Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Pruning Week

So, after the coldest (and very wet) August in 17 years, we've finally got some settled, sunny and - yes - even warm weather. It was time I got round to pruning. I started with the Victoria plum (above). Plums should have all their pruning done in dry, warm weather in summer - if you prune in winter, you run the risk of introducing disease into the wood due to damp. I prune the leaders (the part of the branch which produces the framework of the tree) back to 8 leaves in length, and the laterals (the side branches) back to 6 leaves. This induces the tree to form flower buds on the laterals.
My plum tree is grown on a Pixie rootstock, so it's technically a dwarf tree, but I still needed stepladders to reach the leaders this year. There's not a lot of fruit on it this year, but there has been a lot of good quality growth, which bodes well for next year.
Next to the apples. One of them is what is called a tip-bearer, so I don't prune it. The others are spur bearers, i.e. they form fruit on spurs along the branches, so summer pruning is important to encourage the formation of flower buds. Above is a picture of the Blenheim Orange - you can see the leader in the centre, surrounded by lots of laterals.
On apples, you leave the leaders alone until winter, but cut the laterals back to 3-5 leaves. The same applies to gooseberries, so I did those too.
Then I cut out the old canes from the summer raspberries, the ones that fruited this year. They're easy to see - they're the brown ones. The green stems are the ones that will fruit next year. Removing the old canes creates space and air around the plants, and I should be able to weed in there now.

Of course, having curly hair my pruning activities generally end with my finding bits of leaves and plants in my hair. I took out all the bits I could see, but still found a few leaves and an old raspberry flower in there when I washed my hair this morning!
Elsewhere, I trimmed my little Box bush into a tidy mound.
And I took out several old stems from the flowering blackcurrant, to ensure we get constant new wood growing. Above is a picture of a berry - a rare thing on a flowering blackcurrant. Not edible by humans, but the birds might like it.
And here's the biggest marrow I've grown this year, with the secateurs next to it for scale. A monster!

If you're keen on growing fruit, the best book on the subject is "Growing Fruit" by the Royal Horticultural Society - it covers absolutely everything and is invaluable.
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