Gardening Advice

Protecting trees and bushes in winter

Autumn is drawing to a close and the last leaves are falling, but there are still jobs to do in our gardens. This period is vital in the preparations for next spring. No time to rest – as soon as a dry, still day comes along treatment must be resumed. Fruit trees will have to be treated several times over the winter to keep them in a good state of health.

Start by gathering the dead leaves from the orchard and from around the rose bushes. They carry the spores of any cryptogamic diseases that may have broken out during the year. It is not advisable to compost them – burn them with any dry or diseased branches and remove the last mummified fruits, a sign of brown rot.
The first treatment should be carried out when the leaves fall. We use Bordeaux mixture, which is produced from copper and is compatible with organic agriculture. The copper disinfects, promotes healing and protects against most diseases. I recommend using a dose of 15 grams per litre.

If your pear trees, apple trees or oleanders have black branches, they have suffered a major attack by a piercing pest such as aphids or psylla. These insects secrete honeydew, on which the sooty mould fungus develops. Take advantage of the winter period to clean any bushes affected by this disease. Spray once a month with 3% diluted soft soap all over the branches. The soap will act as a detergent and restore your plants to their former glory.

There are two other essential treatments to perform in the winter :

  • The first, based on paraffin oil, also known as white oil, is a petroleum product tolerated for use in organic agriculture. This oil covers the hibernating forms of the parasites (eggs, larvae, adults) and obstructs their respiratory tracts, preventing gaseous exchange and causing death by asphyxiation. Effective against scale bugs, this oil also destroys woolly apple aphids and mites. Spray the product, diluted in water, all over the tree, focusing particularly on cavities in the bark. It is available from gardening suppliers. Solabiol, for example, markets a product called “Traitement d’hiver” (winter treatment), which is used at a concentration of 25 millilitres per litre of water.
  • The second important treatment during this winter period is another product based on copper, but in a different form than Bordeaux mixture: copper oxide. It resists leaching better, protects against disease and has a healing effect on canker. Solabiol markets it under the name of “Traitement des arbres fruitiers” (fruit tree treatment), which is used at a concentration of 5 grams per litre of water. This product is also effective in preventing diseases such as Volutella blight and Cylindrocladium in box trees (see November’s gardening tips).

To sum up, take advantage of any dry, frost-free days to get out your sprayers – this will save you time in spring and help your plants grow healthily.

Laurent Portuguez
head gardener

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