Nursery notes – February 15th

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As I write this, dawn is breaking across the marshes, shining silver in glistening reflections from the recent heavy rains. It looks as though we will get some sunshine today –  bright and cheerful for a change and a real harbinger of spring just around the corner we can all look forward to.

The recent weather has held up many jobs on the nursery and I’m sure its the same for you in your gardens. One we all need to catch up with soon is protecting peaches and nectarines with a copper spray to help prevent peach leaf curl, which can distort the young leaves and turn them a red colour. Prevention is always best in gardening and if you do not like to spray then using a lean to cover as a roof to keep the rain off the branches will also help. A cover will also give the blossom some protection against any late frosts, do remember to leave the ends open during the day so that bees can get in to pollinate the blossom. You will also need to hand tickle the flowers as they open every few days with a small brush or rabbits tail to ensure the crop ‘sets’.

Apricot
 trees
 do not get peach leaf curl but they will still benefit from a cover to protect the blossom and offer some extra help with pollination if there are not many bees about.
There are some new varieties of peach coming out which are resistant to peach leaf curl. One we released last year ‘Frost’, is thoroughly tried and tested, and well worth considering if you are looking to buy this season.

Pruning of the pip fruits should be finished or nearly finished and if you have any apples or pears still to do then best to get them done soonest. It is too early to prune any stone fruits such as plums yet,so it will be best to wait another few weeks for these.

Feeding fruit. Top dressing fruit trees now with a mulch and some slow release fertiliser will allow the rain to take this into the soil over the next few weeks. This will boost the trees just when they need it after a long cold winter.

Planting bare root fruit trees and soft fruit such as currants or Raspberries is ideal now as the soil will soon start to warm up, giving the plants an excellent start to the year.We suggest incorporating a mycorrhizal fungi such as ‘Tree Boost’, too, which will set them up well. Check any recently planted trees and their ties to ensure they are still firmly in the ground if you have had any strong winds recently.But take special care if the soil is still waterlogged.

Remember, our advice is free – if you need help just call – mail or tweet !

Peaches trained for a wall.

Flatwards ! – Peach and Nectarines for walls are very easy to train ,  just think logically and use the tree’s natural tendency to branch.

Use those shoots that are in the right place and remove those that are not.

Only prune in May or at the time of harvest.

Do not try to bend or force growth by pruning, this will create more wounds to let in disease.

This method is called ‘extension pruning’ it does not involve heavy cutting back, which is disastrous for stone fruit as it is  a sure way to let in bacterial canker.

I leave these sketches to do the explaining -All we do with a maiden tree is to prune out the centre in May; training the two shoots below outwards, if you get stuck ,add a comment so I can edit to help you.

First Years training result

Fan Training at Year two

Peaches & May

May is the best month for pruning peach and nectarine trees. This post is for bush trees,( yes they are hardy enough in most parts of the UK), fan trained trees can also be pruned now, the principles are the same except the tree is flat ! I will post separately on Fan training.

Trees that were planted early in the Autumn will by now be growing strongly and it should be obvious where most pruning cuts need to be. There is one overriding rule to remember when pruning peach and nectarine trees in May – Fruit is ONLY borne on the second year wood, consequently you need to be able to replace this each year with fresh, strong shoots that will carry the following years fruit.

Shoot tips- are they growing strongly ? Those that are, leave well alone .

Weak, spindly shoots need to be taken off completely.

Those with ‘blind wood’ (a length of wood behind a shoot with buds which have not opened or grown) need pruning back to just above the second strong side shoot.

By doing this you will also have now taken out any wood that has die back on it, leaving you with healthy vigorous shoots that will be ready to carry next years crop.

The bush tree pruning is now nearly complete – simple really, one other consideration is the access for picking fruits in the centre of the bush at harvest, remember that the light and sun will need to ripen the fruits and the picker will need to get into the centre to collect the fruit so leave space for both by thinning out any overcrowding branches that cross into the centre of the tree.

Thinning the fruits is a two pronged affair, the first few will be taken off by pruning as above, also check for twins, these will need to be singled out or neither will ripen properly, then check that all the remaining fruits are at least 4″apart.

Second thinning is done after the fruit reach thumbnail size, there may by now have been a small , natural drop, but you need to go over the tree thinning to 8″ – or a hand span apart.

Trees that are not growing vigorously will need looking at to assess the reason, are you feeding? with what , and how often do you feed your tree ? Peaches are very heavy feeders and can look chlorotic and pale if left alone. Consider foliar feeding with Seasol seaweed or a liquid feed to the roots as a temporary measure, then get some slow release pellets onto the soil as soon as you can and water them in well.

Have I explained this in a way you can get to grips with ? Let me know so I can edit if needed.