Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer Watering and Fruit Tree Pruning Classes

Summer has finally arrived! But this "out-of-the-blue" heat wave that has arrived may cause some consternation about just how to keep plants happy and well-watered.

When watering, your goal is to just thoroughly wet the root zone of your plants, which for most shrubs and perennials is the top 8-12 inches of soil. Overhead sprinklers are easy to use, but can waste more than 50% of the water you use due to evaporation and runoff. I recommend bubblers, soaker hoses, or drip irrigation, which put the water directly in the root zone.

The best way to know how long to water with these methods is to do a simple test:
  • Turn your irrigation or soaker hoses on at low pressure (no water spouts) for 30-45 minutes, then turn them off and wait at least 1/2 hour.
  • Take a hand trowel and dig down next to a section of hose to see how far the water has penetrated.
  • If that 8-12 inch root zone depth is wet, then you will know that a 1/2 hour is all you need.
  • If it's not, then turn the hoses on again for another 15-30 minutes to see just how long it takes to wet the soil deep enough.
  • Doing this test will give you a formula you can use (and adapt as needed) during the rest of summer.
The Saving Water Partnership is a great source of free watering information- visit for informative yet simple factsheets on watering new plantings, installing soaker hoses, and more.

Mid-Summer is also a great time for fruit tree pruning! If you'd like to learn to do this yourself, there are some really good opportunities in north and south Seattle, from local non-profit organizations. WSU/Snohomish Co. Extension is also offering a drip irrigation class:

Summer Fruit Tree Pruning Classes- July and August 2010

In North Seattle- sponsored by the Magnuson Orchard Committee and the Seattle Tree Fruit Society

Saturday July 17th from 10:00 am– Noon. FREE!

This workshop will be taught by Christine Pfeiffer, an ISA-Certified arborist with 25+ years experience in the field. The class will begin in the Garden Room of the Magnuson Brig Building (AKA Building 406) with a brief overview of summer pruning for fruit trees. Then Chris will lead the class outside to demonstrate proper summer pruning techniques in the Magnuson Community Garden Demonstration Orchard, a 40-tree orchard containing dwarf, semi-dwarf, and espaliered varieties of Apple, Pear, Plum, and other fruits. Seattle Tree Fruit Society members will be on hand to help with the hands-on teaching. And....there will be free cider and donuts for all attendees who stick around after the class to practice their new skills in the Demo Orchard! To find the Brig, come into the park at the NE 74th St. entry and go to the first 4-way stop where you will see a one-story, stucco building on your left. If you arrive late, the Demonstration Orchard is right behind the Brig on the southeast side. No pre-registration is required. For more info about the Magnuson Community Garden, visit

In North Seattle- sponsored by City Fruit

Saturday July 17th from 10:30am–Noon. $20.00 fee ($15 for City Fruit members)

Summer pruning discourages excessive new growth and “can be used to slow down overly vigorous trees or trees that are too large” (P. Vossen). It is most effective between June and late September. Learn the proper techniques at this workshop located in a heritage urban orchard. Ingela Wanerstrand is the owner of Green Darner Garden Design, specializing in edible garden design and coaching. She has been pruning fruit trees professionally for 14 years and leads the urban agriculture guild of Sustainable Ballard. Pre-registration required

In North Seattle- sponsored by Seattle Tilth

Thursday July 22nd from 6:00-8:00pm, $35.00 fee ($25 for Tilth members)

Good Shepherd Center Demo Garden, in Wallingford

Learn the difference between summer and winter fruit tree pruning. Learn how to maintain various types of fruit trees with a beautiful form, while you increase fruit production and fruit quality. Bring gloves, hand pruners and pruning saws if you have them, hands on opportunity will be provided. Pre-registration required

In South Seattle- sponsored by City Fruit

Saturday Aug 14th from 10:00 am – noon. $20.00 ($15 for City Fruit members)

This class mixes lecture with hands-on demonstrations in a south Seattle urban orchard. Bill Wanless is co-owner of Brooke/Wanless gardens, specializing in pruning of small trees, shrubs and vines. He is an ISA-certified arborist with 20 years of field experience. Pre-registration required

City Fruit has also started a blog ( with a FREE "Ask the Fruit Guys" feature! If you have a question for local fruit tree experts John Reardon and Don Ricks, just send an email to

Drip Irrigation Class sponsored by WSU/Snohomish County Extension
Tuesday July 27th from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. and again in the evening from 6:30p.m. to 8:30p.m.
at the WSU Snohomish County Extension office, in Everett.
A good irrigation system targets the exact area where you want the water and allows you to deliver it at the exact time you wish. It also prevents disease by minimizing water contact with the leaves, stems, and fruit of plants.
Jeff Thompson, a Master Gardener, will show you what you will need to buy and how to put the system together, give hands-on demonstrations, and teach how you can customize and expand your own system. He will also explain the benefits of using drip irrigation such as for containers, raised beds, vegetable rows and even balconies.
Cost is $20/per person, or $25/2 people sharing materials, pre-registration is required. To register, download the form at and mail with your check, or call Karie Christensen at (425) 357-6039, e-mail