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Monthly Tasks – January

Based on San Francisco Bay Area Climate

by Mitsuo Umehara

Early January

  1. Deciduous trees – At the beginning of the year, inspect all your trees carefully and plan your own work schedule, such as seed planting, making cuttings, grafting. Decide which trees need wiring, transplanting, air layering, bud nipping, etc.
  2. Select Exhibition Trees for this year’s show and identify work that needs to be done before the show.
  3. Catch Up – It is not too late to catch up with the work that should have been done last year. For example, deciduous trees can still be cut back and you still have time to work on black pines and five needle pines. To shorten long needles, eliminate buds if there are too many, do needle pulling and wiring.


  1. Ume – Now is the time to fertilize with 0-10-10 to help roots grow in preparation for spring. You should also spray with a combo insect and fungicide such as you might find at a nursery. Neem oil is a good choice.
  2. Prepare for the Future – Make sure you have enough soil, pots, wire and screen. The Mammoth Bazaar is a good source if you need something. All tools should be sharpened and in good shape.


  1. Cleanup – Watch for early budding trees as some maples, akebia and karin. When you see the buds start to show a GLOW (a change in the bud’s color and shininess), you can expect the buds to start growing soon. The best time to transplant is when the buds have just started to grow.
  2. Fruit Trees – Some fruit and berry bearing trees need pollination; trees like akebia and bittersweet especially. Watch the spring growth of the male trees and adjust the female trees’ environment so that both trees will bloom at the same time for better pollination.


Late January to early March is the best season for grafting in the SF Bay Area.

The first part of February is the best time to graft conifers such as Japanese Shimpaku to collected junipers, five needle pines to black pine root stock. Be sure to cover the graft with a plastic bag and/or protect it in a greenhouse.

Wrap them with moist paper towels and seal them in a plastic bag. Store them in the vegetable compartment in your refrigerator until the root stock tree shows a sign of bud movement or growth. After grafting, protect it with a plastic cover.

When grafting flowering trees, the cuttings must be of the ‘leaf buds’ being careful it is not of ‘flower buds’. This is very important, especially for plum grafting.

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