In the garden this week July 24, 2009

• Spring is just around the corner. The first of our campanulata cherries has opened its flowers so we expect the rest of the tuis to return post haste. Be careful using glyphosate around areas of bulbs. The emerging daffodils do not like it at all.
• Do not delay on the winter pruning because time will run out sooner rather than later. Roses, wisterias and hydrangeas all need an annual prune along with raspberries, grapes and kiwifruit in the orchard. Dwarf deciduous fruit trees or espaliered specimens such as apples and pears need a winter trim to keep them in good shape but if you have granddaddy old big trees, it must be admitted that few people prune these and most will continue to fruit. Our colleague Glyn Church advocates finishing all pruning before the birds start nest building for spring.
• For the record, we are continuing to harvest and eat avocados from our two Hass trees, as we have since January but the rate is slowing. The late summer corn cobs are pretty well at their end and are now somewhat lacking in flavor and really only good for soups and fritters. Brussel sprouts, Chinese greens, brassicas and parsley provide most of our daily greens though we should also have been picking leeks. We are still eating apples, kiwifruit and potatoes out of the store cupboard and should have had our own pumpkin. The orange trees provide plenty of fruit on an ongoing basis. All I need to buy from the supermarket are the missing leeks, carrots and bananas.
• Give some winter attention to lawns even if you have joined the movement to shun spraying and fertilizing. Flat weeds are easy to remove by hand. Fill in hollows and dips. Use the garden fork to lift and aerate sodden or compacted areas and oversow bare patches.
• The rule of thumb in the vegetable garden is that you dig in green crops at least six weeks in advance of replanting. The rate of breakdown is slow in current cold conditions. So it you are preparing areas for planting early summer veg in September, you should be starting to dig in any crops.
• While some vegetable gardeners are meticulous about crop rotation in prescribed sequences, sound practical experience over centuries backs up the idea that at the very least, you should rotate different types of crops to avoid building up pests and diseases. There are gross feeders such as tomatoes and corn, legumes such as peas and beans, green leafy crops which includes lettuce and brassicas and root crops (parsnip, carrots, onions). Don’t fertilise your root crops this year (and definitely shun animal manure for them) but plant them in an area which you fertilised well last year. So they go where your corn or tomatoes were. Mix and match the other crops to avoid replanting a crop or a close relative in the same patch it was in last season. Crop rotation does not come any simpler than that.