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Volume 14, Issue 24 ~ June 15 - June 21, 2006

The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

Prune Pines Now

Cutting back new growth forces fuller budding

If you desire a dense pine-tree hedge, follow the training method used by nurserymen and Christmas-tree growers to shape evergreens to grow dense. The time is now.

You must prune within five weeks after the needles appear fully mature, meaning that they have achieved their normal dark-green color. Timing is critical, because pine trees normally only produce one flush of growth each year. If pruning is too late, there will not be sufficient time for new buds to form.

Depending on the species, pine trees produce their needles in clusters of two, three or five needles, called fascicles. If left unpruned, pine trees will normally only produce a center bud and five to eight side buds at the end of the new growth. By pruning at this time, you force the pine trees to initiate buds in the remaining clusters of needles, forcing more of the needle clusters for formed buds.

As soon as the needles on this year’s new growth have achieved normal length, prune back the new growth. If the trees are young, you may want to only cut the new growth in half. If the hedge of trees is approaching the desired size, you may with to prune back two-thirds to three-fourths of the new growth.

Take care to allow five to six sets of needles to remain on each new stem. Vegetative buds will form in the center of nearly each cluster of needles.

Fir trees and spruce trees can be pruned almost any time of year, but for pine trees, timing is critical.

Managing Gooseberries

Q I’ve bought a neglected gooseberry bush and planted it in some shade (easy at my house) as the tag recommended. It had a few berries when I brought it home. What shall I do to urge it to make a pie-full? When can I harvest?

—Sandra Martin,

Bay Weekly Editor

A Amend the soil with one-third by volume of LeafGro. If the roots are circling the inside the pot and they are growing tightly together, take a sharp knife and make four cuts one inch deep from top to bottom before placing in the hole. If the plant is flowering, remove the flower head but leave as many leaves as possible on each stem.

Remove any berries now. They are sucking most of the energy from the plant. You want that plant to grow.

Once the plant becomes established, cut back each stem down to where you are observing strong branching. Next year you should be able to harvest sufficient fruit to make muffins, but in 2008 you should be able to harvest sufficient fruit to make a pie.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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