Vegetable Gardening Jobs for Late Autumn

Pruning

There is no doubt that fruit bushes and cane fruit, if left unpruned, produce small crops, often damaged and diseased, and they may even not crop at all in some years. To get heavy crops of fruit every year, whatever the weather, is a skilled job, which takes some years of experience. The production of such crops is helped by good pruning. This channels the energies of the plant into producing fruit, balanced by the production of leaf and shoot, and removes surplus growth which chokes the bushes, and may be a source of fungus disease and a home for vagrant pests. When pruning, cuts should always be made just above a bud, and should be smooth and clean, without any snags left, otherwise disease gets into the snags.

There are two lots of pruning to do in late autumn, if you have planted a new collection of soft fruit and you still have some of the old. Newly planted cane and bush fruits should all be cut back hard, as soon as planted. All will arrive from the nursery or garden centre with varying lengths of new shoots but, although these would produce a crop the following summer, this would weaken the plant, and it is better to prevent the plants from fruiting. The same applies to stock you have rooted yourself.

Blackcurrants should be cut back so that the three or four shoots are reduced to short stumps, each with only two or three buds. Red currants and gooseberries are pruned so that the main shoots are reduced to half their length; short, weak or straggling shoots should be cut off completely, flush with their point of origin. Raspberry canes should have no more than 23cm (9in) left after pruning; loganberries and blackberries should be treated in the same way. Vines are also pruned hard, but the degree varies, depending on which method of training you are using. With the double Guyot method, the cane should be cut down, if not already done in the nursery, to leave three strong buds, any weak ones being removed.

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The routine pruning of established fruit bushes is mostly done at this time, as soon as the leaves are off, finishing off the summer pruning of some and doing all the pruning on others. You may have started on the blackcurrants in late summer and you can now finish the job by thinning out the new shoots, so that the remainder consist of the strongest, spaced well apart, with room in the centre to let in air and light. You can either cut shoots right down to ground level, if several years old, or cut younger ones back to a strong, new side-shoot halfway down them. Work on the principle of cutting back shoots by slightly more than half, rather than less, otherwise the bushes get very tall — up to 1.8m (6ft): aim for a neat, vase-shaped structure.

Red currants are trained to form a goblet-shaped bush, with about eight to twelve main branches, evenly spaced. The tips of each of these main branches are cut off to a length of about 10cm (4in) of the new season’s growth. The new growth on the side-shoots is cut to leave only 2.5 or 5cm (1 or 2in) of it, so that short side-shoots, fruiting spurs, are built up along the length of the stem.

It will take two or three years after planting to form the number of main brandies required, but you can allow the bushes to fruit in the second summer after planting. In order to obtain the main branches, cut the new growth on the leading shoots back by half in the second and third winter after planting and at the same time cut back any side-shoots to produce spurs, as already described. The aim is an open-centred bush with well-spaced branches.

The formative pruning of the bushes is done in the same way as red currants but, as many gooseberry varieties have a drooping habit of growth, it is important to cut to a bud on the upper side of the branch or shoot.

You can also prune and tic in blackberries and loganberries, if there was no time to do it in mid-autumn, or the blackberry crop had not finished.

Autumn-fruiting raspberries and blackcurrants can be pruned now: deal with them as with summer fruiting kinds.

Lifting

If you are thinking of forcing rhubarb, late autumn is the time to start lifting it. Use three-year-old crowns, dig them up and leave on the surface of the soil until they have been exposed to wind and frost for a few days.

Gooseberries can be spur pruned in the same way, if you want very large berries, for dessert, but you can also get crops of more but smaller berries with much less hard pruning. This latter method consists of cutting the new season’s growth on the ends of the main branches back by a quarter, removing weak, straggling, crossing and very old shoots completely, and cutting some of the new season’s side-shoots back to about 7.5cm (3in) in length. Space these cut-back side-shoots evenly all over the bush, so that there is room to pick reasonably easily.

Forcing

Towards the end of late autumn you can force the first batch of rhubarb, and thereafter do it in succession every week or fortnight, or whenever it is wanted, remembering that it takes about four to six weeks from the time the crowns are taken into warmth to pulling the stalks. Pack the crowns into large boxes full of moist soil or peat, cover them with black plastic sheet draped over a framework, and supply a temperature of 4-10°C (40-50°F). When growth is well started, raise it to 16-18°C (60-65°F) but not more, otherwise rotting can occur. Crowns will not be fit for use again afterwards and should be thrown away.

You can also start to force chicory, and carry on through the winter as it is wanted; about a month is needed to produce acceptably sized chicons. Each root will produce one head, 13.5-20cm (5-8in) long. Plant the roots vertically, 7.5cm (3in) apart in moist soil, peat or sand, using boxes or pots of a sufficient depth to take the roots comfortably. Either cover the crowns 2.5cm (1in) deep, or mound up the growing medium to about 17.5cm (7in). The latter method produces much more tightly packed chicons. If the soil is not to be mounded up, cover the container with black plastic sheet on a framework. Temperature should be 10-16°C (50-60°F). If any light at all reaches the chicons, they will taste bitter.

Blanching

Continue to blanch endive; the moss-curled type will finish about now, but the Batavian variety may remain outdoors for blanching if the autumn is mild, until the end of the month. However, you should lift it if frost is forecast.

Protecting

Bullfinches can start pecking out the buds of gooseberries as early in the dormant season as late autumn, so it is well worthwhile putting netting over them as soon as possible.

Ventilating

The greenhouse will need some ventilating, unless the weather turns exceptionally cold; you may have a few plants in it or a lettuce crop overwintering and all will be the better for a little fresh air. Condensation on the glazing may be a problem, even with ventilation, and should be wiped off, otherwise it considerably cuts down the transmission of light. Even if you are forcing plants, it pays to supply a little air, but at least the daylight hours are usually warmer than the night, so that extra heat should not be needed.

Increasing

You can still take cuttings of bush fruit, but as early in late autumn as possible, since dormancy is imminent and the production of roots from the base of the cuttings is rapidly becoming unlikely.

More on the kitchen garden in late autumn …

29. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Kitchen Garden, Organics, Vegetable Gardening | Tags: , | Comments Off on Vegetable Gardening Jobs for Late Autumn

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