Friday, February 09, 2007

Winter Pruning Top Fruit - Gooseberry Espaliers

Winter pruning the row of espalier trained gooseberries this week. I haven't mastered the art of operating Felcos whilst wearing gloves, so my right hand gradually froze as I progressed along the wires. The sun didn't clear the top of the wall until 11am, by which time I was half way along the row. As I might have disclosed in an earlier post, I'm a bit too enthusiastic when pruning, so to discover coral spot fungus Nectria cinnabarina, midpoint along the row was great - a chance to give the two affected gooseberries a really good old chop. Coral spot is spread by vast numbers of spores which enter plants through wounds caused by pruning or frost or storm damage. By the time the symptoms appear the wood is usually dead; coral spot can spread back to living tissue, though, causing dieback. If it enters the main trunk of susceptible plants they may well die. For this reason coral spot needs to be traced back along the branch / stem to clean wood, and then cut off and the prunings burnt.
"Coral spot is usually a weak parasite, and seldom becomes troublesome except on plants suffering from some debilitating condition such as drought stress or root disease, or on newly planted trees or shrubs that are not yet fully established. For this reason, if a plant is badly attacked by coral spot, the possibility of an underlying cause of this nature should be considered." RHS
These gooseberries have been in for well over a decade, and rather neglected in the past. This might well be the spur to digging the entire row out, and starting again with new young plants. And then I spotted the wren's nest, tucked in amongst the upper branches, a little splash of green moss against the grey wood. Too early for this year's birds, it's clearly been here since last spring, and I must have walked past it hundreds of times and not noticed. Delightful. Picture to follow.

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