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Issue: July 23

Wait until winter to prune figs, pomegranates, and other shrubs that are sprouting from the base after the great freeze of 2011

Q. We have a fig and a pomegranate both of which died back during the February freeze. We sawed back all the dead growth and both plants are coming back from the roots or from residual stumps. The growth is prolific. Do you have any suggestions on how to prune them to one or two main stems and when to do it? Thank You.

Barbara A.

Las Cruces

A. You can prune these next winter. Leave the growth for now to "feed" the root system. The roots have expended stored foods (carbohydrates) to produce this new growth, so give the new growth time to replace the carbohydrates in the roots. If you prune away leaves now, you will remove the photosynthesizing leaves that make these carbohydrates. I suggest that you leave more than one or two main stems. This is insurance against future environmental stresses. These plants are actually shrubs in their natural form. They form large shrubs with many large "trunks". It is possible to train them to be trees, but more, smaller stems from the base provides a greater chance of the plant restoring itself if it freezes to the ground again. When you prune next winter select from 3 to 10 good stems at the base and remove the others. You will need to remove basal shoots each spring as they begin growing to maintain the selected main stems. Pruning new basal sprouts each spring will be necessary if you choose to grow these plants as a tree with a single trunk, or as a shrub with several main stems. Removing these sprouts early in the spring (earlier than now, mid-summer) reduces the amount of photosynthetic leaf surface and carbohydrates lost by pruning. Pruning early by gently pulling the soft new basal sprouts away from the base of the plant allows fewer buds to remain at the base of the plant and produce sprouts the next year.

When to harvest your garlic cloves

Q. I experimented with garlic in my garden last fall. The plants grew well through the winter, recovering well after the extreme cold. They are turning yellow and brown now. When can I harvest the garlic cloves?

A. You can begin digging your garlic when you see the plants going dormant in mid-summer. That is what you are seeing now. Dig the bulbs now and place them in a shady, dry location to cure for a while. You can also braid the garlic if you want to hang garlic strands with your chile ristras to decorate your home. As braided strands, you can select individual cloves, or remove whole bulbs and separate them into individual cloves as you need to cook them. If you choose not to braid the garlic, after the bulbs cure and the leaves dry, you can store them in a dry, shady location until you need them. Be sure they have adequate air circulation to prevent molding and (later) sprouting. Store them in one or two layers in boxes or in mesh bags. Old nylon stockings may also be used for storing garlic.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension publications World Wide Web site at http://www.cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h.

Send your gardening questions to:

Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith
NMSU Cooperative Extension Service
9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112
Albuquerque, NM 87112

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.