Gardening Tips: Tidying Up

Editor’s Note: We are reaching into Michelle Smith’s archives for gardening tips as timely now as when they were first published. Today’s offering first appeared on 5 September 2018.


What to do this week

This week can be all about tidying up in the garden, especially around your fruit trees and berry bushes. Of course you will be busy with harvest, that goes without saying, but these perennials also need some attention now. Let’s talk about apples first.

You may have noticed that some of your apple trees have been dropping some of their fruit. This is common, and is usually the tree getting rid of excess, deformed or damaged fruit so it can concentrate on the best of what it has to grow. Clean up all that fallen fruit right away. Don’t leave it on the ground giving any pest it may carry a chance to complete its lifecycle while over-wintering in the soil beneath your trees.

Royal Gala apples. (Photo by David Adam Kess, CC BY-SA 4.0,, from Wikimedia Commons

Royal Gala apples. (Photo by David Adam Kess, CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons

It is also a good time to mow your orchard. I tend to let the grasses grow all summer. That actually helps to control apple scab spores, but I mow now. Otherwise, the grasses make great winter homes for mice and other pests, like apple maggots, that can damage the trees.

Raspberry canes will also need some attention now. Cut all of the canes that fruited this year at the ground level. They will be easy to identify at this point because they will be yellow and rough looking.

Raspberry cane grow their fruit on the second year, so leave the nice green ones you see now for next year’s crop. If you have a lot of new growth you might want to cut out some of it too. The old rule of thumb is that a medium-sized dog should be able to run easily through the raspberry patch. If you don’t have a medium-sized dog you are going to have to use your imagination, but do trim the excess. I was hesitant to be so harsh with healthy-looking greenery when I started out, but I soon found out that I get more and better berries if I do. Use the same technique on your blackberries.

Currants are bushes rather than individual canes, but they can still benefit from thinning as soon as you are finished harvesting this year’s crop. You may not have picked all of your currants yet, but when you do, prune the bushes. Take out all of the older, thicker branches — the very dark, almost black wood. Try to achieve an open vase shape with your pruning. I didn’t do this last year, and this year the berries were smaller, and much more difficult to pick. Pruning is worth it.

And now back to the harvest. Your apples may even be close to ready. This does depend on what type of apple you have; they come in early and late varieties. If you are not sure what kind of apple you have, check the variety name on Google. If you don’t remember the variety name, pick one and cut it in half. If the seeds are brown, they can be picked, although it is best to leave them on the tree as long as possible, they ripen more nicely there. If you have pears you can pick them when they are a nice size, and ripen them in the house. They won’t suffer for it like apples do.

And finally, you should not fertilize your fruit annuals any more this season. If you do, you will stimulate new growth that will not have time to harden off properly before winter. If you are still managing to get new growth from annuals, like basil, you can keep feeding them. They don’t have to survive the winter anyway.

There is one interesting thing you can do with your pepper plants though, if you have them planted in the ground. Peppers are actually perennials, in better climates, so you might want to dig them up and pot them so you can over-winter them in the house. They will be set back a bit by the experience, but they should be fine. Peppers on the plant will continue to ripen. You won’t lose them. If you already have your pepper plants in pots, do bring in as many as you can accommodate once the fall gets its chill going. They might get a little sad during the long winter, but you will have peppers before anyone else next year.

Featured image: Blackberries (cropped). Photo by Dwight Sipler from Stow, MA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.




Backyard food gardener Madeline Yakimchuk caught the food-security bug in the early ’90s through Cuba’s Urban Agriculture Department, taking her first permaculture course and planting her first garden. She can often be found discussing food security, nurturing a plant-based lifestyle or trying to give away vegetables. Professionally, she is GRYPHON media productions but sometimes uses la bruja in her volunteer work, most notably in managing the garden column, which begins life as a telephone interview.