The weather has been as wet as I’ve ever known it, which sadly fits the Met Eireann prediction that Ireland will be getting wetter over the autumn and winter and warmer and drier during spring and summer. There is so much to do outside, but so far, we have had to work under glass this year!
In the glass range, we have been pruning the Apricots. Last year was a very light crop, so we’re hoping for a great crop this coming year. Apricots are the first fruit trees to flower and are self-compatible, which means you only need one plant for a good crop. Under glass, they usually flower from mid-February onwards. Traditionally, a rabbit’s tail was used to move the pollen from flower to flower, as insect pollinators at this early date are scarce. A soft brush works just as well.
The pruning consists of removing any dead wood and thinning down the spurs where they have become congested. Apricots flower on wood they made in the previous season, so the new shoots are left intact unless they are heading for the glass. In late April or early May, the emerging young shoots are stopped by pinching them out, to create small, branched spurs which, with luck, will bear the fruit next season.
We strip the coarse, stringy bark from our vines at this time of year to reduce the amount of Red Spider Mite and Two-Tailed Mealy Bug eggs overwintering. We use an old paint scrapper to do this work, carefully avoiding the delicate buds. We also take a few hardwood cuttings of the vines now. The strips of bark make excellent kindling and have the advantage of giving a light, fruity fragrance when burned.