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Question from Jim:
Can I prune my podocarpus gracilior trees now. I have 10 trees in a row to have in a form of a hedge. Grown in the ground for 10 years in direct sunlight. My location is Encinitas, Ca.

Answer from Pat:
Yes, you can prune your fern pine (Podocarpus gracilior) hedge now to keep it flat. Once it gets out of shape then it’s more difficult to correct. Most non-flowering hedges can be pruned year round, but they will grow faster in warmer weather. It’s fine however to prune now since we have been having rain intermittently and I’ve been noticing many woody plants in my garden are actually growing now when one would usually expect them to be slowing down. (I mention non-flowering since if one prunes a a hedge of a flowering plant that flowers on old wood, such as India hawthorne (Rhaphiolepis) then that will prevent it from flowering in spring. Some other flowering heges can be pruned any time since they bloom on new wood. For example a tropical hibiscus hedge can be pruned throughout the growing season when it is flowering but not in winter, because it’s tropical.)

After pruning the hedge I would follow up with manure or organic fertilizer and water it or let the rains do the job. I am answering you immediately so I hope you have time to do the job this afternoon and let the rains water the nutrients into the ground. I do not think we are likely to get frost this year and you live in Encinitas which is usually a frost-free area, so I would even fertilize with an organic fertilizer after pruning despite the fact it’s November. Or instead of fertilizer apply manure after pruning. Fall is a great time to add a layer of manure on top of the ground and let the rains wash it into the ground. If you have a source of aged horse manure that’s fine to use, but here is a little-known fact: If you have a source of clean (non salty) fresh horse manure picked up daily by a good horse owner, you can apply that on top of the ground surrounding established plants such as your hedge. This is a perfectly good practice just as long as you don’t dig it into the ground but let it lie on top to age and see that it’s well water or alternatively has plenty of rain.

When pruning a hedge always leave it wider below and narrower above, as shown in my video on pruning a hedge.

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