Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Gardening Jobs for January - Get Set for a Fruit Glut

Happy new year! January is the perfect month for appraising our gardens, making plans and compiling lists. In my case this involves staring out of a window, tutting and saying, “Call yourself a gardener? Look at the state of it.” 

There are high spots, low spots and downright weedy spots, but from my vantage point in the house I can safely say that not enough of it is hitting the spot. So where to start? When inclement weather, the latest winter bug, and short days end, what shall I embrace first?
Top of the list is the orchard. Quite frankly it isn’t providing enough fruit, and when it does, Basil our beloved dog steals the harvest. I can’t blame it all on Basil though. Our entire garden, including the orchard, is fairly new* and so patience, the virtue so vital to gardeners, needs to dance to the fore and do its thing (whatever that thing might be). 
Basil pretending not to care that he's on the wrong side
of the gate
Apart from patience, a spot of TLC wouldn't go amiss. Judicious pruning, feeding, battling with the grass that is hellbent on swamping the trees, and mulching would be a good start. Top it off with a jolly good wassail and we might find ourselves inundated with fruit.

Wassailing is a ritual traditionally performed in orchards during January. It involves hanging toast dipped in mulled cider from the branches of an apple tree to attract favourable spirits, and dowsing the roots in more cider to bless the tree so that it produces a good crop in the coming year, all this while making a loud noise and serenading the toast-laden apple tree with a suitable song. 
Show apples - will my produce be joining them this year?
Not if Basil has anything to do with it.
There are plenty of wassailing songs online, although I think I might go a little off-piste and warble "Oh Apple Tree" to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree" or "O Tannenbaum", mainly because I know how it goes and a degree of confidence about what I'm trying to sing might help me to hit the right notes. 

I am a little concerned that my atonal caterwauling might give the neighbours and passing dog walkers something to talk about. My greatest concern though is that it will provide Basil with a delicious sandwich as he takes his morning constitutional, thereby reinforcing the orchard as one of his favourite feeding grounds. It is definitely time for a spot of dog (or is that owner?) training.

In the time-honoured gardening tradition, here is my list of jobs for January:

1. Prune the apple and pear trees (but not the plums and cherries - we don’t want silver leaf)

2. Clear weeds away from the trees' bases

3. Check that tree ties aren't too tight.

4. Switch on the toaster, grab a bowl of mulled cider, sing at the top of my voice and clobber a couple of pans together while keeping Basil on a lead.

I don't know about you, but I am already optimistic that 2018 will be the year of the long-awaited apple crumble and custard glut.