Archive for the 'Pruning' Category


Raspberry Taming

Give Raspberries a few years and they will start to take over. You’ll find their runners popping up all over the place. I found one last year on the ‘other side’ of the path to where my Raspberry patch was. With a small garden such as mine I have to keep them under control or run the risk of them taking vital nutrients from other plants.

In the Summer I was inundated by Raspberries. I tried everything to get rid of them. While I agree that Raspberries are indeed yummy and yes I can freeze them, I feel forced to cull them this Winter, if only in an effort to claw back some precious growing space.

So as part of my annual pruning of Autumn Raspberries I also dug up every other plant. I dug up any runners that had strayed too far from the patch, tightened the wires and straightened the supports.

Hopefully this Summer we’ll be back to more normal Raspberry production. But I’m sure in a few years I’ll be doing the same thing all over again.


My Grape Gets an Early Prune

Now you see it.

Now you don’t.

I decided to prune my Grape vine early since I may be slightly busy with a newborn baby come the end of November. So I’m trying to get organised and do some of my garden chores now.

It shouldn’t make any difference that I pruned it early as the leaves were starting to fall anyway. The only downside is that I don’t get to enjoy the beautiful Autumn colours of the leaves. Oh well.

I’ve written a longer post on how to prune a Grape vine here. This will tell you what system I’m using and how to do it.

Since I’ve been pruning the Grape vine it’s been producing very well and we had lots of Grapes this year, even though they were only really useful for Grape juice. I might consider planting another Grape vine and training it in a different way just to have experience of a different variety and training method. Now, I just need to magic up the space!

Does anyone have any recommendations on a nice white, seedless, eating Grape I could grow outdoors? I’m thinking about Perlette.


Roses at Sissinghurst

I went to Sissinghurst last week, one-time home of Vita Sackville-West, gardener, writer, Virginia Woolf’s lover – the norm. I actually went to see the vegetable garden but it was closed. I’m assuming there’s not much to see yet, like in my own garden. So I contented myself with looking at the beautifully trained roses.

They’re everywhere. Short little stubby ones, tall tower-like ones. And all trained in this beautiful fluffy clouds formation. It’s very striking.

They even have them climbing the walls in the same pattern. I have two climbing roses here at mtp. One is doing very well next to my Apple tree and the other is well, doing not so good in a pot on my deck. I’m determined to train them a la Sissinghurst. I’ve missed the boat this year since the best time to prune them is November. But I found a handy guide written by Sarah Raven on this very technique that I’ll be using in Autumn.

Meanwhile, here’s a photo of the craziest bench I’ve ever seen.


Pruning my Autumn Raspberries

Do your Autumn-fruiting Raspberry canes look like this? Then it’s time to prune them. There’s not a moment to lose.

I don’t want to create panic or anything but this really is the time to prune Raspberries if you want a nice big Autumn crop. If you leave it any longer then the plant will start to put more and more energy into the existing canes when what you actually want is the plant to put its energy into this year’s growth, which will subsequently fruit.

I know that you can leave Autumn Raspberries unpruned and they will crop on the existing canes, just a little earlier. But isn’t that what Summer Raspberries do? Besides, I love my Autumn Raspberries.

Gorgeous handfuls of plump Raspberries in late August, September and October, you can’t beat it. My little boy couldn’t eat them fast enough! I pruned at this time last year and got a bumper crop so I’m doing it again.

And don’t forget the plants wouldn’t mind a nice mulch at this time of year too, rotted manure, home-made compost or wood chippings will do. Happy pruning!

My Tiny Grape Vine is a bit of star in my garden. It sits in the far corner, quietly doing its thing. And then in September it produces the sweetest, tiniest black grapes you can imagine. It sounds like I don’t really have to do anything but sit here and wait for the Grapes but that’s not entirely true. Over the past year I have poured over many books and fretted over which training system to go for. Not to mention nearly having a mini-breakdown every time I have to prune it. But I think I may have turned a corner. Today, I winter pruned my Grape Vine in readiness for next year’s fruiting season.

Having already decided on the Guyot system I was all geared up to do the Winter prune with confidence. And that’s what I did. As you can see from the photo above all the leaves have dropped off the vine. This makes it much easier to see what you’re doing. The Guyot system allows for the vine to have two ‘arms’ off which the vertical fruiting branches grow. The arms must be one year old and the fruiting branches are this season’s growth – otherwise it won’t work.

So the trick is to earmark two branches from the current season’s growth to make next year’s horizontal ‘arms’. The two branches in the middle look perfect to me. Carefully bend them down so that they are horizontal. It’s a good idea to do this before you make any cuts to ensure they don’t break.

Now that I have my new horizontal arms in place I can snip off last year’s arms along with all of the vertical fruiting branches.

This will leave you with just two horizontal branches. Ideally, you’d want them both to lay flat like the one on the left but this isn’t always possible. The right hand branch will still fruit it just won’t look as pretty.

Then when you’re happy with your pruning, tie the arms in to protect them from the Winter wind. And you’re done!


How to Summer Prune an Espalier

Yesterday, I spent the whole day on an Espalier Pruning day at Painswick Rococo garden. It was great fun and I learned a ton about how Apples grow and how to maintain an espalier.

It was also a gorgeous setting in which to learn, with a central kitchen garden surrounded by hundreds of espalier Apples and Pear and a separate orchard including Medlers and Yellow Plums (which I had a sneaky taste of).

Thanks to Chris Hitchcock (the head gardener, on the right) and Bill Whitehead (an Apple and Pear expert, on the left) I now feel super confident about summer pruning my own espalier apple tree. Thanks also to Paul Hervey-Brookes for being the perfect host. Lastly, thanks to my wonderful under-gardener for buying the course for me and looking after Jackson for the whole day so that I could go!

So what did I learn?

Now is the time to start summer pruning Apple an Pear espaliers. Aim for the end of July to mid August. The reason you Summer prune is to restrict growth (after all an espalier is a restricted form) and to let in light to help the fruit ripen. The light also encourages buds for the following season, so everyone’s a winner!

Here are Four Steps to Summer Pruning Espaliers

1.Chop Down All Top Growth

Before you start pruning your espalier might look like this. Lots of long wippy shoots growing upwards. You should cut all the top growth down by about half so that you can see more clearly what you’re doing. Leave two long shoots unpruned, that are growing from the central stem. The reason you do this is to draw the sap upwards through the central part of the tree which reduces the amount of regrowth at the ends of the branches.

It should start to look a bit like this.

2. Prune Each Branch Three Leaves Up From the Basal Leaves

Inspect each of the branches that you’ve cut down by half. Find the basal leaf cluster (these are the clutch of leaves that are around the base of this year’s growth. In the photo below, the basal leaves are the three leaves coming from the base of the branch. Then the real leaves are the three after that (one is pointing backwards). You would make your cut above the third.

Angle your cut so that it slants away from the leaf – but ideally points away from the tree (so that the water runs away from the leaf and the tree). Don’t make your cut too angled and also not too close to the bottom of the leaf (as below).

Continue to work through the tree doing the same for each branch.

5. Dead, Diseased, Dying, Weak and Wayward

Next inspect the tree and take out all branches that fit the following description – DDDWW (Dead, Diseased, Dying, Weak and Wayward). Quite a few of the trees that I was pruning had Canker, which was rotting away various branches. I was told to just cut them off (since they don’t spray fungicide at Painswick).

4. The Finished Espalier

When you’re finished you should have a perfectly trimmed espalier, with lots of light getting in and with two wippy stems protruding from the top.

Sorry this ended up being so long but I needed to get all that I had learned down in one place. Hope it helps you out when you come to Summer prune your espalier Apples or Pears.

It’s time to prune your Autumn-fruiting Raspberries, among other jobs for February. Autumn raspberries fruit on this year’s growth so now is the time to cut them back down to ground level in order to encourage new shoots for the Spring growth. It’s a great way to neaten up the garden too at this time of year when everything is looking a bit straggly and worn down.

I grow Autumn Bliss and also at the allotment I used to grow a gold variety which tasted just as amazing as the normal ones. I think I prefer Autumn Raspberries to Summer Raspberries. They fruit at a time when other fruits have mostly finished and (I think) are simpler to look after and more robust than Summer varieties. But that’s just me – what do you grow?

Oh and I don’t normally garden with my leather gloves on. My usual gardening gloves were left in the potting shed and were waaaay too cold to wear!