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What To Do During a Warm Winter

When experiencing a warmer than usual winter (such as the winter we have had this year), we recommend getting an early start on the upcoming year’s growing season. When temperatures are above normal, plants tend to come out of their dormant stages earlier and more quickly than in a normal year. When this occurs, late winter pruning and fertilizing should occur sooner. Also, to ensure each plant is properly prepared for the upcoming growing season, full evaluation of a landscape is needed. Check for plants that may have died (from frost exposure and/or dehydration). Consider expanding your irrigation system for plants that have outgrown their current drip emitters, and look for signs of disease and damage that may have occurred. Of all of our recommendations, winter pruning is first and foremost.

Different plants require different pruning methods. Ornamental grasses (like Deer Grass and Regal Mist) in particular should be sheared back and raked clean of all debris to clear the way for vigorous new growth in spring. Trees and shrubs should be evaluated for structural and aesthetic pruning. Prune extraneous limbs that may cause maintenance issues later on, or limbs that cross one another (which propose a health threat to the plant). Aesthetically, look at a tree from a distance and decide its desired shape. Multi-trunk specimens (like Crape Myrtle and African Sumac) especially should be pruned and sculpted as desired. All pruning, aesthetic and structural alike, should conclude by the middle of February in preparation for their first growth cycle of the year. Once pruning is completed, we recommend evaluating irrigation.

As plants grow, just as people, their water and nutrition intake needs increase. Most trees and shrubs are installed with 2-4 drip emitters at their base. Although this is sufficient for establishment, within a year or two, more drip emitters placed in expanding, subsequent rings around the plant should be  Match has marked as an Error? Dan Moren’s got one solution for fixing them.  added to ensure each plant is receiving proper irrigation. Failing to expand the irrigation around a plant can cause stress for a plant, and in some cases, lead to stunted growth and early death.
Once pruning and irrigation have been addressed, it is time to evaluate fertilizer. Not all plants require fertilization, however. Cacti, Agaves, and many other desert-adapted plants require NO fertilization. In fact, fertilizer can sometimes harm these plants, as they are used to poor, dry, and neglected desert soil in the wild. Many of the non-native and more tropical plant material commonly found in our valley will require fertilization and other soil amendments to thrive here. Trees like Magnolia are intolerant of our highly alkaline soils (their home in the Southern United States is far more acidic), so soil amendments and fertilizer are required annually to mimic their native environments to make them more at home here in the desert. Evaluate each plant’s needs, and administer fertilizer and mulch to the area around the base of the plant to help it succeed for years to come.

Landscape is an ever changing and ever growing phenomenon. Trees and shrubs are living things, and therefore must be monitored and cared for if they are to survive in our harsh desert climate. Therefore, paying special attention to changes in climate and weather as well as evaluating a plant’s physiological needs (such as irrigation and fertilization) and adjusting, expanding accordingly will ensure longer life and more beautiful plant material. Pruning to keep plants in shape will make sure they maintain beautiful form and do not create maintenance hazards. Though it may seem like a lot of work, take delight in the mild winter weather! As winter branches turn to spring and summer blooms, you will be glad you did!

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