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Pruning Roses in late fall/winter

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Lawn Clippings (Bill's blog)

Pruning Roses in late fall/winter

It sounds funny to talk about pruning your plants in Nov-Dec but there is some biology that is important to understand at this time of year.

When temperatures go below 50*F plants automatically move sugars to the roots.   This gives the plants some food for the winter and also some food to repair any damage that may happen during a storm.

Even when the leaves fall off the plants the plants continue to move sugars from the stems to the roots. This process continues until Jan 1. 

This is why pruning and trimming plants in the Autumn causes trouble. The transfer of sugars was not complete and the roots go into winter with low reserves.  If we have a difficult weather then the winter kill is greater.

Plants defend themselves from winter kill but only if they are well fed with sugars and minerals. I often use molasses as an antifreeze so my lettuce can live longer in the cold.  As long as I kept the wind off my plants with a plastic sheet, my lettuce was good to 0*F.

There was a commercial raspberry grower in Wisconsin who mowed half his canes in early December and the other half in March. The ones that were mowed in December had 30% winter kill and the ones that were mowed later had very little damage because more sugars had trans located to the roots. Waiting that extra time made that much difference.

The rule of thumb for pruning roses (and other plants) is; any good weather day after Presidents Day and before the new shoots emerge in Late March-early April.

Happy gardening!
Bill Scheffler


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