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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pruning Sage, grapes, lavender

Ozarks Gardening
Jim Long

February is the Month to Prune

It was warm on Saturday and I felt the need to be in the garden, even if for a short while. Sunshine in the garden is always healing to me, and with Valentine’s Day coming up, I wanted to observe that long standing Ozarks tradition by getting my peas planted before February 14.

With the potato fork, I dug a row at the base of the cattle panel where I had Missouri Wonder beans last summer. I emptied the peas into a can with some water to get the seed wet, poured the water off and put in a tablespoon of compost and jiggled the can to coat the seed. This works as well as buying the seed inoculant the seed companies recommend, and either one improves the germination. Then I planted a double row of peas, one on either side of the cattle panel. This particular variety, “Mr. Big” is much like Mr. Lincoln in that the vines get about four feet tall and need some support. Next I will plant Laxton’s Progress and Wando, two old favorites.

I turned my attention to the grapes, which are trained on an overhead arbor near my herb shop. The main trunks of the grapes are about seven feet high and I cut the vines back to those main trunks each year. February is the time to trim grapes, and with a pair of Fiskars loppers it only took me about ten minutes to do that job.

This is the month, also, to prune sage, lavender, green and gray santolina (sometimes mistakenly called “lavender cotton”) and winter savory. I could prune all of those plants while sitting on the edge of the raised bed.

I stuck a yard stick in the garden sage and photographed it and the pruning process is posted on my garden blog. The sage plants were twenty four inches tall and I pruned them back to seven inches. Lots of new growth is coming up at the base and by pruning the plants each spring, they never die out in the center like they do if left unpruned.

The lavender plants got the same treatment. I also posted a photo of the pruning of those on the blog, as I get lots of questions from readers about just how far to cut these plants back. Generally people are too timid in their pruning and wind up cutting an inch or two from the ends of the limbs, which is not nearly enough. If you look at the photos on the garden blog, you will see the lavender plants started off being nineteen inches tall. I cut everything  down to the newly emerging growth. The photo shows the newly pruned lavender has been cut back to seven inches tall, the same as the sage.

Then I trimmed back the rest of the sage and lavender plants and had just enough energy left to prune the winter savory. It clings to the edge of the rock wall where my herbs grow and it, also, was about nineteen inches tall. When I finished pruning, it was down to just five inches in height.

Now as the days begin to warm and lengthen, these newly pruned plants will put out new growth and in summer they will bloom well. In a few weeks I will scatter some compost and about one half cup of lime around each plant, being careful to not dig it into the soil as the roots of all of these are near the surface and easily damaged. That’s all the care they need for this year except to sit back and watch them grow. But I’d used up my energy and had to take a nap.

If you want to see the photos of how these plants are pruned, go to this address on the internet:  Questions and comments are always welcome by contacting me at Happy gardening!

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