Les’s Patch: Now is the time to prune gooseberries

Les Foden
Les Foden

When pruning gooseberries and red and white currants cut back the new growths produced by the main branches (leaders) this year by half, Reduce the side shoots growing from the leaders down to a couple of inches.

If there is any damaged or diseased wood cut this out and also cut out any branches which are crowding the centre of the bush. This pruning should be carried out from November to March.

Then in June cut back all side shoots produced this year down to four or five leaves from their base.

When choosing a new bush select one that is two or three years old. If I had to choose one variety it would be Leveller which grows large, sweet fruits.

After the June pruning give a spray with a systemic fungicide to guard against American mildew, which would otherwise result in a mouldy crop.

Protect any buds through the winter from attack by finches.

Give the plants a feed of Growmore in March and apply a mulch of rotted manure.

Red Lake is the variety of red currant to go for and the white currant variety is White Versailles.

The blueberry is becoming very popular and the pruning is very simple.

In winter cut out a few of the old fruited branches and also any which are damaged or dead.

Grapes are a very welcome fruit to have growing in the greenhouse. These are grown on the cordon system. Use strong canes with wires going from one to the other.

Train the leader up the cane by tying it loosely with wire and as the laterals grow train these along the wire, one to the left and one to the right, and so on.

In November/December shorten the new growth of the leader by half and cut back the laterals to about an inch from the leader. This will form the fruiting spurs.

During the summer cut back laterals to five leaves. When the flowers appear in spring cut back the fruit laterals to two leaves beyond the truss.

The variety Black Hamburg is by far the best and easiest to grow.

Before long the summer beds will have to be cleared.

Geraniums, fuchsias and other non-hardy plants should be lifted and moved inside if they are required for next year.

Once into October there is always a chance of a night frost which would finish these plants off.

Frost free space is always a problem so only keep the best colours and the healthiest plants. Try to keep too many and you could lose them all.

Geraniums (pelargonium) should be lifted and the tops cut back to about eight inches (20.5cm). Remove all the larger leaves which are most likely to rot and cause problems later.

Place the plants in the light, in a temperature of 45F (8C) and keep on the dry side. They are more likely to perish if over watered.

As you pull up pea or broad bean plants give each a shake to loosen any caterpillars which should then be destroyed to avoid problems next year.

Most hanging plants from baskets and tubs can be potted up and the tops cut back and treated as geraniums. At the end of February give the plants a little warmth and a little more water and they will soon be into growth. You can then take cuttings or just grow them on ready for the baskets.

After trimming shrubs or cutting hedges give a feed of Growmore by just sprinkling the granules around the base of the plants.

If growing mint for the first time don’t make the mistake of growing it in the open garden or allotment because it will run amok.

The best way to restrict the roots of mint is to plant it in a plastic bucket with holes in the bottom and then sink the bucket into the soil. A good variety of mint to grow is the soft, hairy leaved apple mint Mentha Suaveolens.

Another plant with this problem is horseradish. Whilst it is one of the easiest plants to grow it is also vigorous and invasive and once allowed to spread it is almost impossible to get rid of.

To have lettuce all the year round you need to sow small quantities every three weeks, but you must keep them watered or they will bolt (run to seed). For very early crops hardy varieties such as Valdor can be sown in early autumn, while All the Year Round, sown in late summer and kept frost free, will mature at the beginning of winter.