Finally there’s some consistent sunshine for more than twenty-four hours and you can feel your garden waking up. More to the point, it’s now possible to get a spade into the soil and in two shakes fruit trees will burst into bloom. Before they do, to encourage bags of juicy fruit and nutrition packed vegetables make sure you prune your apples and pears and give your soil an extra boost.
Take a look at your trees and check for dead stems and those that are diseased and cut these away. Also remove any crossing or congested branches to allow for breathing and growing space and to let the sun and rain and pollinating insects in. Looking at spur bearing apples or pears, look for last year’s long shoots and cut back to a couple or three buds from the base. This will encourage fruiting as well as the production of more spurs. If you have tip-bearing apples, just cut out the longest leading shoots and leave the rest.
While your blueberry bushes ( and similar) are still dormant, prune out dead stems and a good twenty-five percent of the older ones at their base. Taking out the stems close to the soil keeps fruit from getting muddy and provides some protection from pests and damage.
Apply slow release, high potash organic fertilisers around the bases of your bushes, trees and canes for top preparation from the off.
At the soil level, all that deep digging and adding bulky organic matter will have broken up the soil and provided air and drainage channels. Removing stones, lumps and roots of perennial weeds (ie bindweed, mare’s tail and ground elder) will ensure your plants get maximum benefit and save you hoeing! Adding bulky organic matter as worm food makes for additional humus in the ground for better moisture retention and vitallly, extra nutrients to promote healthy root growth and bumper crops. If your soil fertility has declined, ensure you give it a boost with some organic fertilisers such as blood/fish/ bone or pelted chicken manure. The sunshine will be warming the soil and all that worm-work providing a wonderful, potent, nutrition-packed base.
To further improve the soil in any vacant areas a bit down the line, now would be a good time to sew seed of green manure crops. Try Italian rye, winter tares, fenugreek or that old favourite, mustard, and dig in later on when spring is further advanced.
Next time we’ll look at planting out some of your basic 5 a day veggie and salad crops. Now would be a good time to plan what you want to grow and propagate from runners or cuttings, order in seeds, seedlings and sets.
IF you’re planning to grow any crops or flowers in pots, now’s the time to wash out and clean your containers thoroughly.