January Tips & Events for Santa Clara County
The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.” ~Terri Guillemets
Monthly Tips
Quiz: What’s Wrong Here?
Are you familiar with best practices for staking new trees? What do you see in this picture that might have been done differently?

Once you decide, scroll down to learn about what’s recommended.
Photo by Allen Buchinski
Quiz image for proper tree staking
A foggy pruning day at our Martial Cottle Park orchard-Allen Buchinski
Photo: A foggy pruning day at our Martial Cottle Park orchard, Allen Buchinski
Fruit Tree Pruning Season

Winter is the best time to prune most deciduous fruit trees because the tree structure is easily seen once the leaves drop. Start by removing dead and diseased branches. Then make cuts to produce the desired height and shape and to allow sunlight into the center of the tree. Not sure about the shape? UC has more information in Publication 8057, Fruit Trees: Training and Pruning Deciduous Trees. View a pruning video using the link below or sign up for a January 11 presentation. A reminder: since apricot and cherry trees are susceptible to Eutypa fungus, they should be pruned in late summer to allow pruning cuts to harden before winter rain.
Is it Time to Repot Your Houseplants?
If you’ve noticed the soil in your houseplants is drying out quickly, or leaves are turning yellow, check whether the plant is rootbound. The most obvious clue is roots growing from a drainage hole or on top of the soil. Especially vigorous roots can break pots! UC scientists recommend choosing a new container no more than 2 inches larger in diameter, with drainage holes. Don’t add stones to the bottom – they hinder drainage, causing root rot. Use new potting soil, not garden soil that may harbor diseases or pests. Unwind and trim roots that circle the pot. Add soil to the container, keep the root ball an inch below the rim, and water well.
Photo: Snake plant in need of repotting (Dracaena trifasciata), Allen Buchinski
Roots of Dracaena plant  push through and break container - Allen Buchinski
Enjoy Tender Young Greens
Rows of Kale - Karen Schaffer
Growing your own leafy green vegetables allows you to harvest them at a younger and more tender stage than typically found in the grocery store. You can harvest the outer leaves frequently because new leaves will keep growing from the center of the plant. Chard, kale, spinach, and mustard greens all grow well in the winter in central Santa Clara County. Did you know that beet greens are delicious too? They’re related to chard but more tender. Likewise turnip greens and even radish greens are edible. Pick them young so they are sweet and tender.

Photo: Rows of kale, Karen Schaffer
Common Fumitory
Fumitory - Allen Buchinski
Have you noticed this feathery weed popping up here and there in your yard? It’s called fumitory, Fumaria spp., for its smoke-like appearance. This delicate annual plant forms pretty, little, pinkish-white flowers with maroon lips. But beware, those flowers make many seeds which can sprout in the tiniest cracks. While the plants are easy to pull, the seeds can be quite persistent. The little seedlings can hide under larger plants, so check carefully if you want to head off an infestation.

Photo by Allen Buchinski
These Plants Made the All-Star Team
It’s not just sports teams that pick all stars. UC Davis, known for its horticulture expertise, has its own roster of 100 top-performing plants to consider for your garden. To make the cut, each Arboretum All-Star must be attractive for most of the year, thrive in California’s Mediterranean climate, and be thoroughly tested at the UC Davis Arboretum. To see them in person, take a day trip to the Arboretum – it’s open and free to the public. Or access their searchable database and find the perfect All-Stars for your specific garden conditions, along with planting plans and where to buy them.
Photo: Here are four of the 100 UC Davis All-Stars. Clockwise from top left: pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana), compact Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium ‘Compacta’), Christmas cheer poker plant (Kniphofia ‘Christmas Cheer’), Cooper’s ice plant (Delosperma cooperi), UC Davis Arboretum
Here are four of the 100 UC Davis All-Stars - Clockwise from left-  Pineapple  Guava 
- Compact Oregon Grape -Christmas  Cheer 
Poker Plant- Coopers  Ice Plant
Photo: Proper tree staking and planting, UC Landscape Horticulture Blog
Quiz Answer: Staking New Trees

Some issues with the tree pictured above:
  1. Not all new trees even need to be staked. Only stake if necessary for protection, anchorage, or support.
  2. The stakes are too close to the trunk of the tree. Instead, place stakes on opposite sides of the tree, outside the root ball.
  3. Make sure the stakes don’t rub on the trunk or branches. Inspect the tree regularly to make sure there’s no damage.
  4. Remove the ties and stakes when the tree can stand on its own, generally after a year or so.

On the plus side, the stakes were fastened relatively low. Ties should be added no higher than necessary to support the trunk. This allows as much freedom to move as possible, and movement builds trunk strength.
Correction: Rebecca Schoenenberger’s name was misspelled in our December email.
Upcoming Events
There will be no plant clinic January – February.

Winter Fruit Tree Pruning, Wednesday, January 11, 6:30–7:30 pm, Online

Gardening for Beginners in 4 Classes, Wednesday, January 18, 6–8 pm, Camden Community Center, 3369 Union Avenue, San Jose

Houseplant Problems, Thursday, January 19, noon–1 pm, Online

National Seed Swap Day, Saturday, January 28, 10–11:30 am, Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Avenue, San Jose

Gardening in Containers, Saturday, January 28, 1:30–3:30 pm, Online
Check our calendar for the latest schedule of events. Videos of many past presentations are also available.
About Us
University of California Master Gardener volunteers promote sustainable gardening practices and provide research-based horticultural information to home gardeners. Visit our website for more information including:


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