There is still time to tidy and prune in the fruit garden, and to give the peach family a helping hand. Guest Blogger, Claire Jones tells us more.
Everything in the garden is on the verge of waking up from its winter sleep now, in fact this year one or two things are already off to an early start after such a mild dormant season.
Here in the West Country it’s still a bit wet to be digging over the soil, so while I’m waiting for a dry spell I’m spending some time checking over the fruit.
Strawberries need to be tidied up at the end of winter, to remove dead foliage. This is important for low growing fruit as they are very close to any decaying leaves that might be harbouring slugs and mildew spores. Clearing away debris to allow as much air as possible to circulate will help immensely.
It is also a good time to put any new strawberry plantlets into place, and move any runners that have rooted in the wrong position. They are likely to take a season to establish before they produce a good crop.
I am also finishing up the pruning of fruit trees and bushes. The apples and pears were done earlier in the winter, but I still have the blackcurrants and gooseberries to thin out. A quarter of the blackcurrant stems will be removed, cut down to 1” above ground level. When planting a new blackcurrant, it should go 2” deeper than it was in its pot to stimulate new growth from the base. These new shoots will be the most productive, although older wood will also fruit. With the gooseberries, I’ll leave no more than a dozen main branches at the base to avoid overcrowding.
I always mulch the fruit trees, bushes and cane fruit at this time of year with any home-made compost I have, and otherwise with well-rotted manure. Blackcurrants particularly need plenty of organic matter, and raspberries benefit too as their roots are very shallow, so a mulch not only provides nutrients but also keeps moisture in and suppresses weeds.
A final early spring job is pollinating the peach tree. The buds are just starting to burst, as always too early for insect pollination, so I use a small brush to do the job. Once the flowers are fully open I go from flower to flower brushing the pollen from one blossom to the next. Peaches and nectarines are self-fertile, so more than one tree isn’t necessary. Brushing the flowers every day or two is a bit of a chore, but come the summer when there are peaches swelling and ripening it will seem very worthwhile.
Thanks for reading!
Claire Jones lives in a small market town in the southwest of England where she grows her own fruit and vegetables, both in the garden and on her allotment. She always believes that this will be the year of bumper harvests. For more from Claire visit: http://clairesjones.com/