As deciduous plants in your garden head into winter dormancy, this is the time to take a close look at the appearance, quantity and performance of your fruit, berries and roses. A winter maintenance programme is all that is needed to ensure that lumps, soot and poor performance do not happen next year and will also ease your work load in summer.
1. In May it is time to start by pruning. On a still, dry day, with clean sharp tools, remove any dead, diseased wood/branches and remove all mummified fruit, this includes rosehips on roses.
2. Use a lime sulphur spray and spray the whole plant from top to bottom. Make sure that you can see the spray running into the crevices, cracks and crutches of the tree/bush. Lime Sulphur spray is the most effective treatment to combat fungal diseases and can force trees into dormancy by defoliation. This spray also helps to control many over-wintering pests such as mites, insects and their egg laying sites and it removes lichen and moss from deciduous plants. Three to four weeks after you have completed your sulphur spray, your plants should be completely nude. Collect the fallen leaves and burn or destroy them; do not use these for leaf mulch. Do not use sulphur sprays on apricots, evergreen plants or citrus, and never mix with any other sprays, never use on plants with new leaf growth, and don’t use within three weeks of any spraying oils.
3. Now spray with copper and spraying oil such as Conqueror Oil or equivalent. For maximum effectiveness these should be sprayed separately. This will ensure that fungal disease does not enter the plant through pruning cuts. Coat the plant so that you can see the spray running down the stems and leaves, but always check the manufacturer's instructions to ensure your chosen oil is compatible with copper. Oil helps the copper stick to the plant, improving longevity of the copper spray along with providing a suffocating film to rid treated plants of scale, mealy bug and other over-wintering pests. This spray combination is excellent for all citrus trees so include them in your spray programme. Repeat this step within 10-21 days.
4. Do any further pruning needed on a clear, sunny day, removing old canes from roses and brambles. Prune, thin and shape apple, pear and plum trees.