The Fruit Garden in Early Winter
What to do in the fruit garden in December
The pruning of fruit trees and bushes can continue through December Always collect up the prunings immediately and dispose or burn them. Leaving them lying around on the ground is an open invitation to disease.
Bonfire ash can be used to top-dress the trees and bushes, giving them a useful feed of potash. The ash must be spread as soon as it is cool but still while it is still fresh and dry, as old wet ash will have lost most of its value.
Winter spraying of fruit trees and bushes can start this month. An organic plant-oil based winter wash is the traditional spray and is available under several brand names. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions, as with any garden chemicals, and don't spray in windy, wet or frosty weather. The oil kills scale insects over wintering on the plants, as well as eggs of aphids and various caterpillars. It also kills any moss or lichen growing on the bark.
It is not necessary to spray with a winter wash every winter. If your trees are healthy, well fed and pruned and cropping well, then annual spraying isn't really necessary, and every alternate, or every third, winter should do. You should also consider its effect on the garden as a whole. The oil can kill beneficial insects as well as harmful ones. Lastly, it isn't the home grower but the commercial growers who need to worry about picture perfect, unblemished fruit. Therefore, if you have just a few fruit trees, in your garden, and the fruit they produce is generally unblemished, treat plant-oil washes as an occasional, rather than a regular task.
Continue pruning grape vines. You can use the prunings of one-year-old shoots to make more plants. Cut them to 25 cm (10 in) lengths, and bury the shoots in the ground by two-thirds of their length, If you have room for the cuttings in a cold frame, they will root better, but any sheltered spot outside will do.
Continue checking cane fruit such as raspberries, blackberries and loganberries, plus grape vines and fruit trees trained against walls, to make sure that they have not come away from their wires and supports.
Other routine checks include netting against bird damage and examining apples and pears in store. Planting of bear rooted fruit trees and bushes is another winter task, which can be done as soon as the plants arrive, providing ground conditions are suitable. If planting needs to be postponed, heel-in the trees and shrubs until required.
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Fruit for December
Continue to eat stored fruit such as apples and pears, fruit preserves and fruit stored in the freezer.