I just watched the movie “The Adjustment Bureau,” with Matt Damon.
The character, David Norris, had just lost an election. At his concession speech he notes: “We had a rule in my neighborhood: When you got in a fight, it wasn’t whether or not you got knocked down. It’s what you do when you get back up.”
(The crowd cheers.)
You won’t receive the applause awarded the fictional defeated politician. But if your plants fell down dead in the frost you can “get back up” by planting something new.
Bob Scoville, at the Glenn County Master Gardener program, was helpful. The next two months are prime time for planting bare-root plants, he said.
To give the new tree or plant a fighting chance, dig an especially large hole so the roots don’t have to struggle in infancy, he advised. This was especially true in his area, where the soil is less than stellar. He noted it makes sense that Glenn County grows so much rice (which loves adobe soil).
Bob also learned that people tend to water more than needed by the plant. He has a drip irrigation system and went to the trouble to measure the output.
“I found I was putting a lot more water than I expected,” he said.
With trees, or any other bare-root plants, Bob recommends examining the roots before planting. Trim off anything that is excessively long, broken or kinked, he wrote in a Master Gardener newsletter (read the whole story here: http://goo.gl/TJ79pP).
He takes care to ensure the soil is firm when he refills the hole.
Also, straighten any overlapping roots, to give them room to stretch.
For sun protection, Bob mixes white latex paint 50/50 and paints the trunk of his new trees. He waters thoroughly, to settle the soil, and mulches with wood chips, topped with horse manure.
Trees take a lot of water, five to 15 gallons in the height of summer.
In case you didn’t hear, we’re in a drought. You might as well become familiar with the lists of drought-tolerant plants, which also arrive in bare-root form.
Other winter tasks
While I had Bob on the horn, he volunteered that now is the time to spray peach and nectarine trees with copper spray, to protect them from leaf curl. For home gardeners, our choices are more limited. Ask your favorite nursery for your most effective option.
Also, get out there in your warm overcoat, even if it’s cold, and knock “mummies” from the tree. These are shriveled fruit from last year that will become nesting ground for pests. Also, rake up any mucky fruit still on the ground.
Bob said to use the green waste can, not the compost pile. Otherwise you’ll be providing a nest for the next batch of pests.