Dance around your apple trees this week as it's wassailing time – when, according to tradition, apple growers toast the health of their apple trees in mulled cider. If you haven't got an apple tree yourself, there are lots of wassailing parties you can join: try Ryton Gardens, in Coventry, Forty Hall Farm in Enfield, Middlesex, or the community orchard at Stoke Gabriel, Totnes, Devon.
There's plenty more you can be doing this month to help your apple trees crop better, too:
- prune to encourage plenty of fruit, cutting out dead, damaged or diseased wood then removing branches growing into the centre of the tree, aiming for an open, bowl shape of about five main branches. Finally cut back side shoots to five or six buds.
- give your trees the once-over, checking for signs of pest damage or disease, making sure tree ties aren't too tight and putting up rabbit and deer guards.
- clear weeds away from the trunk so there's a clear 1m circle rand your tree isn't competing for nutrients with grass or weeds.
- finally pick up a bag or two of well-rotted manure from your favourite garden centre and mulch thickly around the base, keeping moisture in and weeds out.