Gavin Jones, Gardener

25 February 2022

The last couple of weeks have seen the completion of some major tasks, one being the pruning of the apple and pear trees in the orchard. I have changed to winter pruning this year as staffing levels are no longer suitable for summer pruning. The difference between summer and winter pruning, to me, is that I can spend more time looking at the overall bare structure of the trees and espaliers. This is a great advantage to me in being able to identify growth for removal this year and possible growth to come in and replace old unproductive wood that has been damaged by the high winds of late. In previous years summer pruning was advantageous for a number for reasons, it results in a good growth rates and good fruit harvests. This pruning focuses the energy into bud and fruit production and in turn a lesser level in water shoots and lush growth the following spring. Now I have taken to Winter pruning this allows me to see the bare structure. Winter pruning allows me the opportunity to take out any growth that I would not in summer pruning, such as larger branches that may now be showing signs of rubbing , damage or disease. It is still vital to only take up to one third of the plant material away in the pruning process. As with any pruning when we prune, we leave open wounds which are open to disease which is always a concern especially with the change in climate conditions and us being an organic garden. Hopefully good pruning techniques and feeding will help in the overall health of all our fruits in the orchard. It keeps me on my toes and I’m always learning that’s for sure.

Another ongoing task which I have been carrying out is the growing on of box hedging plants for reinstating in the orchard. The box hedging is no different to any other around the country, it suffered over the years and now with regular foliar feeds I hope that the existing hedges will continue to fill in and in time that beautiful definition will be seen again in the orchard. I am lucky that I have great facilities with a modern heated polytunnel and prop unit which has meant a great success rate in the cuttings taking root and being able to be potted on and paced into a cold frame to acclimatise slowly to the lovely east coast of Scotland weather

With the arrival of Chris, the Estate Forestry Manager, its been great to finally get that chainsaw in the right hands and see the sawdust fly. We finally tackled the stretch of Beech hedge on the West Drive, in years past drainage had been improved so this gave us the opportunity to underplant with bareroot beech plants. We left the existing death hedge in place to give structure and we raised the canopy to allow as much light as possible to the newly planted beech. The decision was made last month to remove this stretch of hedge as it had begun to have blow outs in places due to the heavy winds and brittleness of the wood that was remaining and in turn looked unsightly. Now it has been cleared the sun floods into the stretch and I have stock of beech plants which I plan to get in before the end of the February, fingers crossed.

With the days getting lighter I can feel springs arrival and our snowdrops and hellebores are putting on an early show which was a surprise. Not sure if it was just me but they showed up early this year for the spring party and I’m not complaining, it’s a wonderful sight. I will be carrying on with the repopulation of snowdrops and snowflakes in areas that had been harvested in years past. I hope that we all can get out and enjoy some fresh days pottering in the gardens and enjoying the new sights that Spring will offer which I’m sure will be a welcomed sight.

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