Another week or two and leaf buds will be opening and the growing season will pick up momentum. Time to get out in spite of the icy showers to prune the trusty ‘James Grieve’ apple tree before it is too late when leaves appear and sap is in full flow once more. In January or February normally I prune this tree to keep it quite compact. This means pruning back new branches which are growing over the path. This also means taking off any skyward growing new branches. This stops the tree overly shading my herb patch. Apples on a low branch are less damaged if they do fall from the tree in the autumn. I also remove the less developed branches which are either rubbing off another branch or may end up rubbing if left undisturbed. Rubbing of bark on bark creates tree wounds and risks the tree becoming infested.
The pruning tools are a secateurs for twigs, loppers for branches a centimetre or two thick and a saw for the thicker boughs. I must get myself a pruning saw to make life a little easier. The cleaner the cut the better. A half cut branch which then splits is likely to be a home for infestion whereas a clean cut will form a scab quickly and seal the wound aswell as look neater.
The prunings are useful in themselves for pea and bean supporting sticks. Any leftover twigs are stored with the other firewood and will be handy for starting the wood stove next winter. The resulting wood ash will go into the compost and may well feed the tree with potash and other minerals in years to come.
Meanwhile the pond nearby has seen the weed and reed growth expand over the years to the point where in the summer, hardly any water surface is visible. Now is the time before the rampant growth takes hold, to remove a good amount of roots along with pond weed. I’m astonished at how massive and thick the roots of these pond plants have become. Plenty of brute force is required with arms up to my armpits in fresh but murky water. In the end a fairly large heap of roots and pond weed lies on the edge of a much clearer and seemingly larger pond. I’m told that pond plants take much longer to compost as they are tough and resist the advances of composting microbes. I’ll see if experience bears this out in due course when I have had a go at composting this heap of greenery. I’ll leave the heap beside the pond for a few days in the hope that any pond life, water beetles, pond skaters etc. migrates back into the water.
Enough reeds and pondweed remain to grow up and create a diverse pond habitat. No shortage of rainwater meanwhile. The overflow pipe from the garden water butt ends up in the pond so the water levels are kept high. No luck so far attracting frog spawn. However birds, bees, wasps, beetles and many other species essential to a healthy kitchen garden, all need water. Even Arthur the cat will hunker down to drink from the pond but turns his nose up at tap water.