How great has it been to have a couple of glorious sunny days to embrace right now in winter as its’ been so cold recently, although I do have to admit it hasn’t been all that warm during these beautiful sunny days. Just the same it has made the soul sing and one feels warmer as they go about working on their list of jobs. While all the rain has been fantastic for the soil (and my water tanks) it has also brought with it some frustrations when you have something planned for a certain day but just can’t get outside to get the job done!
This leads me to the answer to a question I was asked yesterday by an acquaintence in my craft group. She told me she still hadn't pruned her fruit trees and asked if it was too late to do so? As I looked around in here this morning to see what has been happening in our little group I thought I thought I would add some more information to here in case anyone else wondered.
The short answer is, if you haven’t already then there is still time to prune. In fact August is the perfect time to prune deciduous trees and shrubs including fruit trees and roses. I have just completed pruning mine and was surprised to see that one of my peach trees has already started to open its blossoms. As a result I only lightly pruned this particular tree, must be the past few sunny days giving it a gee up.
The basic principles of pruning are: to remove old growth that isn’t conforming to the ideal shape of the tree or shrub and in particular those really vigorous growing upward shoots, those that are crossing other branches and those that face inwards. The main point to remember though is that pruning is to keep things manageable and the tree or shrub healthy. If its dead, diseased or damaged, old or spindly then pruning it back cleanly will bring about a new lease of life come the spring. By thinning out crowded growth so that shoots are well spaced and keeping things open we provide better sunlight and airflow to the plants which then promotes healthier growth. As a general rule I shorten back last seasons growth by about 2/3rds to encourage new fruiting spurs to form closer to the main branch. I have to admit that I generally like to prune earlier than August (usually end of June) myself but time does sometimes get away from me and August is still a great time to do this and isn’t too late either.
So don’t be afraid to give it a go and if your still unsure then I would say that no matter where you live, there are sure to be some good workshops nearby. The new seasons magazines have some great pruning sections and if all else fails visit your library.
Now is also a good time to fertilize your fruit trees. I looked outside the other day and saw these huge black clouds winging it in our direction so promptly gathered up the fertilizers (a good concentrate mix of compost, manure, blood & bone, rock dust and a few other things as well) oh yes some dynamic lifter … I also had some fruit tree slow release pellets that I added to my mix. Organic fertilizers are naturally slow released (and so last for longer) and so this makes getting them on now good for the plants so they can make full use of the nutrients right from the word go as they start to put on new growth.
I was asked recently how much longer we have in which to plant bare rooted trees? Well it’s sad to be saying this in a way but now is the last chance anyone will have to plant bare rooted trees or shrubs. I am a bit slack in this regard myself and had plans to plant out a new rose garden. Unless I get my act together in the next couple of weeks then I can’t see the new garden be planted out this year which is a shame.
The asparagus crowns that I planted out a few years ago when we first moved to this property never took and the plans I had to plant some new ones out this year have not come to fruition. These perennials are both worthwhile additions to your food garden; producing well for many years under the right conditions. Now is the last chance you will have to plant these out this year as well.
As we have very poor sandy/gravel type soils where we live down here in the Great Southern, I have been adding a product called ‘Sand to Soil’ the verdict for how well this is actually working for us remains out at this time however although we found no evidence of earth worms on the property in the first year as we began to build our garden beds, I have come across several worms in various parts of the garden this year.
This past week we have had a very busy time of it controlling weeds. We’ve slashed, pulled, and even steamed them - so in this regards do whatever takes your fancy! But do it before they set seed. Add them to a compost pile (especially if they have no seed heads on them) and recycle the nutrients they have stolen from your soil.
Watch for pests like slugs, snail, scale (and the sooty mould that often grows where they are). See our article below on ideas to treat these common garden pests. As I pruned and weeded I came across several nice fat juicy curl grubs, yuck! Am yet to decide how best to deal with these although rest assured I shall pass on any information I find out for this.
Slugs & snails are prevalent in the cool and wet months of the year, and can decimate seedlings overnight. There are numerous ways to attempt control of this problem. I think I have tried them all and while they all work to a greater or lesser degree I can tell you this much, Don't be tempted to throw them over the fence - there a good chance they'll just come home. And putting them in your wheelie bin is a sure fire way to give yourself (or your loved ones) an interesting experience next time they take out the rubbish.
We used to have a huge problem with slaters that is until we started letting the chickens out to roam the yard in the afternoons. Since then we have decreased this problem significantly however I did have to put covers over all the gardens where I did not want the chickens to go into as they can be quite destructive with their scratching which was a definite no no in some of my beds.
There are a number of methods that gardeners use to control slaters other than as I do (set the girls free) and one of the other methods I use is to spread some Iron chelate based snail pellets around which are also effective against slaters and as they break down, they release iron to feed the plants. They're safer than traditional snail pellets for use around pets, children and wildlife but they should be stored and used with caution and common sense. I have found that they are not always as easy to find on the shelves either as some of the other brands.
So now I have started the ball rolling, how are you all going with plans for your own gardens. Been keeping up with all those winter chores? have you managed to garden at all over winter?