Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2005
Regional Report

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Prune trees with dense, leafy crowns to allow wind to escape through the branches and reduce the chance of storm damage.

Fall Tree Care

We don't have tree branches breaking under the weight of snow, but we do sometimes have severe winds that can damage trees with lots of foliage. Before those winds come, give trees some attention.

  • Prune trees with dense, leafy crowns so you can see through the trees. This also will allow wind to escape through a tree and reduce the chance of it being blown down.

  • Prune dead or damaged tree limbs, or mark them with paint so you won't miss them later when you do your other winter dormant pruning in January.

  • Anchor stakes and ties to young trees and shrubs to stabilize them against winter winds, tying them with flexible ties loosely enough so they can sway gently in the breeze. This movement helps the roots grow into strong anchors that firmly establish the tree.

  • Give one last deep watering to deciduous trees but discontinue feeding. This will begin hardening them off for cold weather. You want to discourage new growth that will be tender and susceptible to frost damage.

  • Remove mulch from under trees back to the drip line. The bare soil can then more easily absorb the day's heat and release it to the trees at night. This also discourages overwintering of disease-carrying bacteria and insects.

  • Knock down water basins around trees and plants to lessen the chance of sitting water and the resulting root rot. Loosen the soil within the basins so water can penetrate more easily.

  • Sunscald can be a problem during the winter, especially on the south- and west-facing surfaces of young trees with thin barks. Paint tree trunks and lower branches with inexpensive white or off-white indoor (latex) paint to reflect winter sun. Don't use outdoor, oil-based paint, since this will clog up the breathing pores of the tree!

  • Protect tender subtropicals, such as avocados, young citrus, guavas, and loquats, from frost damage by watering them well before winter rains arrive in full force. Don't feed them again until late January.

  • Plan your dormant fruit tree spraying schedule to coincide approximately with cool-weather holidays -- Thanksgiving, New Year's Day, and Valentine's Day. Oil sprays smother the eggs of scale insects, aphids, and mites. Lime sulfur and powdered or liquid copper sprays discourage the growth of fungus (peach leaf curl) and virus. Choose a copper spray that contains at least 50 percent copper. On apricot trees, use only copper sprays (sulfur will damage them).

    If the rains haven't thoroughly moistened the soil of trees to be sprayed, deep water them a few days before spraying. The oil spray may damage the trees if their roots are too dry. Spray on a cool, dry, sunny, day during a windless period to minimize evaporation and drift. Make sure all leaf, branch, and trunk surfaces are thoroughly covered with the spray solution. Drenching the soil from the trunk to just beyond the drip line is also helpful. Reapply if rain falls within 48 hours of the application.

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