Seasonal Tips - Grow Your Own

Grow Your Own

Flower Power

Good Housekeeping

Winter pruning of apple and pear trees

Winter Pruning of Apple and Pear Trees

Pruning apple and pear trees
Apples and pears are a great addition to your fruit garden. By pruning correctly you?ll promote healthy growth and fruit production. Apples and pears have different pruning requirements depending on how established they are, how they are grown and their type. Now is the perfect time for winter pruning but really you can start as soon as the leaves have dropped up until the buds break, usually between November and March. Avoid pruning espaliers, cordons, fans, pyramid and spindles until summer.

What tree do you have?
Before pruning you need to establish whether you trees are spur or tip bearing varieties. Spur varieties (the largest group) produce fruit on short branches that are two years old. Tip varieties produce fruit at the very end of the branch on new growth, having said this they also produce a few spur fruits but at a much lesser quantity.

Handy Tip
When pruning back to a bud take note for which way the bud faces. Ideally you want it to face outward so the growth consequently grows outwards. This helps promote that all important ?goblet? shape.

The Basics
Next, ensuring your tools are sharp and clean, remove any crossing or rubbing branches. This opens up the centre of your tree, giving it a ?goblet? appearance, and allows for good airflow and ventilation, reducing the risk of diseases. To avoid stressing the tree only remove a few of the larger branches per season. Next remove the ?4 Ds? (Dead, Dying, Diseased and Damaged branches) to keep you tree in peak condition. Finally, if your tree is too tall, reduce the length of any branches which are overly vigorous. You?ve now completed general pruning, follow the guide bellow for spur and tip pruning

Pruning: Spur Bearing Varieties
The growth from the previous year needs to be reduced by about 1/3. This includes any main and lateral branches. If the growth of lateral branches will become restricted in the future reduce them back to about 5 or 6 buds.

Pruning Tip Bearing Varieties
By reducing the length of tip bearing trees you will reduce fruiting for that year however by pruning you will improve fruiting in years to come. Prune last year?s growth (including lateral branches longer than 30cm 1ft) back to the first strong bud. Reduce congestion and improve fruiting in subsequent years by removing some of the oldest growth.

“Plant Soft Fruit Canes And Bushes Now For Sweet Juicy Pickings This Summer!“

January is the perfect time to plant soft fruit canes and bushes.

If the site is not ready when the plants arrive they can always be 'heeled in' within a shallow trench for a few days. 

Raspberries will need planting about 50cm apart and as they grow will benefit from supports and training wires. Bushes such as gooseberries need more space and may benefit from their own separate plot if you have the room. Plant gooseberries about 6ft apart and incorporate lots of well-rotted manure into the planting hole. To give them a real boost, rake in some Fish Blood and Bone meal around their base.

Juicy picking


“Start The Year By Sowing Early Crops For Some Tasty Delights“

Many of you will be itching to get outdoors in January and start work on your plots.

It can be a risky business sowing outdoors this early but for those that have a sheltered site you can always try sowings of radishes and salad leaves followed by turnips and hardy lettuces later in the month

Should the soil be too heavy and cold then you can always sow in containers to increase your chances of success and place them near the house. Cover them in a light dusting of compost then place a sheet of glass over the pot until they germinate - this will also help keep out any hungry slugs on the lookout for a snack.

Why not try 'Connor Carrot' - You can sow this in a greenhouse or under cloches for the earliest crop and then again outdoors from March for a continual supply of sweet carrots.

“Forcing Rhubarb Will Produce Some Of The Sweetest Early Pickings“

Why not try forcing some rhubarb to enjoy sweeter and tender stalks at least 4 weeks earlier than normal!

Whether you use a bought terracotta forcer or make use of a bucket or old bin (any container that will exclude the light) the results will be worthwhile. 

Clear the area around the crown and place the forcer over the rhubarb when growth becomes visible. Generally allow 7 to 8 weeks before harvesting. To speed up the process, or should the temperature drop, tie straw around the outside of the forcer to help insulate.