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Time For Maintenance Jobs.

Winter seems to have come a bit early this year, as we werenít even into December when we started getting several frosts with daytime temperature well below average for the time of year. Having said that some of my fruit trees are still clinging to their leaves including the little Hazel trees that Iíve got growing on. The Buddleias and big Hazel at home have already been cut down with the branches chipped and used as mulch to suppress the weed seeds and stop them from germinating. My big Hazel had not been cut down for some years and was developing a proper treelike stature. You should cut out the 3 year old stems every year, so that you always have some mature 2-year-old wood and some one-year-old stems growing on to replace them later, as Hazels bear nuts only on mature wood. Because, the tree hadnít been looked after properly I had to cut a lot more than I should have, especially off the tops of the branches. As I shredded the branches I could see that the Catkins were already opening on them and these are the male flowers needed to pollinate the female bearing nut flowers. So, losing these will mean that I will loose any nuts for this next year coming. As regards the Buddleias Mom always said that they should be cut down in early Spring to make sure new Buds survive any late frosts, but most people agree that the bulk of the big branches should be cut down before the Winter storms to prevent them from rocking the bushes and loosening the roots.

Itís a sign that the seasons have changed because the tops went on my Jerusalem Artichokes a few weeks ago as we started getting the odd frost. They have gone completely now though, as I cut them down to the ground and chopped them up to add to my Compost Heap! As usual I had to resort to Loppers to get through some of the thicker stems that really did look like a cross between bamboo stems and trees, as they seem to be segmented. Because of their woody nature they do help make lovely, fibrous compost though. The actual roots, or at least the tubers that you harvest, will be dug up throughout the coming Winter and will happily stay in the ground until they start to shoot again next Spring.

Finally, I have decided to remove the big old Goji Berry on my original plot, as I have come to the conclusion that it is just not worth keeping. Every year it has plenty of berries, but the birds love them being red and I donít really believe in netting any fruit as I have seen so many birds trapped. Wondering what to plant there that would need the supporting framework, but not develop into a nuisance, I decided to put my Cinnamon Vines in its place. The vines do seem to take many years to mature outside in the UK and die down like an Herbaceous plant every Winter. This makes them ideal as they will never outgrow the space.
As of the beginning of December, I am still picking a few Cape Gooseberries, even on cold frosty mornings, but the plants are now long dead and going brown with the berries still ripening while being wrapped up in their protective, papery, sheaths.
With the last few Medlars falling from the highest branches, the fruit harvest is at an end, apart from the Strawberry Tree that is just coming into its own. So, I am starting some regular winter maintenance jobs that include putting some more fresh Bark Chips around all the Fruit on my different Beds that havenít recently been done already. Whilst on the subject of fruit, I have started removing and cutting back my Autumn Raspberries to tidy them up a bit after their mad growing season. These will also be chopped up and put back round as a mulch

Another maintenance job that often gets done when the ground is too wet to get on it, or there is simply nothing much else to do, is dig out the Compost bin and turn the full one into the empty. After last Winters successful raising of the soil level in the Sea Kale beds, I decided to do it again and raise the soil level even more this year. I had been unsure about covering their Crowns last time, but they were OK, so I did it confidently this time and then topped the beds off with some Wood chip.
There is not much going on this month, so clearing up and maintenance jobs are pretty much all there is to do, until the end of the month when onion seeds can go in under cover.

 

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