As growing slows, there's still plenty for the gardener to do
THE swiftly chilly turn in the weather is a sign that it's time to be starting on a new set of tasks in the garden, and a reminder to finish up the autumnal list of clearance, harvest and store.
Even though this year gave few opportunities for surplus, we do have some apples to wrap and store, and a pumpkin or two to harvest still, before the frost arrives.
It's no coincidence that pumpkins appear at the end of October; leave them any longer and a frost might spoil the lot.
Once the temperatures drop, growth will stop and plants will be slowing the pace from the energetic work of spring and summer, into winter sleep. I often wonder whether humans could learn a bit from this behaviour.
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This time of dormancy gives the gardener an opportunity to get some work done, on the fruit side of things. It's time to plan for some new fruit trees, bushes or canes, and where to put them. Then you can dig the ground ready, and get some compost or well rotted manure into it, well before planting. It's also time to be taking cuttings from established fruit bushes, to make new stock. You can do this with black, red and white currants, and gooseberries too.
The business of making cuttings is actually very straightforward, and it's a great way to build up the number of fruit bushes you have, without having to spend any money.
You can use the same method for all of the fruit mentioned above. First, cut off some lengths of stem, about 12 inches, or 30 cm; it helps me to think of the length of a school ruler. Next, trim a couple of inches from the top, to lose the softer growth, and trim the base to just below a bud, as that is the area which can send out roots.
Then, put it carefully into soil, several inches down, so that the new roots can spread, and so that the cutting will not easily be knocked out by wind, or passing cats. Several of these cuttings can fit into a pot, and it's wise to do a few at a time, because not every cutting will be a success. Those that root will spend the next year bulking up into small bushes, ready for planting out to fruit the following year.
Another job to be thinking about this week is greasebanding the fruit trees in the garden and on the allotment.
This simple measure prevents female winter moths from climbing up the tree in order to make a home in the leaves, and cause trouble next year when they lay eggs.
Moths start to look for a home by early November, so greasebanding now will keep you ahead.
You can make your own from practically anything which will remain sticky, buy ready greased bands, or special fruit tree grease, to paint onto the bark directly. A tub of ready made grease may seem expensive, but lasts for years.