This week is an ideal time to get stuck into a bit of pruning. Make sure that you use sharp tools to leave neat cuts. If you don't have a good pruning saw or secateurs, then this week is also a good time to drop a hint in time for Christmas! It may be too late to write to Santa, but you never know!
- Cut old wood out of shrubs to rejuvenate them. Now is a good time to finish Wisteria and grapevine pruning.
- Old conifers often lose shape, and snow lodged in them can make matters worse. Tie spreading branches in to help. You could also replace trees prone to losing shape with new, improved varieties as sadly, many conifers do not go on forever!
Old conifer trees well past their best
- Force cut stems of winter flowering shrubs indoors. Suitable plants include Winter Sweet, Witch Hazels, Lonicera fragrantissima and Winter Beauty, Viburnum fragrans & x bodnantense Dawn, Forsythia and even Lilac. The warmth of indoors will soon have them blooming!
- Prune Raspberries, Blackberries, Loganberries and other hybrid fruits if you haven’t already done so. Cut out all old stems that had fruit on them this year and any weak, spindly shoots. Tie in the strong new shoots that are left.
- Apply sulphate of potash to all fruit trees, canes and bushes.
- Prune blackcurrants now if you didn't prune them in the summer. Cut old wood to ground level; you're aiming to remove up to one-third of the wood from each bush. Keep a lookout for any swollen buds which are infected with big bud mite and remove them as they can spread reversion virus.
- Prune apples and pears to improve their shape, encourage younger growth, remove disease and control the number of fruit buds they produce. Don’t prune fan, espalier and cordon trained trees as these should have been summer pruned.
Pruning an apple tree with a saw
- You should prune grapevines before Christmas. If pruned later, the sap will be running, and they will ‘bleed’, which may weaken them. Other plants that can suffer from this include Magnolia, Japanese maples, birch, walnuts, hornbeams, mulberries and laburnums.
Pruning a grapevine trained on a wall
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Fruit trees and bushes
- If you don't mind using sprays to control pests and diseases, you could apply Winter Wash to dormant fruit trees, canes and bushes.
Apply Winter Tree Wash now
- Cover well-established rhubarb crowns to force them into an early crop. Pack them with fresh manure, ideally containing lots of straw, then cover with a forcing pot or upturned dustbin to exclude light. It won't be long before you have a harvest!
- You can still plant fruit trees and bushes right through until spring, but only if the weather and ground conditions are okay - i.e. not frozen or waterlogged. If not, it's best to wait until soil conditions improve.
- Get on with digging the veg patch whenever the weather allows you to. Pace yourself if you're not used to it! Dig in well-rotted organic matter to all areas except where you plan to sow root crops. Digging is an excellent activity to 'work off' any excess festive eating!
Homemade garden compost should be dug into the soil now
- Dig in Vitax Clay Breaker to improve the structure of heavy soils.