I had a gardening ‘to-do’ list for this week. Then it snowed. So most of the list went out the window.
Unfortunately, many of the jobs I’d planned were already a little overdue. So often I find that gardening jobs can’t be done at exactly the time suggested in the ‘Jobs to do in your garden this month.’ Sometimes life gets in the way of gardening.
I’ve also had a few queries from readers asking if it’s too late to trim their lavender or cut their hedge, too. So I thought I’d round up the common ‘is it too late to…’ queries in gardening and ask some experts for their answers.
When is it too late to prune my fruit trees?
In the UK, you’re generally advised to prune apple and pear trees in December and January, which is mid-winter. We are now currently in late winter – mid February. The idea is that you should prune fruit trees when they’re dormant.
But I’ve left pruning the crab apple and apple trees this late. And now it’s snowed. Should I wait until the snow thaws? But will that be too late?
Some friends nearby are fruit farmers. They have to prune thousands of apple trees and make sure they get the best possible yields. ‘We go on pruning fruit trees in the snow,’ they told me. And they hadn’t finished pruning by late winter either. ‘It’s fine to prune apple and crab apple trees up until around the middle of April,’ they told me. ‘And later is better for canker-prone varieties because the sap is rising which helps prevent canker.’
So it’s fine to prune your apple and crab apple trees up to about three months later than it says in the gardening books. And you can prune them when it’s snowing. If you have to.
Note that peach and plum trees should only be pruned in the summer.
When is it too late to mow the lawn?
If you look outside your window in winter and see that the grass has grown, then mow it. If your grass isn’t growing or is covered in snow, then you don’t need to mow it. It is as simple as that.
Landscape consultant Matt Jackson, who has run major gardens for the National Trust, says that professional gardeners who run large gardens in temperate climates almost always mow throughout the winter. ‘When I started learning how to be a professional gardener, I was told that my mowing season should end in December,’ he says. ‘And it starts again in January.’
Gardeners are often told that October is ‘your last chance’ to give your lawn a final mow. But that only applies to areas where winter days are regularly close to freezing point. If your winter weather is regularly above 5C or 40F, then the grass will grow.
However, Matt advises that you mow with the blades on a higher setting in winter. Don’t cut the grass too short. And don’t mow if the lawn is very wet, because the weight of the mower may churn up the grass and give you bald patches.
And if you mow throughout the year, then you’ll need a reminder to service the mower. The great advantage of a ‘put your mower away’ in a gardening ‘to-do’ list is that you will remember to service it when you get it out again.
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