Orchards Ready For Winter

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That wonderful smell in the air just might be gooseberries burning. Not the pies– hopefully a kitchen timer and a watchful child will let you know when those are ready to come out of the oven– but the branches and brambles of this season’s gooseberries are being burnt in anticipation of the winter.

I always burn the leftover cuttings from my cherries and gooseberries so that they don’t spread any infection around the garden. You should do so with apricot trees as well. It’s also good maintenance to rake away the leaves from amongst the trunks. This prevents leaf-borne diseases from recurring. It also reduces habitat for mice, which like to be destructive to fruit trees. You can cut the grass around the base of the tree as well if you’re up to it. My great-niece and nephew are big enough now to rake up the leaves, though not big enough for the mower, and over the next two weekends they will earn their Christmas money!

If your trees are young, they will need a tree guard placed around the trunks to prevent those hungry mice, voles and rabbits from nibbling the bark off your tree during winter, when natural vegetation pickings are slim. Homemade guards are effective and are dirt cheap. Cut the bottoms and tops off of 2-litre soda bottles to create cylinders (do take the nasty labels off, too). Place them over the tree, putting each one on the outside of the bottle below it to form a tube that is at least 25 centimetres high. Make two holes at the top and at the bottom. Run string through the holes and tie the tube to a wooden stake. Make sure your plastic is stuck into the ground just a bit – the more entrenched it is, the better. For the sake of aesthetics, wrap these up in a piece of burlap, and you’re set.

My friend Alastair is a huge proponent of painting this tree trunks — what do you think of this idea, dear reader? His garden, if that is what you would call such a large and wonderful estate, gets quite a bit of snow, as he is north of Hadrian’s Wall.  Each fall his trees, apple and pear and the lot, get a fresh coat of white latex paint (a watered down solution) up the trunks and onto where the lowest branches meet. This prevents sunscald. Alastair swears by it, and offers his wonderful Invincible pears as proof. Myself, I don’t bother, as snow is not a problem, much, for me, and I am not so in favour of the appearance.

Whether or not you choose to paint, get yourself prepared for the coming cold. I shall be out in the garden today, looking out for any tent caterpillars and pulling down their cobwebby little homes. If there are eggs laid upon, you should be able to see them, but my motto is, why bother looking? With my trusty broom in hand I shall sweep my trees clean and get my garden ready for the winter!

Love the life you live,

Arabella May Biddle

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