Tending Trees and Shrubs in Mid Winter

Jobs to do

Preparing the ground for planting

Basic digging can be started or continued . If the addition of lime will be necessary, digging should be finished as soon as possible, to allow for several weeks between adding organic material and lime.


If the weather allows, you can plant any of the woody plants except the evergreens; once planted they must have protection from wind and some protection from frost would be advisable, though snow will act as a protective blanket. If plants have arrived just as the weather becomes unsuitable, heel them in for the time being.


By now the pruning of the tree fruits and climbing ornamentals should be finished or well on the way to it. Grape vines in particular should be finished as soon as possible.


Grape vines which were pruned in early winter should now be partially untied from their supports and allowed to hang downwards for about half their length. This is to make certain that when the buds begin to sprout, growth occurs evenly the whole length of the stem (rod), otherwise too many strong shoots are produced near its end and very few lower down. However, tie them in loosely to prevent wind damage.


It is even more important now than in early winter to make sure that plants are safeguarded against bud pecking by birds, that supports and ties are secure and strong and that the tender plants have sufficient coverings to enable them to shrug off frost and cold wind.

If real cold has set in, trouble with bark gnawing will start as the small mammals, such as rabbits, hares, mice, voles and rats, begin to run out of their normal food. Young plants recently put in are particularly vulnerable, with their narrow trunks or main stems, from which the bark is easily eaten or torn off in a complete circle. A mature plant will have some difficulty in recovering from this kind of onslaught, but a young one will more than likely be dead by the end of winter.

A cylinder of wire-netting of 1.2cm (3/4in) mesh put round the trunk and reaching up to the head, even of a standard, will stop most of the damage. Bush trees sometimes have their lowest branches attached by hares, which are quite capable of standing on their hind legs and leaning on the wire-netting while they gnaw, but this is less serious than attack on the main trunk.

Cylinders made of plastic, with ventilation holes in them, can be obtained and used instead of netting. They may be more effective in preventing damage by mice, but it is advisable to lift the cylinders occasionally and make sure the mice have not adopted them as a highly convenient nesting place, with food ready to hand.

There are harmless repellents for small mammals, applied in liquid or powder form, and if you live in an area where deer roam wild, these repellents can be used against them also. Deer can be a great problem to shrubs and trees and sometimes the only solution is a 1.8m (6ft) high barrier all round the orchard or entire garden.

Treating pests and diseases in mid winter

Once fruit trees become fully dormant, they can be sprayed with a winter wash of tar-oil, if thought necessary. However, it has been found that such a wash kills the over-wintering; forms of a good many beneficial insects which are predators of the pests and it also destroys the mosses and lichen on which red spider mite feeds in summer. Thus, with the removal of predators and its natural food, the mite attacks leaves and builds up very large populations in summer. This seriously weakens the trees but, unfortunately, chemical control is now very difficult as the mite is resistant to the sprays based on phosphorus, such as malathion and dimethoate.

Tar-oil washes now are mainly used for removing lichens and moss from mature and old trees and should only be used occasionally.

The control programme which follows gives details of various troubles which may occur on tree fruits and grape vines, the control method and the time to apply it. However, there is no need to use all the chemicals mentioned every year; in fact, it is preferable not to. Apply them only as a preventive, if trouble occurred the year before, in the case of scab, mildew, peach-leaf curl and bacterial canker. For insect pests, such as greenfly and caterpillars, it is generally sufficient to spray or treat when the first one or two are seen, but for sawfly, codling moth, red spider mite, red plum maggot and capsid, they should automatically be applied when suggested.

It is quite possible to obtain perfectly adequate fruit crops without doing any spraying at all, particularly if you ensure that the trees are properly pruned, fed and watered all through their lives. They may not be completely free of the odd spot or nibble but a natural balance will be set up between beneficial and damaging insects, so that no one species gets out of hand. The fungus diseases can cause more trouble, but even so, a constitutionally strong tree will be much less badly infected.


Some varieties of apples and pears may have been in store now for three months and a thorough looking-over will decrease wastage from rots, frost and attack by mice and rats. Seeds which have been stratified will not be harmed by cold; the colder it is the better, as this ‘vernalization’, as it is called, is nature’s way of breaking dormancy. Without it some seeds never germinate. However, hungry mice can quietly decimate your seed collection, and a check to make sure the frame gauze or netting is in place takes only a minute or two.


You can take the opportunity resulting from this lull in active gardening to do some thinking and planning, to look back over your garden notebook for the year and consider changes or innovations in the garden layout or cropping plan. One of the fascinations of gardening is that you can always improve on your garden’s appearance, as your experience and knowledge increases.

Specialist books, catalogues from specialist nurseries, the year books of specialist societies such as those for roses, camellias, fruit, and so on, will all supply more information and more help for good cultivation. New methods of growing some plant or other frequently appear, new ways and chemicals for controlling or preventing disease and pest trouble are regularly produced and’ new hybrids and varieties provide mouth-watering choices every year.

30. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Trees and Shrubs | Tags: , | Comments Off on Tending Trees and Shrubs in Mid Winter


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