Gardening: Fancy a prune?
If you like fruit it’s time to get busy in the garden to ensure next year’s crop. David Overend reports.
People love fruit; and if they can grow their own, the pleasure is doubled.
So, we plant trees and bushes, feed them and water them – and then more or less forget about them until they start to lose their vigour and their fruits decline in quantity and quality.
Professional fruit-growers know that to maintain harvest levels requires regular maintenance – including winter-pruning. And November is the ideal time to carry out such work even though the weather may be a bit intimidating. Forget about the cosy chair in front of the fire – get out and do the deed.
Pruning now is basically removing some of the bigger branches of bushes and standards to allow air to circulate in the centre of the plants. Apples, pears, even gooseberries produce a lot of wood which quickly forms a mass, cutting out valuable light and even encouraging some diseases which can weaken or kill.
So using sharp secateurs, cut out any damaged or obviously diseased wood and any shoots or branches that touch one another.
If you get your fruit from the supermarket, but fancy growing your own, than, again, November is a good time to start- with raspberries.
Raspberries are almost as popular as strawberries, but connoisseurs of fruit will always choose the former – raspberries are more tart and have more taste than the Wimbledon winner.
But whatever your preference, growing aa few raspberry canes is an easy way to get into the world of fruit.
Raspberries thrive in moisture-retentive, fertile, slightly acidic soils, which are well-drained and weed free. They hate soggy soils and shallow chalky soils, so give them what they want and they should repay you with bumper harvests of succulent fruit.
For the best results, plant raspberry canes in a sheltered, sunny position; although they will tolerate part shade.
Planting can be done any time during the dormant season (November to March) as long as the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.
Most people grow summer-fruiting raspberries, which are ready for harvesting in early summer but there are autumn-fruiting raspberries, which are ready for harvest from late August to October.
Raspberries tend to be sold as bare-root canes (the roots are exposed when you buy these plants) or in containers. The latter tend to be more expensive, but you pay your money and you take your chance – and choice.