Pruning

It’s about the time of year that I need to prune my fruit trees and bushes. I have done this before, but I am far from convinced that I did it the best way (and also I can’t remember what that was anyway). Hence this resource collection on pruning, and a summary for what I need to do.

Apple tree

Blackcurrant

Blueberry

Any comments from experienced pruners (especially of dwarf apple trees!) welcome.

Anti-snail defences

My grape vine has been getting munched up by (I assume) the snails; and one of my (still tiny) courgette plants is looking at risk too. After perusing the Organic Gardening Catalogue, I have acquired a set of little spiky fences to go around the grape vine, and some copper tape around the courgette. I will report back.

I’ve also got ants farming aphids on the apple tree. Apparently, a ring of gaffer tape, sticky side out, around the tree will solve this problem. Again: defences are in place, and I will report back.

And here’s a blog post elsewhere on permaculture and container gardening.

A final note: half of my broad beans appear to have grown without any actual beans in the pods (well: the beans are there, but they didn’t fill out). My assumption is that this is to do with the crappy weather, but I am nevertheless sad. Maybe the green beans will do better? If the sun ever comes out for any reasonable time…

Apples, and Growstuff

Our apple tree grew two whole apples this year*, and on Tuesday we ate one of them. It was, as that update mentions, very tasty. Tonight we will eat the second one.

That update link goes to Growstuff, an awesome open-source project I’m involved with. We’re aiming to build a platform to track, discuss, and learn about edible gardening. A kind of Ravelry for gardeners, if you’re a knitter/crocheter and therefore aware of Ravelry.

I’ve tried many different ways of tracking my gardening over the years, and none of them have worked particularly well. I’m really hopeful that Growstuff will turn into a solution to this. In particular I want to see an Android app so I can add things from my phone while sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea after a bit of planting or weeding or harvesting. It’s massively early days yet, but it’s a fun project to work on, and it’s visibly improving every development cycle. This morning I worked with pozorvlak on adding multiple gardens — so (once it’s accepted and pushed to the dev site) that will be working. I’m still feeling thrilled about Doing A Thing that is a visible step towards a properly usable site.

If you’re interested, we’re actively looking for developers. We’re doing pair-programming, so if you have limited or no experience, you can pair up (remotely or in person) with someone. You don’t need much time — I worked on the gardens thing with 2 x 1 hr sessions, because that’s all I have right now. If you’re not interested in coding, non-coders are also very welcome to help work out what wants to be on the site (you could start by joining the mailing list).

Now I want to go out and do some gardening. Shame it’s pitch dark and cold out there. My peas, broad beans, and winter lettuce are all coming along nicely, though. Alongside that apple (and some bread and hummous), we had a small garden salad, which, in midwinter, is pleasing.

The nights have nearly done drawing in. Roll on spring. Hopefully by March I’ll be tracking my spring plantings on Growstuff.

* It actually grew more, but I broke off all but two so as not to overload it in its early years — it was planted as a 3yo tree last winter so I thought it could handle a couple of apples, unlike a maiden.

Garden update

Despite the erratic weather, things in the garden are moving on happily. A quick list (no photos this time, may try to add some tomorrow):

  • Apples on the apple tree! Research suggests that as this is a 3-yr-old tree, I should thin the apples a little but don’t need to remove them all. So am hoping for at least one apple from the tree this year.
  • Tomatoes now planted out. Two in a polystyrene tub, two in the back of one of the raised beds, three in self-watering containers, and I will see which do best. My bet is on the SWCs. They’re all up against a west-facing fence so should get plenty of sun.
  • The broad beans have all come out now. A middling harvest; the ones in the raised beds did fine (although hard to get at the ones at the back for harvesting), but the ones in the polystyrene tubs did quite badly. I think they really need more space for their roots.
  • Peas are growing away merrily and have just started to flower.
  • Turnips also doing very well; thinned out last week and nibbled on a few of the thinnings raw.
  • Rocket heading rapidly to seed, so very very peppery.
  • Lettuces doing great and I really must eat more of them for my lunches!
  • Nearly none of the beets or chard have come up. I am wondering if the seeds were past it? Will get new seeds to plant for chard to overwinter, anyway.
  • Courgettes flowering but not yet any female flowers, only male ones. That quite often happens initially, so I’m happy to contain myself in patience.

I have a spare half-bed that I’m not sure what to do with; and a squash in a small pot that badly needs to go down to the allotment as there’s no room for it to do well in the garden.

Planting tomatoes for this year

It’s spring, so I’ve been doing a lot of planting in the garden. For once I actually have a month by month list, entered into my diary on a weekly basis, as the only way I’ll get things done on time while also wrangling a newborn. I feel alarmingly organised.

Last month was tomato-planting time, so I now have 5 pots of seeds sprouting away on the kitchen windowsill.

Two pots were from packet seeds (Lettuce Leaf, a bush type from the Real Seed Company, though it looks like they no longer stock them, and Peacevine Cherry, from a heirloom packet I got free) which I’ve liked in the past. All the seeds planted of both have germinated and are doing fine. The other 3 were seeds saved from last year’s plants; but only one of them has germinated, which I found a little disappointing.

It turns out that the problem is probably down to a cackhanded effort on my part to increase germination rates. If you’re saving your own seed, you can put the seeds in a jamjar with some water for 3 days, you can improve their germination speed. It turns out, however, that that is a strict 3 days – no more, no less. Five months in the jar? Not so good. Ah well; I have 9 baby tomato plants which is plenty, and will have to try seedsaving again this year. In fact last year’s plants started out at my old house and finished off at this one, so they might not have been the best-adapted to the new location anyway.

In other signs of spring: the apple tree has started to produce green shoots, after a couple of months of looking a lot like a stick.

That was taken a couple of weeks ago; there are more shoots now, all looking pleasingly healthy.