The best way to view the garden at this time of year is through a window while seated beside a cosy glowing fire. Still, if you can brace yourself, there are plenty of maintenance jobs to be done outside.
It’s the time of year to prune grapes, and raspberries. For spring fruiting raspberries, prune by taking out to the base all stems which fruited last season. Shorten new stems by about a third. You can tell the difference because the old ones are brown and hollow, and those grown this season haven’t been shortened!
Peaches and nectarines should be sprayed for leaf curl, with copper oxychloride. The most effective time to do this is just as the leaf buds start to swell, which means checking them regularly.
Fruit trees should be pruned in the next month or so. Pruning is the kind of skill I find easiest to acquire from watching an expert do it, so if you’re not confident try to find a demonstration in your area to go to.
I’m still harvesting feijoas, and as I test each one to see if it’s ready to pick, I’m accompanied by a fantail which darts and swoops within inches of me as it performs fighter pilot type aerobatics. Watching it makes going out in the cold air worthwhile. My feijoas are smaller than those I was given earlier in the season but they are sweet right through, without that slight sourness under the skin that comes when they’re picked rather than being allowed to drop.
I’ve been bottling stewed apple, but the best place to store the apples seems to be on the tree, as long as pests and diseases aren’t attacking them. I give them a lift and turn occasionally and gather the ones that come loose from the stem.
My broccoli and cauliflowers have reached the point where I’m debating whether to use them now in case they open too far, or wait greedily in case they get bigger. Peas are flowering too, with the promise of pods in a few weeks. It’s also time to plant some new strawberries if yours have been fruiting for two or three years. Either start a new plant from a runner or bring in some fresh plants.
The neighbours’ persimmon tree is loaded with fruit which blackbirds and waxeyes are squabbling over. It seems a terrible waste. Persimmon trees have gorgeous autumn colour, and are worth growing for that even if you do leave the fruit for the birds.
Lost Plot blogger Jeanette Smith has created gardens under all conditions, from the climatic extremes of mountainous Africa (snow, heat, drought, locusts) to bitter Canterbury frosts and Manawatu gales. Send Jeanette your gardening questions with the subject ‘Lost Plot’ to [email protected]