Plenty of prun­ing tasks await­ing

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - ROBERT GUY­TON

PRUNE YOUR CURRANTS & TAKE CUT­TINGS

Now’s the time for prun­ing red­cur­rants. Treat them as you would an ap­ple tree and re­duce the length of the new growth by about half. Make your prun­ing cut just above an out­ward-fac­ing bud to en­cour­age the bush to grow in an open man­ner, rather than de­velop a tan­gled form. Take your prun­ings and push them cut-end-first, into some good soil in your garden.

In the spring, you’ll be able to dig them up, newly-formed roots and all, and start some new bushes else­where. Black­cur­rants can be pruned now too, al­though they re­quire a slightly dif­fer­ent ap­proach. Prune your black­cur­rant bushes for greater light and space, by tak­ing out older, tired wood and en­cour­age new growth to de­velop. Any healthy tips can be pushed into the soil in the same way as your red­cur­rant tips were, and new black­cur­rant bushes will re­sult, if you are pa­tient.

PLANT TREES TO FEED BIRDS IN WIN­TER

I’m not a big fan of com­mer­cial feed­ing sta­tions. I pre­fer to grow win­ter bird food in-situ, that is, have live trees and shrubs pro­vide win­ter nour­ish­ment for birds nat­u­rally and with­out the need for equip­ment. Ap­ples are a great source of en­ergy for many birds over the cold months and all that is re­quired to pro­vide those sweet fruits for the bell­birds, black­birds, wax­eyes and thrushes,

is to grow va­ri­eties that are latepro­duc­ers, such as the pear­main fam­ily and any of the crabap­ples. Just leave the fruit on the tree, un­picked. The birds will grad­u­ally take what they need un­til there is noth­ing left. There are sev­eral na­tive trees that pro­duce seed right now that is pop­u­lar with birds such as tui and bell­birds. The panax and pseu­dopanax fam­i­lies have their tiny flat fruits avail­able for brows­ing at this time of the year and are much loved by our na­tive birds.

By plant­ing these trees with cold win­ters and hun­gry birds in mind, you can pro­vide nour­ish­ment for them with­out hav­ing to re­mem­ber

to do any­thing at all but sit and en­joy the show.

SPREAD WOOD ASH AROUND YOUR GARDEN

If you missed cel­e­brat­ing mid­win­ter’s short­est day and long­est night with a tra­di­tional bon­fire, it’s not too late to have a lit­tle blaze to cel­e­brate the turn­ing of the sea­sonal tide. The days are be­com­ing longer, grad­u­ally, and the nights shorter.

If you did en­joy a fire on the night of June 21 and the ashes from that wood are still where they were formed, scoop them up and spread them around your garden. Wood ash doesn’t keep its nu­tri­ent value very long, as the best bits are wa­ter sol­u­ble and soon wash away if left sit­ting. The ashes from your in­door wood fire, too, are valu­able as plant food, pro­vid­ing you are burn­ing only clean, nat­u­ral wood. Coal’s a no-no, as is kitchen rub­bish that should have gone into the re­cy­cling bin, not the fire­place.

PLAN WIN­TER PRUN­ING

Have a good look around your or­chard now and plan for next month’s prun­ing. This year, the leaves have fallen early which is very dif­fer­ent from last year when they seemed not to be want­ing to let go at all. With branches bare, crossed branches, bro­ken limbs and other sources of mis­shape can be seen eas­ily. Those need to be reme­died, but not just yet. Hold off us­ing the prun­ing saw and se­ca­teurs for a few weeks more but while you wait, fa­mil­iarise your­self with what needs to be done. Check your tools for sharp­ness, and make sure you have fresh prun­ing paste at hand.

This col­umn is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get grow­ing, from New Zealand Gar­dener mag­a­zine. For gar­den­ing ad­vice de­liv­ered to your in­box ev­ery Fri­day, sign up for Get Grow­ing at: get­grow­ing.co.nz

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