Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pruning Trees

It's cold and sometimes rainy, a perfect time of year to make a nice cup of tea and wrap up in a warm blanket.
It's also the perfect time of year to get some needed pruning done. The trees are dormant and for us in Arlington we have pretty nice weather.
There are three reasons to prune a tree, shaping, fruit production and removing damaged or dead material.
If you want to shape a tree you first need to figure out what shape you want the tree to take on.  This will depend on what kind of tree it is and where it was planted.  An apple tree for instance usually need plenty of room to spread out and you would thus prune the branches to give plenty of room between the main limbs.  If you moved into a house where the apple tree is in a more cramped space you might do something similar but with the branches moving more upward, cutting off branches that might want to be hitting the house or other structures.

For fruit production you will want to remove sucker branches. These grow more or less straight up from the trunk or sometimes large branches.  they usually don't produce fruit but are easy to remove since they are new and green.  You would remove these in the spring when they form.  They can also be removed in the winter but  by this time will have become woody. If you bought a bush from the store then the rootstock might not be the same as the rest of the bush.  Suckers originating from the base may not even be of the same type and can take over if not removed.
For removing dead or damaged limbs you will need to figure out what limbs need removing and make sure you have removed enough. A rotted limb might go into a larger limb and the entire thing might need removing.  This happened with my fig tree. A limb as big around as my arm had to be cut out.  The next year it produced better than ever since it didn't have to work on healing as much.
One of the main things to consider with any pruning is making sure the tree as a whole is not damaged in the process.  A cut too far back can damage the limb or trunk the pruned limb is being cut off of.  Better in that case not to cut too much lest you have to cut the next branch too.

I would recommend cutting these off as soon as you see them start to grow.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Winter Gardening

Gardening in the winter isn't something everyone can do.  It is one of the few things living in the metroplex allows.  Sure our summer this year killed almost everything but this winter has been a great growing time.  We've got some beets, cilantro and plenty of herbs thriving everywhere.  Sure they're not as glamorous as red tomatoes or majestic sun flowers but carrots, beets, cabbage, peas and many other veggies can be grown and taste so much better in the fall and winter months.  Continued planting also keeps the soil up and keeps weeds down.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pesto Time Again

I harvested several large basil plants, some forming woody stems, to make pesto before cooler frost hit last night.  I got a mix of purple and green but after you blend it all together you can't really tell, it's just a little darker than normal.
The long part of making pesto is picking the leaves off of the plant.  You don't want the woody stem in the pesto since it won't cook down quite right when you add it to a dish. i can't imagine eating pasta with chicken or possibly shrimp and finding a hard woody piece of basil in the mix.
The recipe I used calls for pine nuts, but I used walnuts instead, along with garlic and olive oil.  As usual it took a while for the leaves to get chopped up enough to blend well but in the end it made 16 cubes of pesto.  One cube is plenty to season a pasta dish for my wife and me and should last most of the year the way we use it.  Last year we didn't get quite as much and had to get some pesto from the store.
I tossed the flower heads along with the stems back into the garden to finish reseeding for next year's crop.  There were also some smaller basil plants up front that I left. The mild freeze seemed to have mostly gotten to them and weren't many good leaves to use.