In the garden this week, find out more about winter pruning as we will be pruning our greenhouse grape vine and mulberry tree this week.

The reason why we prune some plants in winter is because the sap of deciduous plants falls in autumn to early winter, as the plants lose their leaves and become dormant. Many deciduous trees and shrubs are best pruned while dormant because ‘bleeding’ is minimised at this time.

Bleeding is when sap leaks from a wound or pruning cut on a tree, shrub or woody climber. Certain plants are more prone to bleeding, so these are best pruned while dormant. Bleeding may be a gentle seeping of sap for some plants while in others it will produce a copious flow of sap.

In late winter to early spring, the sap starts to rise again, delivering water and sugar to the new leaf buds as they swell in readiness for spring. The sap of some trees and shrubs, such as mulberry, grape vines, birch and maple trees, begins to rise very early. These plants are particularly vulnerable to bleeding if pruned in mid- to late winter or early spring, as the rising sap spills out from the pruning cut.

A good example of how people have used trees that do produce a copious sap flow in spring is the tradition of tapping birch trees. For just four weeks at the end of winter, water, minerals and sugars are pushed up from the roots of the birch and the trunks can be tapped releasing the valuable liquid which is collected in containers attached to the trees’s trunks. The sap also known as birch water is a popular harvest across Finland and the Baltic States. The technique is similar to how maple syrup is collected in Canada – the sap is collected, then boiled to concentrate it into the syrup we know.

By pruning our mulberry tree and grape vine in early winter, we will avoid them losing sap, as they are both becoming dormant.

Grape vines need regular pruning and training to keep them under control and producing good fruit yields. We will prune our greenhouse grape vine, cutting back its many side branches to one strong bud.

We will also give the vine a health check by looking to see if there are any brown scale insects on the vine branches. Vines grown in greenhouses can be prone to this pest and our vine has suffered from brown scale in the past. Hopefully there will be none, but if there is we will need to treat it in the spring with a natural pesticide called Neem oil. (Neem oil is made by pressing the seeds from the fruit of the neem tree. It has been used for centuries as an all-natural pesticide, and can help control fungal diseases as well.)

In other BPCG news, this weekend of 18th and 19th December, we are again doing tastings of fruit gins so do drop in and try a sample along with some of our jams, chutneys and pestos!  Come between 10.30 and 3.30 Saturday or Sunday and get stocking fillers and Christmas goodies!

You can also buy a ready made wreath or pick up a wreath kit to make at home together with Christmas foliage and seedheads to make and decorate at home. We have lots of gorgeous ever-greenery and natural decorative stuff which you can pick yourself from our ‘natural buffets’ all along either side of the Upper Greenhouse.

If you’d like to make your own wreath at BPCG at one of our workshops this Saturday 18th or Sunday 19th, go here https://www.brockwellgreenhouses.org.uk/events/list/?tribe_paged=1&tribe_event_display=list&tribe-bar-date=2021-12-09&tribe-bar-search=wreath  People had a great time at the last ones, and you can see some of the photos of what they have made here https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1b5q__h1Sa5q2dU476wipV2vom_F7YoH-?usp=sharing  As you can see, participants are wearing masks and the greenhouse is kept well ventilated.

A reminder of our Christmas and New year opening/closing times…We will be closed for volunteering and visiting from Friday 24th December to Sunday 2nd January.  We will be open again as usual for volunteering and visiting on Thursday 6th January.

And…please keep this date in your diary for our New Year party on Sunday 30th January.  At the Greenhouses, pot luck Sunday lunch 1pm onward….Bring a dish or a bottle!

In other news, Gaia Therapy Collective are looking for an Eco Therapy Facilitator for the Common Earth group. The group has been borne out of a collaboration between the Gaia Therapy Collective, a newly formed collective of politically engaged eco-therapists located at Hackney City Farm, and the farm itself. It has been running for the past year, and is for people of colour who are feeling lonely or isolated to develop healthy relationships with themselves, each other and wider natural world. Gaia are looking for a person of colour to be a co-facilitator and are interested in hearing from both psychotherapists with experience in eco-therapy, and also ecological practitioners more broadly; gardeners, herbalists and ecological artists.  Details: Contract: 7.5hrs/week for 12 months; Salary: £35,000.00 pro rata; Working Hours: Monday daytimes, starting in February 2022.  Full job description here https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ufcpE_qmCHLtLzhTJzQUsypspowGeTo9/view?usp=sharing. To apply please send your CV and cover letter to jobs@HackneyCityFarm.co.uk and complete a Diversity and Inclusion Monitoring Form by 6pm on 3rd January 2022. If you would prefer to submit your application in an alternative format, please email jobs@HackneyCityFarm.co.uk and also email this address to arrange a time to chat about the role.

Last but not least,  Audrey Albert who lives on Helix Road, SW2, has a 3 metres high, 3 year oldStella Cherry Tree that she’d like to have a good home.  It’s a fruiting cherry and it’s too big for her space.  If you are interested in rehoming this 3 year old tree, please contact audreyalbert@hotmail.co.uk