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Dormant oil will protect trees from many pests

Q: My Grandpa used to spray his fruit trees with something during the winter months, but I never paid attention to what he used. Do you have any clue as to what he might have used? – D.L., Albuquerque

A: I’m going to bet what your grandfather sprayed his trees with is a dormant oil. As the name infers this product is meant to be applied during the “dormant” or resting periods for deciduous (leaf dropping) trees. It’s a nifty and very safe product that is multitalented when it comes to taking care of plant life.

Dormant oil is a highly refined paraffin oil (think candle wax) that is applied through a hose end sprayer. This product suffocates all sorts of overwintering critters and more importantly, their eggs. So, when your grandpa sprayed the dormant oils, he was effectively preventing and eliminating a whole host of pests that were aimed at harming his trees. Grandpa had it going on!

But I doubt that he was out spraying when the weather was/is this cold. In fact, the dormant oil labels I’m familiar with say the temperature can’t be below 40 degrees when applying the product. Nor should it drop below 40 until the spraying is well dry. So, you can see we’re well out of that loop for several weeks yet. And I don’t want you out there spraying when it’s this cold. Egad!

Having the spraying of a dormant oil product done by mid to late February should still offer all the protection it’s made to offer.

Know, too, that you can apply the dormant oil to most all deciduous pieces of plant life. Plants like lilac, forsythia, any rose bushes you might have from wee miniatures to full-blown climbers, quince, pomegranate, all your deciduous trees – shade and fruit – and honeysuckle vines.

Since you are a responsible plant owner, you are going to read the label of any product that you are considering applying to your world, so you know if it’s applicable to your plants or not. Take a list of your plants, trees, shrubs and perennials to any one of the full-service nurseries we have here in the Metro area so you can compare product labels with what you’re wanting to spray. That way you’d be able to rest assured knowing you found the proper product to get you ahead of any pest trouble that could be brewing among your plants.

Remember you are in a prevention mode when you apply a dormant oil type product and you’ll make Grandpa proud that you are taking care of your plants.

Q: I know you told us, but remind us how long we have to recycle the Christmas trees? F.A., Albuquerque

A: Here you go! You have from now until Jan. 13 to get your tree to one of the three drop-off sites here in the Albuquerque area. South: Montessa Park Convenience Center, 3512 Los Picaros SE; Northeast: Eagle Rock Convenience Center, 6301 Eagle Rock NE; West Side: Ladera Golf Course at Coors and Ladera NW.

Please remember the “rules” when dropping off your tree. NO stands, ornaments or lights should be left on the tree. Make it as un-decorated as you possibly can. And tie it down before you transport it. PLEASE! The trees have gotten far lighter than they were at the beginning and can all too easily be pulled out of a truck bed by the draw of wind! Please keep everyone safe! With that, Happy New Year Diggin’ In!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103, or to



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