Happy New Gardening Year! As January’s icy grip takes hold in your garden make sure the birds have plenty to eat and access to fresh water, and that fish can breathe in frozen ponds.
Last year, following a wet spring, many customers came to the shop looking for advice and treatment for peach leaf curl. Peach Leaf curl is a disease caused by a fungus called Taphrina deformans, and infections lead to severe distortion of the leaves soon after bursting in spring. As well as peaches most trees in the prunus genus, including almonds, plums, cherries, nectarines and apricots can all be infected by Taphrina.
Symptoms of Peach Leaf Curl:
1. Thickened, distorted, red blistered leaves. 2. A white covering of fungal spores visible on affected leaves 3. Diseased leaves fall rapidly from the tree, leading to loss of vigour
Full details of the life cycle of the fungus remain unclear. It is known to overwinter within the new buds and as the buds break, the fungus penetrates the leaf tissue, causing swelling and distortion without killing the leaf tissues. It then produces a bloom of spores on the infected leaves. These spores lodge in cracks in the bark and the buds re-infecting the tree.
You may ask, why discuss Peach leaf curl in January? As wet conditions are needed for fungal spores to germinate a rain shelter of plastic sheeting is very effective at preventing infection. For trees that are grown trained against a fence or wall this is quite a simple task. You’ll need to make a basic lean-to structure. The sheet should cover the top of the tree, protruding away from the wall/ fence, and cover the front of the tree but remain 1ft of the ground and with the ends open to allow access for pollinating insects. This structure should be erected after leaf fall whilst the tree is dormant and kept in place until mid-May. Keeping the emerging leaves dry in this way not only prevents infection it also gives useful frost protection. There are no chemical fungicides available to the home/ amateur gardener for the control of peach leaf curl.
For those of you that do not grow your own stone fruit here are my other top tips for January:
• Sow seeds of summer bedding including Begonia, Lobelia, Salvia and Pelargonium in a heated greenhouse or propagator to provide early plants. • Start cutting back grasses and other perennials left for winter interest. • Firm back newly planted trees and shrubs if they have been lifted by frost or strong winds. • Check stakes, ties, fleeces and other supports for damage • Deciduous hedges such as hawthorn, beech or hornbeam can be pruned in January. This task is much easier when they are leafless. • Purchase and start chitting seed potatoes.
Whatever January brings I hope you are able to spend some time in your garden. Rachel Sobiechowski BSc (Hons) P&R Garden Supplies, Fengate Drove, Brandon 01842 814800 www.p-rgardensupplies.co.uk