We have had the freeze and now the rain, but these adverse conditions won’t last for ever! We are almost in February, and before we know it, the start of the new growing season will be on us (Hooray!) So it’s time to think about finishing of your winter pruning jobs.
Pruning fruit bushes
It is important to give established fruit bushes an annual prune in winter. If you fail to do this, bushes become congested with tangled stems and will produce a smaller harvest.
The aim of pruning is to create a bush that has an open centre and a few regularly spaced main branches. This allows:
- Light into the bush, which is needed to ripen the fruit,
- Makes picking the fruit easier and less painful, in the case of gooseberries
- Reduces humidity and associated fungal infections
- Ensures that the fruiting efforts are concentrated into the younger, more productive wood.
Without pruning, gooseberries become very tangled and unhealthy. If this sounds familiar, then don some thick gloves.
Start by pruning out:
- All dead, disease and damaged stems.
- All stems which cross each other or are growing inwards.
- Prune these stems back to the base of the plant.
- Thin out any areas which are overcrowded by cutting back to a young upright sideshoot
- Prune any drooping stems to an upright sideshoot
- If you need to reduce the size of the bush, then shorten any new growth by half, cutting to an outward facing bud.
Gooseberry bush, before and after pruning.
Blackcurrant bushes fruit best on one year old wood. Older wood will bear fruit but it’s of poorer quality and quantity. The aim is to remove a portion of the older wood, whilst maintaining the bushes upright habit and shape.
- Removing any dead, damaged or diseased stems
- Remove any stems that cross each other or are growing inwards.
- Remove about one third of the oldest stems which are characterised by their very dark bark. Grey stems characterise two-year-old stems
- Remove low shoots to restrict the spread of the bush and to stop fruit touching the ground
- Always cut back to ground level or to a strong new shoot.
- Add some slow release fertiliser and mulch around the base of the bush
The older wood on a blackcurrant bush is characterised by its dark stem.