THE various garden tasks we have to do in December may be mentioned in a few minutes;
but each one takes hours to complete. The first-line jobs are roughly a follows: Digging and manuring, using lime where the manure is well separated from it, removing herbaceous waste and weeds, the making of compost-heaps with this and other garden refuse, pruning and spraying. So much depends upon the weather. too. Digging and planting should not be undertaken when the ground is either sodden or frosty.
One operation which can he performed at practically any time this month or next is that of pruning. This is a task which is made into a mystery by a great many people, but which on the contrary is one of the most interesting and easy to learn. Two main things are necessary — a sharp blade (secateurs of the Rolcut type with a single blade and anvil mechanism for preference) and the power to observe the trees and bushes you are' working 00.
The work may be begun any time after leaf-tall, and should be finished before the burls start swelling again at the end of January. Standard plums and old trees generally need very little attention except in extreme eases where there arc too marry spurs or crisscrossing branches.
SPURS PRODUCE THE BLOSSOM
Except for blackcurrants* and cane fruits and peaches, nearly all fruit-proclueing bushes and trees show little knobbly buds or branchlets which are even et lirst sight easy to distinguish
from the normal (smaller) buds destined to produce merely leafy shoots. The ,whole idea of pruning is to prevent an excess of leafy growth and accelerate the formation of spurs. It would seem simple therefore to cut out all except the fruiting growth; but this would not work, because the tree has to keep on growing in order both to build up the framework and to produce the leaves which are as necessary to the plant as the roots. We arrange and tegulate the growth according to our liking.
.It is essential to remember that if you cut a branch away the tree will probably send out a very strong shoot at the nearest bud below it. If we shorten the main growth made this year to about half its length, the last remaining buds will carry on the growth of the new branch, and the lowest buds will probably be urged to send out short laterals or even spurs during the corning season. Sometimes we even find these lower buds on the strong shoots of the current season taking the form of baby spurs already. On every branch of every normal fruiting tree we hope to find each year the three types of new shoot (a), the fruiting spur; (b), the small side shoots which we cut back to a mere two or three leaves or buds in order to produce more spurs; and (c) the leading shoots which are making the framework or shape of the tree, and which we shorten to about one-halt their length ill order to encourage sturdy growth. short laterals and fruit spurs during the
coming season. Examine your trees with this in mind this week. We shall consider the detailed types next week.