Master Gardening Secrets: From Pruning Peach Trees to Growing Tomatillos

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

Tips for beginning and experienced gardeners. New, 30-minute (or less) episodes arrive every Tuesday and Friday. Fred Hoffman has been a U.C. Certifi...

Show Notes

It's Q&A Tuesday!
1. What are the benefits of summer pruning of fruit trees, especially peaches? (at 00:25 of podcast)
2. Where can I find more information about caring for perennials? (02:48)
3. How do I care for a young apple tree? Should I remove any flowers or small fruit? (06:58)
4. Are dwarf citrus plants for indoors available?  (08:25)
5. How can I prepare coir (Coconut husks) for a potting mix? (13:57)
6. How do I grow tomatillos? (15:28)

Previous episodes, show notes, links, product information, and transcripts at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred, GardenBasics.net. Transcripts and episode chapters also available at Buzzsprout.

Pictured:  Red Delicious Apple (Bisbee spur)
The Bisbee spur Red Delicious apple is noted for its "large size as well as its firm, crisp, juicy flesh, with a distinctive, sweet, tangy flavor." (Fruit, Berry and Nut Inventory, Third Edition)

Subscribe to the free, Beyond the Garden Basics Newsletter https://gardenbasics.substack.com
Smart Pots https://smartpots.com/fred/
Dave Wilson Nursery https://www.davewilson.com/home-garden/

Book: Pruning and Training by Christopher Brickell

Book: Sunset Western Garden Book

Citrus Trees: Four Winds Growers

Tomatillo recipe

Got a garden question? 

• Leave an audio question without making a phone call via Speakpipe, at https://www.speakpipe.com/gardenbasics

• Call or text us the question: 916-292-8964. 

• Fill out the contact box at GardenBasics.net

• E-mail: fred@farmerfred.com 

All About Farmer Fred:
The GardenBasics.net website

The Garden Basics with Farmer Fred Newsletter, Beyond the Basics

Farmer Fred website

The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog

Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred" 

Instagram: farmerfredhoffman

Twitter/X: @farmerfred

Farmer Fred Garden Minute Videos on YouTube
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases from possible links mentioned here.

Thank you for listening, subscribing and commenting on the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast and the Beyond the Garden Basics Newsletter.

Show Transcript

316 TRANSCRIPT MG Secrets - From Pruning Fruit Trees to Growing Tomatillos


Farmer Fred  0:05

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. Unlike the Friday edition, we're using the Tuesday podcast to answering your garden questions. Stay tuned to find out how you can get your garden question into the program. So come on, let's do this.




Farmer Fred

We are answering your garden questions here on the garden basics podcast and we're talking with Quentyn Young, Master Gardener. We are at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center on a work day, Amanda writes in and says, “I have a 10 year old peach tree that I've kept pruned to keep it somewhat small. It's not dwarf but I have kept it to about six feet in height. I failed to do August pruning on it. I believe I need to be careful pruning it now in the rainy season. If I see a number of dry days in the forecast, can I go ahead and trim it up a bit? Thanks so much.” Let's talk a little bit about August pruning versus winter pruning and the fact that in August, there are a couple of varieties of fruit trees that actually need to be pruned in August.


Quentyn Young  1:06

So we do a lot of summer pruning here at the Hort Center, usually no later than October. But August is a great time to prune. If you're going to be opening up your tree, you might want to think about painting the branches because you're also going to be worried about sunburn, but I'd recommend holding off until about March or April to do any more pruning.


Farmer Fred  1:23

And the ones that you really, really, really want to prune in August would be probably cherries and apricots because of possible rain-spread diseases.


Quentyn Young  1:32

Yeah, those are the  most problematic for Eutypa disease. Cherries and apricot and definitely peaches, most of the stone fruits will usually stop definitely by October.


Farmer Fred  1:42

All right, with a peach tree. If you have it outside Amanda, you sure want to clean up underneath it so you don't have any spores leftover that might cause peach leaf curl.


Quentyn Young  1:52

Definitely. And we want to try to do that last. If you're going to be spraying for peach leaf curl with let's say copper, you want to time it usually around between Valentine's Day and Presidents Day, depending on the weather. You want to get that last spray right before the bud start to crack.


Farmer Fred  2:06

And that's here in USDA zone nine.


Quentyn Young  2:09

Exactly. And last year, of course it was raining at that time so we couldn't spray. But you definitely want to try to do it then.


Farmer Fred  2:16

So if you wait a little bit, to early spring, Amanda, you and your peach tree are going to do fine and congratulations on keeping it at about six feet in height. That's the perfect height for a peach tree for a variety of reasons.


Quentyn Young  2:29

Yeah, for harvest and for care. We keep all of ours about six to eight feet. Because if you don't get up there and pick them, wildlife will.


Farmer Fred  2:38

Unless you want to stare at birds eating your fruit or squirrels running off with the fruit, and rats. Yes. Amanda, thanks so much for the question. Quentyn, Thanks for your help.


Quentyn Young  2:46

Thank you. Thanks, Fred.




Farmer Fred  2:56

We like to answer your garden questions here on the Garden Basics podcast, Tuesday edition. Debbie Flower is with us,  America's favorite retired college horticultural professor.  Debbie, today's question comes from Steve, he's located in hardiness zone 9b, which is, as he says, Granite Bay, which is in Placer County, a suburb east of Sacramento. He says, “We enjoy your podcasts and presentations. Who would you recommend I contact with specific questions regarding my perennials? I tried online searches. I've tried the University of California and local garden centers, but received varying answers. This time of year I'm putting together my frost sensitive list and my pruning list of when and how much to prune. I appreciate any guidance you can provide.”

Debbie, what are your thoughts about that?


Debbie Flower  3:43

Boy, wouldn't it be lovely to get a list of all the perennials you could grow in 9b and which ones are frost sensitive and how to prune each one? For me, it's been a lifelong learning experience. The places that I would go to for Granite Bay plants in Placer County, California would be the Placer County Master Gardeners. I think they have an office in  Auburn, you can go visit them or you can phone them. They will have hours  when they will answer your questions online. And yes, you are going to get varied answers. Partly because all gardening is local and all gardening is really microscopically local. If that plant is grown in that person's yard and it gets some protection from the sun, it will be different than one that doesn't get any protection from the sun. Same if it's gets protection from wind or no protection from wind. So you're gonna have to observe your own plants and go at it conservatively. Especially things like pruning, you can always take more off tomorrow, but you can't glue it back on. So prune it and see what happens. The other place that I would go for information is the Perennial Plant Club of Sacramento. Not all of Sacramento is zone 9b, but you will certainly find people who are informed about perennials. They can answer your questions. They're specialists in many different types of perennials. And I would visit local display gardens. Land Park has a lovely garden. And  some of the water districts, in fact a lot of the water districts have display gardens of drought tolerant plants good for the general location. There's not usually somebody there to talk to. But you if you go regularly, you can see how the plants have been tended over time.


Farmer Fred  5:28

That's a very good tip. Over on Auburn Folsom Boulevard, near the entrance to Beale’s Point, a little bit south of that, you can find the San Juan Water District’s demonstration garden, where you're going to find a lot of California native plants, and you can see how they've taken care of it. We would be remiss, because you are in Granite Bay, that you should visit the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center. They have a beautiful perennial plant section, and workshop days, which are usually held once a month, you can go there and ask all the questions you want. And you can see the plants in action and how they've pruned them. So the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center. I'm an old fashioned guy, I like books. And I still think, even though it's been out of print for a decade or so, the Sunset Western garden book is an excellent resource to give you more particular information about frost sensitivity of plants and even some general pruning guidance. But my favorite book for pruning advice is by Christopher Brickell, it's called “Pruning and Training”. And I have yet to not find a plant that I'm looking for information on in that book. So “Pruning and Training” by Christopher Brickell. And pick up an old copy of the Sunset Western Garden book. And I think Steve, you just might be good to go.


Debbie Flower  6:45

Yeah, sounds like a plan.


Farmer Fred  6:47

Debbie Flower. Thanks for your help on this.


Debbie Flower  6:48

You're welcome, Fred, it's a pleasure.




Farmer Fred  6:56

We like to answer your garden questions here on the Garden Basics podcast, we get a question from Fortuna, California, which is way up in Northwest California along the coast near Eureka. And this question comes from Scott, and he says - “I have planted a Bisbee spur Red Delicious apple. I did it two years ago. In its first year on the ground, which was last year, it produced tons of apples. I left them on and ate them of course, but the diameter of the tree trunk at the base did not appear to grow as my other trees did. It appears healthy, but looks the same as when planted. It's covered in flowers now. Assuming it will fruit heavily again, should I remove all the fruit once it's set to force the tree to physically grow in diameter and height? How do you get a new fruit tree to grow?”

We are at the orchard of the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center talking with Master Gardener Peggy Kennedy. Peggy, what should Scott do with that apple tree?


Peggy Kennedy  7:51

First of all, Scott, you made a wonderful choice of apples. No doubt about that. But for the first three years, you don't want your newly planted fruit trees to have any food whatsoever. Because you want the energy of that tree to go into building strong roots and strong structure. And then you'll have all the wonderful apples that you need later. And the tree will be strong enough to hold it all.


Farmer Fred  8:13

Peggy, good answer. Scott, hold off on harvesting that tree for the first three years and you'll have a good strong Bisbee spur Red Delicious apple tree. Peggy Kennedy, Thank you.


Peggy Kennedy  8:23

You are most welcome, my pleasure.





Farmer Fred  8:31

The Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast has a lot of information posted at each episode in the show notes. Maybe you’d rather read than listen? Not a problem, a complete transcript is posted, and you can find that link in the show notes or on our new homepage, gardenbasics.net, where you can find that link as well as all the previous episodes of the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. There, you can leave a message or link up with our social media pages, including our You Tube video page. And at gardenbasics.net. Click on the tab at the top of the page to read the Garden Basics “Beyond Basics” newsletter. Plus, in the show notes, there are links to any products or books mentioned during the show, and other helpful links for even more information. Plus, you can listen to just the portions of the show that interest you, it’s been divided into easily accessible chapters.

Want to leave us a question? Again, check the links at gardenbasics.net. Also, when you click on any episode at garden basics.net, you’ll find a link to Speakpipe, where you can leave us an audio question without a making a phone call. Or, go to them directly: speakpipe.com/gardenbasics. You want to call us? We have that number posted at gardenbasics.net. Spoiler alert: it’s 916-292-8964, 916-292-8964. Email? Sure! Send it, along with your pictures to fred@farmerfred.com. Or again, go to gardenbasics.net and get that link. And if you send us a question, be sure to tell us where you’re gardening, because all gardening is local. Find it all at gardenbasics.net






Farmer Fred

We're getting answers to garden questions here on the Garden Basics podcast. We're talking with Quentyn Young, Master Gardener. We're at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center on a January work day. And this question comes from David, who lives in the Central Valley. And he says, “I am extremely new to gardening and came across your podcast. Well, one of the reasons I was turned on to the idea of gardening was that someone showed me that you can grow a dwarf lemon tree in your house. Well, I live in the Central Valley. And everywhere I try to look online, the websites all say that they cannot ship the lemon tree to California. My question for you good, sir - are dwarf lemon trees not allowed in California? Or can they just not be shipped to California? And if shipping is the issue. Are there any dwarf lemon trees that are for sale here in California already? Ones that don't need to be shipped? I apologize if my question isn't worth your time.”

That's a good question, David. And it certainly is worth our time. And Quentyn, I bet David doesn't realize he probably lives in the middle of a citrus grove in central California.


Quentyn Young  11:14

Yeah, yeah, that's what California does. We grow citrus. Yeah.


Farmer Fred  11:17

However, there are restrictions on moving citrus from state to state, due to invasive pests and diseases, especially the Asian citrus psyllid, which can vector a disease that is fatal to citrus trees, called Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening disease, so you can see limitations of why it can't come into California. And you can see limitations on moving citrus products county to county in California, too, depending upon if there's a quarantine area.  Maybe they've spotted the Asian citrus psyllid here. So we're trying, here in California, to get  control over that pest before it gets out of control. To avoid what happened down in Florida before they realized what they had. However, that being said, yes, we grow citrus trees here in California, including lemon trees and the dwarf lemon tree. I think most lemon trees for sale at nurseries and garden centers probably are already on dwarfing rootstock.


Quentyn Young  12:14

Yeah, they're either going to be on dwarf or semi dwarf rootstock for most of the citrus that are sold at most garden centers. And they do really well in containers. If you're going to keep yours inside, obviously you would probably grow it into container. And that will also help keep it smaller.


Farmer Fred  12:28

And what size container and where in the house would you put it?


Quentyn Young  12:30

You definitely want a sunny space, like a sun room or a enclosed patio, you definitely want to go big, I would say at least a 10 gallon size container. Bigger is always better depending on how big you want to let it get. Watering and feeding is crucial as well.


Farmer Fred  12:45

Exactly. It needs good drainage. You can't let the water build up in that pot. You've got to keep the drain holes open. You may want to put it on a stand that has wheels so you can move it around, especially if you want to set it outside during the spring and summer.


Quentyn Young  12:58

v and where's this person located?


Farmer Fred  13:00

In the Central Valley of California.


Quentyn Young  13:02

so he could  just grow this outside, possibly?  You don't need to keep it inside. They do great. All of my citrus, I have probably 13 at home. And they're all in containers and they're all outside, 12 months of the year.


Farmer Fred  13:10

All right. And is it on any special rootstock?


Quentyn Young  13:14

They're probably all on semi-dwarf rootstock but I keep them in the containers. They're all no taller than about six feet.


Farmer Fred  13:19

So David, the answer to the question Is… there are citrus for sale all around you. Just look locally, wherever you live. Perhaps at a garden center or nursery near you. Because they've jumped through a lot of hoops to be able to sell you citrus trees, what with all the restrictions coming through. Quentyn, in your time working at a nursery, you know that it's not easy getting in citrus without having a lot of inspections.


Quentyn Young  13:43

Yeah, lots of inspections and make sure when you buy the citrus that it has the blue tag from the California Department of Food and Ag. That way you know it's been inspected and is pest free.


Farmer Fred  13:53

All right, so growing a lemon tree David. thanks for the answer, Quentyn.


Quentyn Young

Of course.





Farmer Fred  14:06

Ben in North Texas left us a question at GardenBasics.net. He says, “I’m in north Texas, zone 8b. I have a variety of grow bags and containers and sift my soil and compost very finely. I've added coco coir but after the sifting am concerned about compaction. It clumps together and breaks apart easily in my hands. Should this be a concern and if so what can I add to the mix?? Thanks for all the knowledge you've shared. Has definitely helped me be more prepared for my second year growing food.”

Ben, keep at it. It sounds like you're doing good. Coir needs to be thoroughly moistened by itself before using. I like to put dry coir into a large bucket, and let it soak in water overnight. The next day, dump it all into another large pot, one with drain holes, and let it drain for awhile. It’ll then be much more pliable and ready for mixing with other ingredients for your purpose, such as a seed starting mix. My own seed starting mix that I'll make would be 1/3 core 1/3 of finely sifted compost and 1/3 perlite or pumice.





Brenda  1531

Hi, my name is Brenda Terry and I listen to Farmer Fred. I really really enjoy it and I have learned a lot. Next summer, I'm going to be growing tomatillos rather than tomatoes because of my health. I can't eat tomatoes anymore. And I'm hoping you could cover a little bit about tomatoes in a spring episode. Thank you very much and keep up the good work.


Farmer Fred  1555

Well, Brenda thanks so much for the question. You can be like Brenda and leave a question on Speakpipe. Go to speakpipe.com/garden basics. It's easy. Give it a try. You can even call us and leave a message if you'd like: 916-292-8964, 916-292-8964. Email? Sure, send it to Fred at farmerfred.com. You can leave a question at Facebook, Instagram or Twitter as well. You'll find links to all those in today's show notes. Debbie Flower is here, our favorite retired college horticultural professor, which I guess you better trademark that phrase.


Debbie Flower  1634

People are asking me about it when they hear my voice in strange places. Yes.


Farmer Fred  1638

Well, good. All right. So Brenda has a question about tomatillos. Brenda We're sorry that you're allergic to tomatoes. But tomatillos are kind of a close relative.


Debbie Flower  1649

Yeah they are, my husband has a problem eating tomatoes as well and so we don't in our house and I am reluctant to feed him tomatillos. Tomatillos are in the same family as tomatoes, which is the Solanaceae family, along with peppers, eggplant, potatoes, tobacco, and they are also contain the chemical solanine which could be something that is causing, at least my husband's allergy problems, with tomatoes and potatoes, etc. Brenda did not say what  her response was to tomatoes that was negative, but I would caution her to be careful eating tomatillos.


Farmer Fred 1729

Maybe test them out first. Yes, buy a few and eat them and see what happens. That's not medical advice. I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on the podcast.


Debbie Flower  1739

Same here. But she could grow them. they're very easy to grow and they're a fun plant and if it turns out she can't eat them I'm sure there would be other people interested in trying them out.


Farmer Fred 1749

Some would consider it a weed.


Debbie Flower  1750

I haven't met anybody who would say that.


Farmer Fred 1752

you're looking at one.


Debbie Flower  1754

Why is that? Do they take over?


Farmer Fred  1756

if you forget to harvest some, and  they get buried in the detritus around the ground. or the birds pick them up and all of a sudden there's little tomatillo plants sprouting everywhere.


Debbie Flower 1807

Okay,  the seeds are inside of the fruit. Yeah.


Farmer Fred 1812

but tomatillos are easy to grow. But it does take two to tango, doesn't it?


Debbie Flower 1816

It absolutely does. They have to cross pollinate, they do not recognize their own pollen. In order for a fruit to form, pollination has to occur in the flower. So viable pollen, useful pollen, has to get to the tomatillo  plant and the only place that's going to come from is another tomatillo plant.


Farmer Fred 1833

but it can be the same variety. It doesn't have to be a different variety.


Debbie Flower  1838

It can be the same or different. Tomatillos ripen to green, sort of a yellowish color, purple, there are different varieties of tomatillos. So you can grow two of the same, you can grow two different ones. Either way, you will get that cross pollination which will be done by insects, particularly bees. So you want a bee-friendly garden so have other things around that attract bees, flowers, etc. I always have some borage growing around my vegetable garden because the bees love that and it blooms pretty much all the time. But some people call borage a weed, as well. Be aware that it has not been an issue for me. But for some people, it is. But have other flowers around that attract the bees. The bees will feed on those flowers and then find your tomatillos and do some pollen transfer which is what you need to have happen.


Farmer Fred 1926

Yeah, the borage and the tomatillos took over my yard. I remember that. You're right. tomatillos are very easy to grow. You look for that papery husk around the fruit that begins to dry when the fruits are maturing, and probably when they're firm to the touch but seem to give a little and also the ripe fruits will pull fairly easily from the plant.


Debbie Flower  1947

It can be eaten raw, or they can be cooked. They have a flavor, which I think of as being maybe a little on the sour side. But they can be cooked, they can be grilled, they can be put on a kebab. They can be cut up and put in salsa. There are lots of uses for them  if you find them pleasant to eat.


Farmer Fred  2005

yeah, you could can up green salsa with them. And yeah, that's a very popular recipe. And I guess as long as you like cilantro, you'll probably like tomatillos.


Debbie Flower  2015

Yeah, well, I don't know if you have to like cilantro to like tomatillos, I think you can like tomatillo separately, but they're very easy to grow that basically follow the same cultural patterns as tomato from seed, full sun, warm nights 50-55 minimum, and that your nights should settle at 50 to 55 degrees minimum. They love it. And they even like it warmer than that. So full sun, lots of heat. And spacing. They can get to be pretty good sized plants, maybe not as big as a tomato, but two feet apart. Yeah, to two feet plus apart and in all directions. You can put a cage up, I've grown them without a cage and not had a problem. But obviously it'll take a little more space if they're not caged.


Farmer Fred  2102

That was my problem as I was growing them in the soil. And they kind of spread.


Debbie Flower  2109

They lay down.


Farmer Fred  2112

Yeah, yeah, they lay down. They weren't caged. They no doubt they lay down. And I was just doing it on a lark.


Debbie Flower  2115

Yeah, of course. You've got to do some of that stuff to make it all new and interesting. Yeah.


Farmer Fred  2120

And I think I noted at the time, note to self: cage these in the future.


Debbie Flower  2126

Things can happen when you cage a plant. it gets very dense in that cage and then that gives insects a place to hide and  if you are using any sort of overhead irrigation, it allows water to get trapped between leaves or on top of leaves and that can increase your  disease instance. So I shouldn't say cages are always wonderful, but cages make gardening neater.


Farmer Fred  2149

And we should point out, speaking of diseases, that tomatillos are susceptible to many of the same diseases as tomatoes, right?


Debbie Flower  2157

So you want to rotate your garden, you wouldn't want to plant the tomatillos where you have already planted or in the previous season planted a tomato and it's better if you have not planted tomato in that spot for the previous two seasons. In small gardens, that's not always doable, but you can always also grow them in a container, a large container, 15 gallon or a half barrel container. And they will take more watering more frequent irrigation, in that situation. But it is doable.


Farmer Fred  2228

Tomatillos are easy to grow. And as long as they don't make you sick, go ahead and plant them. Yes. All right, Brenda, hope that helps. a lot of good tomatillo varieties out there. Debbie, thanks for your help.


Debbie Flower  2239

Always a pleasure, Fred.


Farmer Fred  22:43

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred comes out every Tuesday and Friday and it's brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Garden Basics is available wherever podcasts are handed out. For more information about the podcast visit our website gardenbasics.net and that's where you can find out about the free, “Beyond the Garden Basics” newsletter. And thank you so much for listening


Comments & Upvotes

Contact Us


Got a question, press inquiry or idea you'd like to share? Contact us through the form below and let us know how we can help.

Subscribe, don't miss the next episode!