Gardening, Gardening Year, Grow Your Own, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell

The buddleia is growing over my chair and - even though I like it - orange pollen messes my shirt!
The buddleia is growing over my chair and – even though I like it – orange pollen messes my shirt!

People get themselves into a bit of a muck-mess when it comes to pruning trees – and any fruit for that matter! But in fact it’s quite simple and once you have the basic idea about what you are doing, it becomes second nature.

Always try to assess the tree, look for branches that make up the main skeleton of the tree, and leave these alone. However, pruning isn’t the same as lopping, and if your tree is too large, then the best advice you can get is to employ a tree surgeon to do the job.

The cost of a branch crashing through your greenhouse, or worse, is rather more than the cost of a day’s work. Never attempt to lop a large tree, wood is really heavy, and you simply will not have the correct equipment for the job.

That said, it is also hard work, and a few days (or longer) flat on your back on painkillers just isn’t worth it.

Winter density lettuces - one of those lettuces that, when you bite into it, let's you know you are eating a salad, it's so thick.
Winter density lettuces – one of those lettuces that, when you bite into it, let’s you know you are eating a salad, it’s so thick.

If you care cutting a branch that is more than an inch thick, use a saw. Always start underneath cutting upwards upwards. This stops the wood peeling off when the branch falls, which will be a site of infection. Usually branches are quite heavy, and when you get to the last few cuts it is prone to break uncleanly, or at best, peel back the bark on the stump. Cut as close to the main branch as possible.

You can finish off these larger cuts with wound paint, which acts as a plaster, keeping infections out.

All pruning should take place in the dormant season, when there are no leaves on the tree, and before the Spring, when the sap in the tree is rising and any cutting will cause the tree to ‘bleed’.

The garlic we grew - not so much, is drying, and we should be planting fresh soon.
The garlic we grew – not so much, is drying, and we should be planting fresh soon.

First of all you are protecting the plant from itself. When branches cross over and touch, they rub and bang in the wind, and this causes damage. Since fruit tree wood is particularly susceptible, we need to cut out the possibility of this happening, otherwise you’ll get fungal infections where the damage occurs.

Cut out any branches that overlap or touch in such a way to make sure the plant that remains looks like a goblet, or wine glass. This is the best shape for allowing the wind through the branches, cutting down humidity, and therefore lessening the chance of disease.

The second thing to do is to cut out any small branches that are facing inwards, ones that will, in later months and years, crown the inside of the tree and disrupt the constant flow of air through it. Or will touch other branches were they allowed to grow.

Take cuttings in September. Nothing makes you feel like a proper gardener, and you get free plants.
Take cuttings in September. Nothing makes you feel more like a proper gardener, and you get free plants.

This is the major part of pruning a tree. If you wish, you can now take off some of the height of the tree too, should you feel it necessary, but remember, taking out the terminal buds will cause more branching, which will probably need to be prunes out at a later date.

On fruit trees it is a good idea to reduce the number of fruiting buds, on each branch, so the plant isn’t overwhelmed next Spring. You can tell the fruiting spurs, they form a little mass altogether. Just cut out a few per branch, and this encourages better fruit next year.

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.

Cat, Grow Your Own

A successful apple harvest!Thanks to the delightful weather earlier in the year this year’s harvest looks to be phenomenal for the apples, berries, elderflowers and more.

Last week the Royal Horticultural society in Wisley said the icy spring and the hot summer had made for a “near perfect” apple harvest, with the weather conditions mimicking that of central Asia where they were first developed.

– The Guardian

Our managing director has several apple trees in his garden and yesterday started picking the first. Some even made it through to the office!

How are your apple trees looking?

wedding-meCat works in the marketing team and is responsible for online marketing, social media and the newsletter.

She spends most of her time reading about a variety of interesting facts, such as oddly named Canadian towns, obscure holidays and unusual gardening.

She mostly writes about Primrose news and current events.

See all of Cat’s posts.

Allotment, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell

primrose spades I am often being asked about what garden tools a gardener should have in the locker as a bare minimum.

It’s a difficult question to answer because there are so many tools out there and frankly some of them I really don’t understand the use for, and I have been gardening for a long time!

Take garden forks, as a starting point! There are digging forks, potato forks, hey forks and manure forks, and from a distance it is pretty difficult to see any difference between them.

So what would I never do without?

Spade – Obviously, a good spade is a must. Remember that a spade is not a carrying tool, but a cutting tool. It is there to slice through the soil, and turn over the earth, like a one man powered plough.

Fork – A good fork is a must, and I would buy a general purpose one, with a good strong shaft for serious digging work. Use the fork to loosen up the earth, to incorporate manure and compost and start the job of making a fine tilth of your beds.

Hoe – This leads me onto a hoe. This is a tool with so many uses, a cutting tool and a weeding tool. Remember it has two cutting edges, not one. One for the push stroke and another on the pull stroke. It is used with a series of two and fro movements, either working the soil or cutting through weeds.

Rake – There are two more long handled tools I wouldn’t be without, both of them rakes. First is a garden rake, which I use almost exclusively for making a fine bed. They are great for getting the little stones out of the soil – particularly important when it comes to growing carrots. I also wouldn’t be without my grass rake, which I need to gather up clippings of all kinds on the lawn. The garden rake is too harsh for this and the long tines of the grass rake are just the job when it comes to not damaging the grass.

Trowel – A good trowel is a must, for planting bulbs and general pottering in the borders, adding plants, pulling them up and keeping everything tidy.

Now, of course, there are lots of other tools you could buy, but this list is my absolute minimum. But there is one more point we need to make.

Take care of your tools!

When you have finished using your tools – no matter how much you pay for them, always give them a wipe down.

Once a month, give the blade a good wipe over with an oily rag, and once a year sharpen the cutting tools. This way you will get a lifetime’s service, and your tools will become old friends.

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.

Flowers, Grow Your Own, Paul Peacock - Mr Digwell

2013-03-05 20.06.02Wonderful! Spring has come along in a rush and the garden looks a mess, but that can’t be helped at the moment. I normally like to have a Spring Clean in the garden, so that when the day arrives, full sun, blue skies, I can simply sit and enjoy a day of bliss.

Well recently that day came, and the sunshine brought with it all the blooms. For a start the primroses that the lovely people at Primrose sent me have blossomed in the warmth and are such a delight!

This lobelia caught me by surprise, hiding as it was behind the Primrose tree chair, and dragged into the sunlight. It is remarkable how a little sun can spark mass flowering – with a plant like this, once one flower appears, the hormones bring out so many more, and in quick succession. You can bring them on by keeping them slightly underwatered, and warm, causing a little stress, promoting flowering. Once they are in flower, water normally.

2013-03-05 20.06.44

It really is wonderful when plants simply appear in the garden. I take a great store by feeding the birds, and they pay me back by pooing on my garden furniture, being pretty and interesting to watch. For example, if you could get a flower that not only looked as gorgeous as a woodpecker, and did what a woodpecker does, flying all over the gardsen, everyone would want one.

However, they also pay me back by dropping seeds they have eaten and just sometimes they pay dividends. This wonderful pulmonaria simply appeared in the shade garden a few weeks ago, at a time when my health wasn’t brilliant and all I could do was look out of the window. It was a great joy to see the purple / blue flowers grow on a central stalk – a gift of gratitude from a blackbird or something, and a great joy.

2013-03-05 20.08.06

Pulmonaria is also known as lungwort, and has been used for centuries in cough mixtures, and was once used as an unsuccessful treatment for tuberculosis. But now I think it is best as a really beautiful garden plant.

When we think about buying plants we often want to know what it looks like when mature, how big, what colour, what shape. But in the Spring you can get to see plants in a very different state, and for me just as beautiful and important in the garden.

Take this hosta, how out of this world are these buds? This is a very mature plant that looks divine when out in all it’s fullness, but at the same time these buds are so architectural and interesting.

But there is another element to this hosta at this time, it shows promise – when you look at it, you start to wonder what next? That’s one of the wonders of growing plants – will the slugs win? Will they be as beautiful as they were last year?

2013-03-05 20.09.08

In order to give these hostas the best possible kick start I will be treating them with a couple of handfuls of blood fish and bone as a slow release fertilizer, and later in the summer a foliar feed in the watering can.

Talking architectural, you cannot beat a good fern. Right from the unfurling of the frond, you get interest – of course, they don’t have flowers, and they are a little drab in colour – but the shapes are amazing.

2013-03-05 20.10.30

Ferns were very popular with Victorian gardeners because when we lit our homes with coal gas, many of our favourite plants died. The reason was the ethylene in the gas, which just happens to be a plant hormone, the one controlling ripening, aging and death. Consequently, many of our gardens were given over to ferns and our house plants to aspidistras and stepmother’s tongues.

When I am working in the garden, Spring always catches me unawares in as much I know it is time for the sap rising when the blackcurrants start to smell. When the wind is blowing right, the aroma of blackcurrant is unmistakable as the buds burst open and they start to leaf up.

2013-03-05 20.09.45
These are ancient blackcurrants that didn’t bear any fruit last year, so they were thinned out in the winter and well fed, so hopefully they will be a little more productive this time around. However, I’m not all that hopefull, and so I am planning some completely new replacements next year.

But for now, as often happens, a good pruning will have to do the trick.

forget
Keeping the rustic alive is an important part of my garden plan. I just love, as you might have gathered, the wild look and where plants seed themselves. Forget-me-nots are just perfect for this, though they can look a little unruly and need to be trimmed to keep them in line. But in as much as they are called forget-me-not, they pop up and raise a smile wherever they are found.

Mr Digwell gardening cartoon logo

Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.

He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.

See all of Mr Digwell’s posts.

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