During winter, plants go dormant but gardeners use this period to give shape to the garden by replacing dead plants and reallocating others. In this period, the stress and sap loss is minimum in the plant. Also the low temperatures reduce fungal and insect infection during this period. Pruning in late winter has another advantage. By then, most leaves are already off and it gives a better idea of the network of branches to be pruned.
Create a balance
Removing the dead, diseased and broken branches is a round-the-year operation but during dormancy, hard pruning is done. While pruning a tree, the focus is on checking apical growth and forming lateral branches so as to create a balance between shoot and root growth. It starts in a young tree with selective pruning and developing a single leader with strong and evenly spaced branches. In the subsequent years, retain only strong branches and remove the feeble ones, besides the ones that are too close. Pruning in a grown stage is done to improve the plant’s health by thinning off the crown. This aids in better circulation of air and sunlight. Pruning adds to the safety, too, since the broken and damaged branches are removed. The process improves the quality of flowers. In fruit trees, it increases the yield. Removing low-growing limbs enhances the appearance of the tree.
How much to prune
Too much pruning makes the tree vulnerable to disease and insects. Don’t prune more than 25 per cent of the crown. Living branches should compose at least 2/3 of the height of the tree. A two-third ratio of crown to tree should be maintained. Prune young branches. Use proper tools to make clean cuts and treat these with antiseptic.
Plant new trees
Mid-January is the time to plant fruit trees like plum, pear and peach that require sunny, well-drained, rich, sandy loamy to medium soil. Being sterile, the Satluj Purple plum variety needs the company of Kala Amritsari variety, else it will yield only flowers and bear no fruit. Maintain their 4:1 ratio, respectively. The hard and semi-soft pears are successfully grown in this region but the very soft ones are confined to higher attitude areas. The hard pear fruit matures by end July and has long keeping quality.
Make your own compost
Leaf mould can be made using dry foliage, garden sweepings and wood material. These are decomposed with layers of soil mixed with little urea. Make a pit in a well-drained area, under partial shade. Dig a pit 3-4 feet in diameter and equal depth. Add layers of organic waste with a layer of cover up soil. Never throw inorganic waste like polythene in the pit. Add light mixture of urea to accelerate decomposition. Top it with a layer of soil. Make a concave top to retain water. Periodically turn the pile. It takes four to six months to turn organic waste into compost.