Budding and Grafting Fruit Trees

Budding is the most common way of propagating fruit trees. It is done by inserting a single bud under the bark of a branch so that the bud and the stock unite. This is usually done in the spring. There are two types of grafting: bark graft and cleft graft. Bark graft is used to change the variety of the tree or a main branch. The cleft graft is the most popular method. It is used on any trunk or branch that is 2-4 inches in diameter. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, a description here would be too long, but there's grafting information on the Home Orchard website with links to illustrations. Another great source of information is the annual California Rare Fruit Growers Scion Exchange with classes and materials usually held in January. Learn more at their local chapter website.

Fire Resistant Landscaping

Living in our beautiful hills requires a certain responsibility when it comes to landscaping. Divide the area around your home into sections, near area, mid area, and far area. The near area is the first 30 feet around the house or up to the property line for smaller lots. You can do traditional landscaping with trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and lawn. Plants here need to be the most fire resistant. Never plant pines, junipers, eucalyptus globulus, or greasewood near any structures. They are extremely flammable, high in oils and resins. Paper thin leaves and twiggy branches are a no no. The mid area is the next 30 to 70 feet away from the house. This area should have low plants, no taller than 18 inches, to act as a fuel break. You could use fire resistant groundcovers here. The far area includes fringe areas adjacent to wildlands or open space. Keep this area well maintained to eliminate a buildup of dry brush and other litter. Here are just a few of the fire resistant and drought tolerant plants: Trees - Western Redbud, Coast Live Oak, Chinese Pistache; Shrubs - Escallonia, Oleander, Rock Rose; Groundcovers - Gazania, Sea Pink, Creeping Rosemary, Wild Strawberry, succulents (frost damage can occur); Perennials - Yarrow, Dusty Miller, Lavender, Wallflower, California Poppy; Vines - Jasmine, Lady Bank's Rose, Cape Honeysuckle. For a more extensive list of flammable and fire resistant plants, check the list on the bewaterwise.com website.

Fruit Tree Varieties For Our Area

Bareroot time is upon us and our thoughts turn to visions of ripe luscious fruit, but which ones do best here? Apples: Granny Smith, Mutsu, Fuji, Empire, Red or Golden Delicious. Apricots: Blenheim (Royal), Moorpark, Sundrop. Cherries: Bing, Black Tartarian, Lapins, Rainier, Stella. Figs: Black Mission, Excel, Green Ischia. Grapes: Black Monukka, Flame Seedless, Perlette, Tokay, Concord. Peaches: Freestone - Crawford, Early Elberta, J.H. Hale, O'Henry, Midpride. Cling - Everts Cling, Fortuna, Indian Cling. Nectarines: Double Delight, Juneglo, Redgold, Stark Sunglo. Pears: Anjou, Bartlett, Comice. Plums: Green Gage, French Prune, Imperial Prune, Santa Rosa, Satsuma. This is just a sampling from the Suggested Fruits for Santa Clara County list.

Fruit Tree Pruning

Prune most fruit trees in January and February. Apricots should be pruned July and August before winter rains begin if Eutypa (limb dieback) is present. If you've had problems with pests, after pruning, apply a dormant oil spray for overwintering scale, mealy bugs, whiteflies and mites. This should be completed by the end of February and before buds open. For info on pruning fruit trees, refer to the UC publication: Fruit Trees: Training and Pruning Deciduous Trees (PDF) and for seasonal care tips, see the free Fruit Tree Care Calendar (PDF).

Moss and Algae Control in Lawns

This is quite common in California lawns and can indirectly impair the lawn growth. Both moss and algae form a barrier against water and air movement into the soil. It usually occurs in neglected lawns. The reason for its development can be many factors such as poor drainage, too much water or rain, soil compaction, restriction of air movement, thick thatch layer, low soil fertility (moss), acidic soil, heavy shade (moss), and high soil fertility (algae). Eliminating these while keeping the grass growing vigorously should be your first step in controlling this problem. For moss, fertilize whereas algae needs a reduction in fertility. Change the soil pH to a range of 6 to 7 if acidic. Reduce water irrigation. Improve soil drainage by recontouring or installing drain tiles. Remove excess thatch. Selectively prune trees and shrubs to reduce shade to control moss. Reduce compaction by aerating the soil. Chemical treatments will only solve the problem temporarily. When you have control, be sure to rake the dead material and remove. Bare spots should be reseeded.