This is a great week to get stuck into a bit of pruning. Make sure that you use sharp tools and leave neat cuts. If you don't have a good pruning saw or secateurs then this would be a good time to drop the odd hint to those close to you! It may be too late to write to Santa but hey, you know how it works...
The pruning will wait a few weeks as will the planting but you'll need to get going if you want to force rhubarb.
- Prune old wood out of shrubs to rejuvenate them. Wisteria and vine pruning can be completed now.
- Tie spreading branches of conifers in as any snow we get will only make matters worse. Old trees prone to this are better replaced with new improved varieties. Sadly, many conifers do not go on forever!
- Try forcing cut stems of winter flowering shrubs indoors. Good subjects include Winter Sweet, Witch Hazels, Lonicera fragrantissima and Winter Beauty, Viburnum fragrans & x bodnantense Dawn, Forsythia and even Lilac. The warmth of a room will soon have them blooming!
- Prune Raspberries, Blackberries, Loganberries and other hybrid fruits - that's if you haven’t already done so. Cut out all old stems that had fruit on them this year. Cut out any weak spindly shoots and tie in the strong new shoots that are left. Give them a good feed with sulphate of potash.
- Blackcurrants, if they were not pruned in the summer, can be done now. Cut old wood to ground level. Aim to remove up to one third of the wood from each bush. Keep a lookout for any swollen buds which are infected with big bud mite and remove them as they can spread the disease ‘Reversion Virus’.
- Prune apples and pears to improve their shape, encourage younger growth, remove disease and to control the amount of fruit bud they have. Don’t prune fan, espalier and cordon trained trees as these should have been summer pruned.
- Grape vines should be pruned before Christmas. If pruned later the sap will often be running and they will ‘bleed’ which can weaken them. Other plants where this can happen are Magnolia, Japanese maples, birch, walnuts, hornbeams, mulberries and laburnums.
- Why not try forcing rhubarb crowns now? Pack them with straw or 'strawy' manure and cover with a forcing pot or upturned dustbin to exclude light. It won't be long before you'll have a harvest!
- You can still plant fruit trees and bushes right through until spring but only if the weather and ground conditions are okay - i.e. not frozen or waterlogged. If not, it's best to wait until soil conditions improve.
- Get on with digging the veg patch whenever the weather allows you to. Pace yourself if not used to it! Dig in Vitax Clay Breaker to improve the structure of heavy soils. Dig in well rotted organic matter to all areas except where you plan to sow root crops. This is a great activity to 'work off' any festive excess eating!