Gardening with Mother Evelyn: Winter the time for maintenance


Late January into February is the time for all those garden maintenance jobs.

It’s a little bit like taking your car in for service. The work you do now will pay off big later in the spring and summer.

Besides pruning, repotting and spraying, it’s also time to prune your roses and cut back your fuchsia basket.

If you haven’t pruned your fruit trees already, it’s not too late. For these trees, it’s also time for winter dormancy spraying to kill fungus and diseases, which I’ll cover more in-depth below.

Now, you can call it work or you can call it an easy way to get fresh air and sunshine and work, easing tension.

Perhaps you are one of those gardeners who never knows for sure if you are pruning correctly or not. If a picture is worth a thousand words, watching a real video is even better. Do yourself a favor and go to

This website is full of great demonstration videos, from the latest methods for growing fruit orchards to keeping your fruit trees low enough so that you can reach the fruit without that shaky old ladder.

Every home can have the pleasure of fresh fruit.

For the small garden, try a multi-budded fruit tree, which can produce four different fruits from one tree. For more fruit, you can plant three or four trees in one large hole, saving space and water. There is always space for just one more fruit tree, and this is the best time to buy.

The next task is that all important winter dormancy spraying. This is important because lots of those fungal diseases accumulate over winter on the leaves and branches.

Your fruit tree may still have leaves. After you have pruned, try to get rid of as many of those old leaves as possible. Any old mummified fruit has to go. Rake them all up and get rid of them!

The best all round winter spray is horticultural oil. This is a very safe spray that will coat and smother all sorts of bad pests. These insect eggs hide in the crooks and crannies of the branches, ready to cause problems in the spring and summer. The oil spray smothers them.

Remember last spring when your peaches and nectarines got all those funny red bumpy things on their leaves? It’s called peach leaf curl. When the leaves get all ugly in spring it is too late to spray. You absolutely have to spray now, and in this case, copper spray is best.

It’s tricky to know exactly when to spray and when it is too late. You need to spray before the tree begins to make flowers. For a good YouTube video on how and when to spray, view this.

Let’s switch topics to adding early color to those empty flowerbeds.

Tight on space? Try mixing vegetables with flowers to save space and water.

Broccoli grows tall and green and carrots have beautiful lacy tops. Swiss chard comes with beautiful colored stalks.

If you are planting green peas, think about planting edible snow peas instead. They take the same amount of space. The return on your time and money is much better. And remember that all the plants in the pea family will begin to mildew sometime in the late spring. When that happens, just pull them up and throw them away.

For those sunny places, the best cool weather plants: snapdragons, fragrant stocks, Iceland poppies and pansies. Calendulas are the winter marigolds.

For shade choose cyclamen, the number one choice, any of the primroses or ornamental kale.

Cineraria’s take shade or sun and the senetti cineraria can be trimmed back and will re-bloom. Wax leaf bedding begonias are a great choice any time. Some fuchsias will bloom all year and give shade color. Cymbidium orchids come into their glory now. Azaleas and camellias bloom in winter. Clivias have gorgeous orange blooms and love the shade and hate the sun. Early Hydrangeas are already in.

Last month I promised to give you some help with fuchsia winter cutback. This is important if you want to have a full pretty basket next year.

To begin, cut everything down to about 10 inches or so above the basket. Don’t worry, just cut it all off! Clean out dead leaves in the basket. Trim off all the branches that are smaller than a pencil or are crossing over each other.

Add some fresh soil and move up to a bigger basket if needed. Loosen the roots a little so they are ready to reach out into the new potting mix. Water your basket in and hang it up where you can easily reach it. Don’t water too often now because there is no green growth yet. Soon you should see some new growth coming out of those old woody branches.

As soon as the new growth is as long as your little finger, pinch off the growing tip.

Every new shoot of growth gets a pinch as soon as it is as long as your finger. Keep this up for at least a month or two. Feed, grow and pinch. Soon you will have a really nice full basket and you can stop pinching.

Fuchsias in the ground get cut back to a foot or two above the ground.

Fuchsia trees get the canopy cut back to about eight inches away from the center and then you begin to pinch.

Everything has its season and every season has its own special beauty. Enjoy winter and soon it will be spring.