This week in the garden, we will be pruning our mature gooseberry bushes. Fruit bushes are pruned when they are dormant, between October and early March and the absolute best time to prune them is just before the plants come out of dormancy which allows them to heal quickly with the vigorous new growth of Spring.
The ideal shape of a pruned fruit bush is a goblet shape with an open centre. Evenly spaced branches should face away from the middle of the bush and not compete with each other for available sunlight. We want as much light as possible to reach and ripen the fruit.
With our gooseberries, we will cut out any branches that are four years or older because the best fruit, both in quantity and flavour, is produced on two and three year old wood. One year old branches don’t produce fruit at all, and as they age past three years their productivity will decline. Put simply, no part of your fruit bush should ever be over four years old, the complete structure is constantly being renewed by annual pruning.
Gooseberries and red or white currants are all pruned in this way. Blackcurrants are pruned in a similar way but NB blackcurrants fruit on both one and two year old wood.
At any yearly pruning session you should not remove more than a third of the total number of branches. Remove the entire branch right down to its base. Removing the complete branch will cause new branches to grow from the base of the bush. If you trim branches between buds or side shoots, this will result in vigorous growth of small branches that will thicken the bush and block out valuable sunlight – i.e. this is not good.
Look for any large branches that are crowding the centre of the bush and remove them completely. If the bush is an open shape already, select the oldest branches. You should be able to identify old branches as they are darker in colour and are likely to have peeling bark. Again cut right back to the point of origin.
Remove any dead, damaged or diseased wood – the DDDs. Dead wood is easy to spot as it will be brittle and will have no buds. Damaged wood tends to happen where two branches are rubbing, you may see rough bark or areas where bark has rubbed away altogether. Diseased wood will have rough, raised areas of broken bark.
Lastly, if we need to, we can adjust the size of fruit the bush produces. So, if your bushes are yielding lots of small berries and you want bigger fruit you can cut back the side shoots to two buds from the start of last year’s growth. Remember, if you are pruning black currants avoid this step as fruit is also produced on one year old wood so we don’t want to remove any of it.
Our boysenberries also need to be tied up against the fence. This is because they have weak stems that need help to support themselves. Therefore in order to get the best crop we carefully tie the stems up enabling the flowers to get maximum sunlight which later in the year will help to ripen the berries.
The are various beds that need mulching with our compost. This includes the dye plant stock bed and the raspberry bed, both of which need to be weeded well before mulching.
In the greenhouse we will be potting up our chilli plants and our dwarf sunflowers.
There is also quite a lot of seed sowing to do, a sure sign that the spring is not far away! We will be sowing the next batch of bush tomatoes, with colourful names such as ‘Baby boomer’ and ‘Golden Grape.’
Other seeds we will be sowing include nasturtiums ‘Empress of India’, Cosmos ‘Sanata Red Shades’ and Amaranthus ‘Velvet Curtains’. You might know Amaranthus by its other name, Callaloo.
We will be levelling the ground next to the kids’ natural kitchen to create a new seating area for parents and carers.
In other BPCG news, would you like to learn to drive our Electric three wheeler vehicle ‘Brock’ to do food deliveries and to go to markets and schools? If you are interested in learning, you will need a driving licence of more than 2 years. Ideally you will have experience of driving a motor-bike. If you haven’t driven a motor-bike, don’t worry, you can still learn but you must be a confident, competent and experienced driver. If you have not yet been inducted as a BPCG volunteer, you will also need to have an induction before receiving your Brock driving lessons. Reply to this email if you are interested.
Don’t miss a livestream concert by the wonderful iyatraQuartet on St Patricks Day 17th March 8pm performing original new material live from Yogapoint in Brixton. Book tickets here https://www.iyatraquartet.com/ Iyatra’s drummer is BPCG volunteer Will Roberts.
Watch this entertaining little film about Brockwell Park by Peter from Tanuki Twist which also features BPCG and Josh towards the end of it https://youtu.be/DTIjYjIlSdY
In other news, Brixton and West Norwood Food bank have an initial 1 year, grant-funded vacancy funded by The Walcot Foundation for a Signposting Support Officer. For job description, person specification and application form, go to https://norwoodbrixton.foodbank.org.uk/2021/03/04/job-vacancy/ To apply, send an application form along with your CV and covering email to email@example.com by 5pm on Wednesday 24th March.
Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) are running a very interesting sounding free webinar on Zoom, on Wednesday 31st March at 7.30pm on Horticulture for a Sustainable Future with speakers from CAT, the National Botanic Garden of Wales and Aberystwyth University. Spaces are limited. To find out more and to book go to this link www.cat.org.uk/events/free-webinar-horticulture-for-a-sustainable-future