WINTERS DAY ON THE PLOT
The festive season has come and gone. There was no white Christmas, in fact we are well into winter and yet still to see some snow, but now I’ve said that, it is just about guaranteed to come within the next few days. Until then we can crack on with
all those jobs put off during the festive season. The wet weather at the back
end of the year kept us off the land, so this week it was out with the loppers
and secateurs to tackle pruning. So it was climbing roses, shrub roses and bush
roses that all got trimmed, then on to saskatoons that needed some height
reduction to keep them under my summer six feet tall nets. A few very tall
branches get cut down to ground level and others cut down to about four feet,
but leaving plenty of shoots to fruit. Bramble Helen was next, removing last
summers fruiting shoots and tying in the remaining young shoots to fruit in
summer. My fig trained against a wall got pruned by removing any shoots growing
away from the wall or just too high. Summer fruiting raspberries were next then
autumn fruiting varieties got chopped down to the ground. Gooseberries did not
escape as those branches too close to the ground and likely to suffer soil
splashing had to be removed as well as opening up the centre to make picking
easier. Red and
blackcurrants were next, but both with different styles of
pruning. The blackcurrants fruit best on young shoots whereas the redcurrants
fruit on spurs established on older wood. However each year remove some of
these older shoots with new younger shoots to take their place and remain for
about four years. Finally it was the apples and pears turn for pruning, but I
left some shoots on my Concord pear for grafting wood on my family pear tree.
All of these prunings can be recycled as we have a large wood shredder up at
City Road allotments and the shredded material can go on the compost heap, used
as a mulch or if the material is rough it can be used on paths.
|Kyle and Scarlet digging and adding compost|
|City Road allotments shredding team|
Harvesting continues with parsnips, sprouts, cabbage, leeks, winter
salads and beetroot, though some
of the beetroot has been lifted, washed and dried for storing in the garage
just in case we get some frost. There is still plenty pumpkins, potatoes,
onions and apples in store and loads of other fruit and vegetables in the
freezer. This just about makes us self sufficient all year round, though the
late spring period and early summer are hard to fill as frozen, stored and
overwintered crops are just about done and the first summer crops are not quite
|Beetroot ready for storing|
Any time the weather dries up the soil surface enough to walk on we can continue with the winter digging, leaving the soil rough for weathering.
|Grape vine cuttings|
Frost is always with us till March so put some protection on all outdoor taps and those in cold greenhouses, and turn off the water supply and drain down the pipes till spring.
Festive pot plants indoors may need some attention. Keep watering poinsettias as they need it but do not over water or leave them sitting in water. They should still last several more weeks. Christmas cactus will now be finished so it should be dried off to give it a rest till spring.
|Protect taps from frost|
Clean the glass both inside and outside on the greenhouse to remove a years worth of dirt, moss and algae and clean out the gutters. Pots, boxes and seed trays in the shed can be cleaned and sorted into their sizes ready for the spring propagation. As now is the time for pruning grape vines, use some of these shoots about 6 to 9 inches long with two to three buds as cuttings to increase stock. Put three cuttings in a pot of compost where they will be fine and begin to grow in spring.
|Grape vine rod pruned|
Wee jobs to do this week
Grape vines are best pruned any time from December to January. If left later than this bleeding may occur as the sap rises early with vines. Grapes grown in the greenhouse are usually trained as upright rods spaced about 18 inches apart. Spurs occur up the rods about six inches apart. All growths coming from these spurs are cut back to one bud. Outdoors you can do a similar cordon with spurs, or train in a fan shaped framework with spurs if grown against a wall or fence. The guyot system of training works best for field grown grapes, but in Scotland our grapes need the warmth and shelter of a south facing wall or fence, so best with the rod and spur training.