Old neglected gardens
When taking over an old neglected garden one may be faced with such problems as a jungle of perennial, a poor worn-out and overgrown fruit trees. As with a new garden, you will have to be patient and not sow or plant anything until the plot has been thoroughly prepared.
First the weed problem. If there is a real tangle ofand brambles, spray with one of the brushwood killers available to kill them off. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Then all the dead top growth must be cleared off—some people burn it off using a flame-gun.
The next stage is to double-dig the plot, incorporatingand removing all the roots of the perennial weeds, even though they should be dead.
It is advisable to carry out a soil test with one of the reasonably priced soil-testing outfits on the market. Such a test will tell which of the major plant foods are deficient and how much fertiliser to apply to make up this deficiency.
Very old plants of soft fruits such as raspberries, currants, gooseberries and strawberries, are best dug up and burned as they may have virus diseases and will almost certainly be unproductive. Replace with new plants which have been certified virus-free. Old trees of top fruits such as apples and pears can often be rejuvenated by carrying out a pruning programme over several years. You will first need to cut out all the dead wood. Then any crossing and rubbing branches should be removed. The centre of the tree will probably need opening up to let in air. Aim for a cup-shaped branching system. There may still be too many branches on the tree, so these should be thinned out over two or three years. Stop when the main branches are 60-90 cm (2-3’) apart at the tips.
In the first year you should carry out a thorough spraying programme to kill anywhich may have built up over the years of neglect. You should certainly spray with a tar-oil winter wash when the trees are dormant to kill overwintering eggs of various pests and also moss and lichens which may be growing on the trunk and branches. Grease banding in the autumn will help to control winter moths.
Spur thinning should be carried out on old neglected trees. Over the years a great number of fruiting spurs builds up on the lateral shoots and they also become unduly long. Many of the spurs can be completely cut out and the remainder reduced in size. Do not do too much of this work in one season but spread it over two or three years.
If your trees are too tall then shorten some of the tallest branches.
Finally it would be a good idea to clear a circle of soil around each tree—a diameter of about 1 m (3) is sufficient— and apply a top-dressing of well-rotted farmyard manure about 7.5cm (3”) thick.