Essential Pruning

Today we pruned all the fruit bushes.

They included blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries and blackberries.

The only tree I won’t prune until the early summer is the damson which could succumb to silver leaf disease if tackled earlier in the season.

The main reasons for pruning are to keep your plants healthy and free from pests and to produce good sized, tasty fruit.

Sarah had already pruned the apple and pear trees.

So Alex and I cut back the congested centres of the fruit bushes leaving them goblet shaped and airy.

One of five blackcurrants we pruned

We did the goosegobs first. The main leaders of each branch were reduced by a quarter to an outward or upward facing bud – we then cut back the laterals or side shoots on each branch to the second or third bud, again looking for an outward or upward facing one.

The blackcurrants were also opened up and lot of weak and criss crossing stems were removed at the base in the centre with very sharp secateurs or long handled loppers – with black currants you take out the darker older stems to leave the younger paler ones that will go on to give you this year’s harvest of pure vitamin C!

I made a complete mess of the redcurrants last year and had a very poor harvest…like gooseberries they fruit on older wood – the opposite of blackcurrants! So today I cut back lots of young sappy growth in the middle of the bush to leave some darker stronger stems that are two or more years old and which will hopefully be more productive this year!!

We also cut all the autumn fruiting raspberries to the ground. But their summer fruiting cousins were treated differently; we took out the old paler canes at the base leaving the new ones to grow on. They’ll soon be tied in to the wires that run the length of the bed to support them. A couple of them are broken and need replacing – another job for next week!

The old frame had become fragile and rickety

Finally we removed the old frame that’s served as a support for the thornless blackberry in the middle of the orchard and replaced it with a new one made from a mixture of hazel poles, wooden stakes and bamboo canes.

We cut back the old blackberry shoots that fruited last year and have tied in the two new healthy ones to our revamped structure.

The new frame which needs a few more lateral supports tied or woven in

We’ve also removed quite a few suckers that tend to revert to the wild blackberry – they were covered with spiny thorns that would make it hard to harvest the luscious black fruit at the height of summer.

All in all a very satisfying day’s work that will hopefully yield some good fruit.

To top it all in off we had leek and potato soup for supper.

The leeks – a variety called Bleu de Solaise – are stunning and remain unaffected by frost or rust.