By Brent Gray
Pruning will begin early next year. When the weather is dreary outside, take the time to assemble your pruning equipment. If you need any tools, put them on your Christmas wish list. Listed below are some basic pruning tools that should be in the garden tool shed of the “handy” gardener for those small pruning jobs. If the job entails removing large limbs, other type pruning equipment would be needed.
Hand pruning shears are the proper tool for most small pruning chores. A sharp set of bypass pruners with curved blades that cut with a scissor-like action and give the cleanest cut should be in every gardener’s tool box. Pruning shears are designed to cut stems up to 1/4-inch in diameter. The bypass types are preferred over anvil pruners. These have a single cutting blade that, when cutting, presses the stem against a flat piece of metal (anvil). These types of hand pruners are typically not preferred as they tend to crush the stems.
Long-handled loppers (12 to 18 inch long handles) are used to cut thick branches up to 1/2-inch in diameter. Select bypass types with lightweight metal alloy handles.
A keyhole saw about seven to eight inches long with a thin pointed tip allows you to maneuver into tight corners. It can be used to cut very large stems (up to one-inch diameter or greater) near the crown of shrubs. Remove large stubs close to a bud union.
Sturdy leather gloves with a gauntlet-type cuff to protect your hands and forearms are a must for those thorny pruning jobs.
Squirt bottle of Lysol® or other disinfectant cleaner to disinfect your pruning equipment after pruning out diseased branches is a good thing. Using these types of disinfecting cleaners are less corrosive to your tools than using bleach.
Prune the damaged parts of the vegetable plants in the garden. The cold temperatures during the Thanksgiv-ing holiday has damaged many leaves and killed a few plants. Removing the dead tissue will help keep the healthy parts of the plants from becoming infested by decay organisms.
Rain has been scattered with some gardeners worrying about flooded conditions while others may need to irrigate. Well watered vegetables can withstand cold temperatures better than those lacking for water. Strawberry growers should be particularly careful to keep enough water supplied since the young plants have limited root systems. Additionally the water in the soil acts as a heat reservoir to protect underground portions of the plant from freezing.
Tomatoes harvested green before the freeze need to be rogued every two to three weeks. One rotten tomato in the group will allow large populations of rot organisms to develop which can spread to undamaged tomatoes as the slime spreads. Green and turning tomatoes should be separated. Ripening tomatoes release ethylene which will induce the tomatoes around them to start ripening. This is a good thing if you wish all the tomatoes to ripen quickly, but is not wanted if your goal is to keep tomatoes for a long time.
This is the best time to plant fruit trees. Fall planting allows roots to become thoroughly enmeshed with the soil before the demands of transpiration during growth start next spring.
Be sure to plant an adapted variety of fruit tree for your area. Those very expensive Honeycrisp apples are not going to do well for you here, but there are many other types of apple that will.
See the list of adapted fruit at your local extension office in Fruit and Nut Recommendations in Missis-sippi or in the publication section at msucares.com.
Lelia Kelly, David Nagel