Gardening tips for this week

Prune apple trees

If you prune your apple trees now, you will undoubtedly be following what is called the modified Lorette system, which helps apples to ripen by exposing them to the sun. When you remove the lateral growths, the apples mature, instead of the tree putting energy into making growth. Cut back any strong laterals that are longer than 9in to three leaves above the cluster at the base, and side shoots back to one leaf of the cluster. Once they’re cut back, these laterals shouldn’t re-shoot under normal conditions as the tree will be concentrating on both the fruit and the production of next year’s fruiting buds.

Winter vegetables and salads

Extend the growing season or salads by planting under glass or plastic, or in a cold frame. As the days begin to get shorter and the temperature cools, it will take longer for the plants to mature; some will be suitable only for picking as leaf vegetables. There are varieties of lettuce suitable for growing in the autumn and winter to be found in most catalogues, too. Chinese and leaf vegetables are simple to grow under protection. Sow now and grow on in pots, containers or directly in the ground—you could use your old grow bags when your tomatoes are finished.

Black mulberry

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Our black mulberry is one of the oldest trees in the kitchen garden (although it may not date back to the time of James I as many claim). Yet it’s rarely recognised by our visitors, especially during the late spring, when the little green fruits are still spiky before they ripen and change colour. Mulberries need room to grow and have few problems with pests or disease. If there are no plants (other than grass) growing under your mulberry tree, you can spread old sheets or plastic underneath it; then shake the tree and collect the fruit. A gentle touch is vital when picking you’ll quickly learn not to squeeze the ripe fruit, but even if you do, red fingers and clothes are a small price to pay. Once you’ve tasted the sharp melting sweetness, you’ll know how lucky you are to have your own mulberries you won’t find them in the supermarket.


Summer pruning will help to create next year’s flowering spurs. On a trained and established plant, hard-prune the long growths to encourage next year’s flowers. Pruning at this time means that it’s too late in the year for long shoots to re-grow; the plant’s energy goes into producing buds on the spurs. On young plants, keep some of the long shoots to create the framework that will eventually cover the area you have chosen.

Philip Maddison is head gardener at Harrington Hall, Lincolnshire (