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. 


  1. Oh this gave me a little chuckle this morning. A great start to the day. I too am at that staring out the window stage. I have a page full of chores to do when everything isn't frozen. Of course that is only the begining. I could write a book about chores needing to be accomplished. Here's to drinking wassail and singing...

  2. Do you winter wash your fruit trees?

  3. Gardening is waiting and a lot of patience! But one day.... groetjes Hetty

  4. I have heard of wassailing, but never heard that it was performed in orchards, or that it involved toast. And you have a frugivorous dog? I've never heard of that, either.

  5. Hello Sarah, ah, so that's where it comes from. Hanging cider toast from the fruit trees and the "wassail" rings a bell, but I hadn't put the two together. There will be none of that in my garden thought, I don't have apple trees. We do have plums and cherries and a whole host of other soft fruit, but they're still young. It does take time to come into production. I need to think about pruning the fruit trees too but I'm worried I'll just cut all the fruiting wood off!

  6. Sarah, you are so funny -- I'll go with job number 4 any day. I haven't even thought about my 2018 garden yet. It's hard to plan when the garden is under snow and ice and the temp is 18 degrees C here in PA. But I'll start dreaming soon. Happy New Year! P. x

  7. Wassailing is certainly an interesting ritual! I too am impressed with the need to get busy in the garden, though with truly frigid weather predicted for this week, It will have to wait. I should have got out there last week when we had a couple of mild days. I took a walk in the garden then and was shocked at the weeds that flourished in spite of freezing weather we have had. My list of garden chores to get done before spring is growing. And our spring usually starts by the end of February, so I am behind already. Maybe a little wassail would help!

  8. Ooh apple crumble and custard, yummy especially as I'm recovering after a bout of flu and my appetite is returning slowly. I have tidied the garden front and back which I wouldn't normally do but with the house for sale I need to keep the garden tidy.

  9. Sarah, if I were to join you in the Wassailing ritual, we would both be locked up. (well I know I would)

  10. I have a new garden and house and there is not much garden at all. But I love the idea of singing at the top of my lungs and banging pots together just to terrify the neighbors.

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