trees and roses, either bare rooted or planted in nursery bags. Planting in winter when the plants are dormant gives them a chance to settle in and to start developing roots before they put their energy into spring growth.

In cold regions pruning generally gets under way from the middle of July, but in extremely cold regions pruning is delayed until the middle or end of August. However, in the warmer subtropical regions of the country pruning can start as early as June and continue into early August; and in the winter rainfall regions pruning starts from the end of July and continues into August.

Click here to read some easy guidelines for pruning all types of roses

Click here to read some easy guidelines for pruning deciduous fruits and nuts

No matter where you live plant sap will be low in winter, making July to August also a good time to transplant evergreen shrubs and trees which are growing in the wrong place, and also for transplanting potted plants. In very cold regions it is best to wait until after your last frosts before transplanting evergreens to avoid damage. The sap will still be low enough to avoid too much shock to the plant.

Do not prune frost bitten evergreen shrubs now, rather wait until the weather warms and there is no danger of late frosts. When you do prune, remove all green branches from variegated shrubs right at their base, or the stronger growing green shoots will quickly overtake the variegated ones.

Winter is a good time to transplant Cycads and Cycas. Remove any cones from your plant before transplanting and ensure that the new site has good, well-drained soil, adding some river sand to the new planting hole if the drainage is not good. Do not overwater until the rainy season starts. In the winter rainfall regions, if your soil does not drain well, it may be better to wait until spring or early summer to transplant cycads.

Conifers growing in the wrong place can be moved in June and July. Prune your plants lightly before transplanting, this should be done every year anyway to keep them looking neat and to retain their shape. Shake out most of the dead material from the centre of the plant, and after planting, mulch the soil around the root zone with a good layer of organic material.

When transplanting dig the new holes first adding  generous amounts of compost, or whatever soil your plant requires, plus a good dressing of bone meal to the planting holes. Before transplanting many gardeners give their plants a thorough watering and then apply a good dose of Epsom Salts dissolved in water around the root zone, as this helps reduce the shock of transplanting. When transplanting you will also lose some roots so it is best to prune back the plant as much as you can. After pruning you can spray the plant with ‘Wilt-Pruf’ as this helps to prevent shock and the loss of moisture through the leaves after transplanting. Leave the plant for a day or two to absorb the Epsom Salts before transplanting smaller shrubs. However, if your plant is large it is best to dig a trench around the plant first and allow it to stand for another day or two before finally digging up the entire plant.

When you move your plant to its new hole, make sure that you plant at the same depth that it was growing before transplanting. Planting too deep can cause plant death. Ensure that the transplants are very firmly planted in their new positions and staked if necessary. Water the plants thoroughly after planting, and moderately thereafter.

Winter is a good time to prune all deciduous shrubs, trees and climbers because dead and diseased branches can easily be spotted and removed. Correct pruning will rejuvenate old plants to produce better flowers, fruit laden trees, and well-shaped rose bushes.

Do not prune deciduous trees and shrubs like Rosa banksiae, weigelia and spiraea which flower in early spring and summer, on last season’s growth. Rather prune these when they have finished blooming.

If you did not prune your hydrangeas in April you can do so from mid to late July. They need to be pruned down to a good, fat bud and all the old, dead wood needs to be cut right down to the ground.

Ensure that all your pruners are sharp and always make clean cuts as ragged cuts are subject to infection. You will need secateurs to prune small branches, loppers for bigger branches, and a garden saw will come in handy for large branches, which must be sealed immediately with a tree seal.  A good pair of gloves will save your hands, and because you will also be doing a winter spray, ensure that you have purchased the recommended winter sprays and that your sprayer has good pressure.

If you have a shredder, shred everything except diseased plant material and add it to your compost heap or use it as mulch. If you have not investing in a shredder yet, try to do so – it will save you a mint in the long run on purchasing mulch and compost.

For deciduous fruit trees and roses, spray with a winter strength lime sulphur solution when you have finished pruning and spray the surface of the soil around your trees lightly as well.

An excerpt from our article section: Gardening month by month (July). Members can read the full article by clicking here.

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