January 16, 2009 In the Garden

  • Prune cherry trees now. These have to be pruned in full summer to avoid disease. You can carry out most tree surgery and shaping now (with the bonus of getting the winter firewood done at the same time and in good time to dry out for winter) but this is not the time for clipping foliage. As a general rule, trees are best kept to a central leader. Forks in tree trunks are structurally weak in the long term and can cause the tree to fall apart and it is a great deal easier to shape a tree when it is very young. General opinion now is that branches and limbs should be cut back fairly flush (but not dead flush) to the trunk and it certainly looks a great deal better not to have nasty truncated branch stumps sticking out. You can use pruning paste or paint the stumps if you feel you must. We don’t. However, if it is more than a secateur sized cut on a cherry tree, Mark follows up with a sharp pocket knife to clean the wound and pare back the bark a little to reduce the chances of infection. Cherries are especially vulnerable.
  • If you are planning on doing anything to autumn flowering bulbs such as nerines, cyclamen and colchicums, get onto it as soon as possible because they are moving into growth. We have the first cyclamen hederafolium flowers showing already.
  • If you want carrots and parsnips, you need to get the seed in as soon as possible. Parsnip seed has to be fresh to germinate so you need to buy it or save seed every year. The trick to sowing seeds in mid summer is managing to keep the bed moist so they don’t fry, without washing out the seed. Avoiding drying out can be helped by covering the row with a board or a narrow strip of nova roof or similar.
  • It is down to the last two weeks for sowing late crops of corn to take you into early winter with fresh cobs. Green beans are another good staple which you can continue sowing now. Keep up with sowing salad veg for continued supply. You can still sow main crop potatoes and they will sit in the ground waiting for you to dig them in winter.
  • Final call for planting out brussel sprouts if they are to have any hope of getting to a good size before winter. We grew Maxim last year with good results. Brassica seeds (crops including broccoli, cauli and cabbage) can be started from seed now for early winter harvest.

If you are now eating the potatoes you planted in spring, you may like William Cobbett’s quote from 1838:

As a mere vegetable or sauce, as the country people call it, the potato does very well to qualify the effect of fat meat, or to assist in the swallowing of quantities of butter.