LOOKING AFTER THE FRUIT BUSHES
The dormant season is nearly over so tackle any outstanding fruit garden jobs before the bushes start growing. There is still time to finish off any winter pruning, planting new bushes, spraying the peach tree, taking a few cuttings and erecting the low polythene tunnels over the early strawberries.
Top Fruit trees
This is the last chance to complete any winter pruning of apples and pears. I tend to prune to manage tree growth to balance vigour with fruiting and keep the centres open for good air circulation. This keeps the bushes strong and lets in sunshine to ripen up developing fruit. I also cut out any over vigorous shoots which like to put on growth at the expense of fruiting. After last years wet season there is a lot of upright growth needing cutting out or bent over and tying down to induce fruit bud formation.
Pears tend to put on plenty fruit spurs, so pruning is aimed at creating a well spaced framework of branches. It is two years since I inserted grafts to add two new pear varieties and the new branches look very strong with good fruit buds developing so I am confident I may sample some Beurre Hardy and The Christie pears this autumn.
Peach trees are getting their second Bordeaux spray against peach leaf curl before growth and flowering commences. We are in a dry but cold weather spell, so sprays won’t get washed off.
Currants and gooseberries
Pruning needs to be completed on these bushes. Blackcurrants were pruned after fruit harvesting, but red currants get spur pruned in winter. I create an open centred bush with about eight main shoots which carry the crop. Side shoots from these get cut back by half in summer then spur pruned to a few buds in winter. The main shoots get replaced from time to time from other young shoots growing from the base. Prunings make excellent cuttings to give away or grow on into new bushes. I will be planting up a new blackcurrant Big Ben which has been bred locally at the James Hutton Institute for large fruit size and enhanced sweetness to encourage eating the fruit fresh from the bush. The Royal Horticultural Society was so impressed they gave it an Award of Garden Merit.
Gooseberries get some spur pruning, though I am more concerned to open up the centres for ease of picking as Invicta has vicious thorns, but is a brilliant variety. I also cut out any branches too close to the ground otherwise the fruit gets muddy.
Early strawberries Mae are now protected by a low polythene tunnel to bring on early growth and protect it from wet weather and birds.
I am planting some perpetual strawberries Flamenco to extend my season well into autumn. This variety is very reliable and fruits on runners produced all summer.
Indoor and outdoor grapes were spur pruned in January cutting all growths back to one or two buds. In the greenhouse the spur pruned upright vine rods have been lowered from the support wires to allow even breaking of growth along the stems, otherwise you will get a top heavy plant with bare patches at the bottom. Once growth has commenced evenly up the stem the rods will be tied back into an upright position.
I continue to try out new varieties to see if one can be found that will ripen successfully outdoors in Scotland assuming that the much quoted global warming is just round the corner. I am looking at Rondo, Siegerrebe and Phoenix. I already have Solaris, but need a better year to judge its progress.
Plant of the week
Winter flowering pansies are one of the best winter bedding plants for beds, tubs and hanging baskets. Every time we get two or three days of sunshine a few flowers will come into bloom from February onwards. They will have a peak flowering in spring but continue to flower into mid summer. They are very easy to grow from seed sown in mid summer then grown on to build up a strong plant for autumn planting.
Painting of the month
Forfar Loch is one of my favourite landscapes for summer, autumn and winter scenes with excellent views all round this small loch. This acrylic painting of Forfar Loch in autumn is on a box canvas and will be exhibited at the Angus Open Studio event at the end of May.