I don’t know why but August seems like the middle of the year to me, maybe it’s the middle of the growing year as most gardens are only just getting going in March. Whatever it is I feel a gentle nudge in the ribs from the Christmas Elf saying it wont be long till Christmas, scary thought as the juice from a freshly picked tomato dribbles down my chin, now I know why I grow tomatoes, they may be cheap in the shops but not half as tasty as your own grown.
I’ve always had a sweet tooth and there is nothing nicer than a traditional hearty dinner, a seasonal dessert and a little snooze. The key is seasonal, the taste of freshly picked strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants is incredible and gave rise to one of my favourites, Summer Pudding, a mix of fresh fruit encased in juice soaked bread left in the fridge for a few hours and served with a good measure of fresh cream, yummy.
Although we are towards the end of the strawberry season our thoughts should turn to next year, saving a few runners will increase the crop and provide vigorous new plants that will fruit well next year. I only let two or three develop on each plant so as not to weaken it for next year. Take a small pot 9 or 10cm ( 3-4 inch) and fill it with good potting compost, take a short piece of wire or a paperclip and make a ‘u’ shaped peg. Place the peg over the runner and push into the compost, the aim is to secure the small plantlet and make sure its base is in contact with the compost. water the pot, keep it moist and in three weeks it will have rooted into the compost at which time you can cut the stem from the mother plant. Keep the plant watered throughout the rest of the growing season and plant out into a new bed or larger pot in autumn and it will fruit next year.
As the summer fruiting raspberries are finished it’s time to tidy them up, although the pruning out of old shoots is normally left until autumn it’s a good idea to gently tie in the new developing canes, they are young vigorous and a little soft which means they are sometimes damaged by the wind and get tangled up with the old canes. Find a space on the frame you tie them to and secure with a little tie. When you remove the old fruited canes in autumn you can then space them out and if very long bend them over and tie the tip further down the frame. I like to give soft fruit a feed after fruiting, organic chicken pellets are good and will build up plant strength, give them a good watering in dry weather and this will help the plant for next year.
Early cultivars of apples are almost ready to pick and along with the swelling fruit most will be producing young fresh growth. Shoots anything from 7.5 cms to 30 cms long can if left make a congested and untidy tree and can affect next year’s crop if left. Especially on trained fruit, which is grown on a cordon, espalier or the new ‘step-over’ style. August is the time when these growths have reached their peak and need cutting back, using secateurs cut the shoots back to 2.5cm ( 1”) from where growth started this year. The bark will be darker in colour on last years growth. Cut just above an outward pointing bud as cutting randomly will leave a short stump which could become infected. With new trees and young ones you are training into a shape, summer pruning is not really necessary as you will select the stems to tie in or shape the tree when the tree is dormant in winter. Pears are treated in a similar way but with vigorous fruit trees such as plums and cherries the pruning is slightly different. With stone fruit once the tree framework is established only light pruning is necessary and avoid pruning in autumn or winter. If you need to shape or remove larger branches, you should do this now (mid summer) to avoid the risk of a disease called silver leaf and bacterial canker.
For those particularly interested in developing an interest in fruit growing whether in a large or small garden consider getting in touch with the Northern Fruit Group, a small society with a huge amount of knowledge and enthusiasm. You can find them at
www.northernfruitgroup.com and drop them an email for further information.
Next month, Keep the taste of summer going with micro greens and turn your thoughts to next year’s spring bulb display.
Happy gardening, Martin.