Fruitful gardening in winter
AFTER what has been a remarkable, and testing, wet season, it will be tempting over the next few months to take a breather and do what they do in the UK – put the garden “to bed” for winter.
You might want to take it a bit easier now than in high summer, but don't waste the opportunity to get outside and do some jobs in the clear blue skies and cooler temperatures of the next few months.
The first, and most pleasurable job of them all, is to bring in the last of the harvest.
Keep a close eye on late ripening apples, pears, persimmons, quinces, pomegranates, olives, raspberries, figs, and feijoas, and pick them as soon as they're ready.
Once the last bit of fruit is in, it's an excellent idea to celebrate with a big harvest feast, using as much of your home grown produce as possible.
Then, you can turn your attention to winter pruning.
Deciduous fruit trees were traditionally pruned during winter, but conventional wisdom has shifted toward pruning in late summer.
This means that the only pruning required in winter, when trees take longer to heal, involved creating and maintaining a good structure.
Follow the basic rules of removing dead and diseased wood, crossing and poorly positioned branches, and any suckers growing at ground level from below the graft. For vase shaped trees, open up the centre and thin out any crowded branches.
Always use sharp tools and sterilise them between trees with metho or tea tree oil.
Citrus and avocados need some loving during autumn and early winter.
At this time of the year they are putting lots of energy into developing fruit, so it's important to give them a boost with one nine litre watering can each of fish emulsion fertiliser, and liquid seaweed extract. It doesn't hurt to throw about a few handfuls of pelletised chook manure either.
While you're at it, keep an eye out for pests such as scale and citrus leaf miner. If they're present, give the tree a spray with horticultural oil.
Finally, if fungal diseases are a problem in your area, give your trees a spray with an organically approved fungicide. Use copper hydroxide on evergreens, and lime sulphur on deciduous trees.
Once that's done, I plan to pull up a chair beside the wood heater, grab my favourite seed catalogues, and choose some new varieties for spring.