• By now there will be few pests in the garden due to the colder weather, but it's best to keep your eye open for any that may be lurking. The best way to avoid problems is to practice good hygiene. This includes cleaning/sterilising seed trays, pots and canes before storing away as pests can lurk here.
• At this time of year bare root trees and shrubs are available and it's a great time of year to get them planted. They are cheaper than container grown plants and give an opportunity to get plants in the ground to produce a good root system during the winter months, meaning they will get away much better as we move into the spring months.
Prepare the ground well.
Dig a hole large enough to take the root system without cramping the roots.
Put a stake in first on the windward side for trees so that plant is blown away from the stake and so
Plant the tree or shrub to the same depth as it would have been planted in a container then fill in the
hole, firm in gently and water in well.
Its also worth using a mycorrhizal product called Rootgrow which really assists in the production of the fine root system.
• Pruning & Training – Begin winter pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs. Trees such as ornamental cherries plums are best left and pruned during the summer months as they are susceptible to a disease called silver leaf. Any pruning done should include cutting out any diseased and damaged wood. Other pruning involves cutting back to a shape and considering the direction new growth will be after pruning to prevent branches crossing and giving a good open shape.
• Continue planting various plants which are used to produce a hedge. You can also trim deciduous hedges throughout the dormant season, however it is best to leave evergreen hedges until spring.
• Plant Tulips this month. By planting later than other spring flowering bulbs there is a better chance of preventing the bulbs being infected with the fungal disease Tulip Fire.
Tulips flower better in a sunny position and if your soil is heavy clay integrate some course grit to assist in better growth and prevent rotting. Plant at a depth of 3 times the size of the bulb but can be even deeper as its better they are deeper than too shallow.
• In the fruit garden start to winter prune apple and pear trees. This merely consists of pruning back the leaders of branches by about one third. Long side shoots can be spur pruned to two or three buds to form fruiting spurs. Older branches that are crossing and rubbing should be cut out to prevent damage and keep the centre open. Trees bought when about 3 years old should not need pruning, but young trees that are freestanding will benefit from pruning to form a good shape. Crossing branches or those which make the tree misshapen should be pruned out first.
If a tree is approximately 2 years old, prune the side shoots to half their length. These will then form primary branches. Cut the main stem back to the topmost side shoots.
If a tree is about 3 years old prune the leaders that will form the main branches by about half, again cutting to a bud facing in the direction you want the branch to go.
Any side-shoots growing from these branches should be pruned to one or two buds to form fruiting spurs. By the fourth-year formative pruning should be finished and the tree will start to produce fruit.
Many of the trees we supply will have gone through this process and should start to produce fruit soon after planting.
There are many other fruits that can be planted now which are more in the category of bushes than trees. These include Blackcurrants which produce shoots from the base, and you will have to cut out the older shoots to ground level which have already produced fruit. By doing this it will stimulate new shoots to come from the base.
Prune Gooseberries and Redcurrants in a similar way to Apples and Pears. This encourages a framework of four or five branches with fruiting spurs which all produce lots of fruit.
Whenever the soil is not frozen fruit trees and bushes can be planted now. If they are bare root now is an ideal time to plant, right up until March, whereas pot grown can be planted at any time of the year.
Make sure the ground has been well prepared by incorporating plenty of organic matter. Dig a generous hole, loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole with a fork, add general fertilizer and water in well.
With grafted fruit trees it is important to keep the point of graft above ground level. If this is not done, then the variety of the tree will begin to root into the soil and so control over the vigor of the tree will be lost. So never plant deeply, put the tree in the same level as it was in the pot. Gradually fill in working the soil between the roots and firm gently, level off and water in thoroughly. Finish off by using a tree tie attached to the tree stake to keep the roots stable. It is also worth mulching will a good layer of organic matter.
One fruit that is the exception to this rule is Blackcurrants which should be set lower in the planting hole with 8-10cm of stem below ground level. This will then encourage new growth from the base. These plants can then be pruned to 10cm from ground level for next year’s fruit.