Malus ‘John Downie’ - what a useful tree

Wallflower for roundell
Wallflower for roundell

Tips for dealing with club root this week by Martin Fish - Show director, Harrogate Flower Shows

This year has been a good year for apples, not only culinary types, but also ornamental crab apples which make good garden trees.

There are many different crab apples available, some with green foliage, others with deep red leaves and of course fruits in many different sizes and colours. Most types make good garden trees where they will grow into a compact and decorative tree. One of the most popular and reliable of crab apples is Malus John Downie which produces pretty pink and white apple blossom in spring followed by orange-red small fruits in autumn. It’s very easy to grow and will suit most soil types. As well as looking very colourful in spring and autumn, the fruits can also be used to make crab apply jelly and other preserves. The fruits also provide winter food for many birds and small mammals.

If you also grow cooking and eating apples in your garden Malus ‘John Downie’ makes an excellent pollinator as it has a long flowering period, so all in all an attractive and useful garden tree.

Readers’ Questions

John Wilson has emailed me to ask what he can do to get rid of club root from his vegetable plot?

Club root is a soil borne disease that attacks the roots of members of the brassica family, including cabbages, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and even wallflowers. Once the fungal disease is present in the soil it can remain there for many years and unfortunately there are no chemical controls to kill it. The symptoms of club root are very easy to spot as the plants will be stunted and the roots swollen and distorted. In severe infestations, the plants often wither and die because there are no fine feeding roots on the plant. To try and reduce the symptoms there are a few things that you can do. First is to make sure the soil is alkaline, as the disease thrives in acid soil. You can do this by adding lime to the soil during the winter months in preparation for next year. Growing the plants on in 10cm pots will help them establish a strong root system so when planted out into the garden they at least have a fighting chance. There are also several new introductions that have a good resistance to the disease that are well worth growing. These include cabbage Kilaton, Calabrese Trixie and cauliflower Clapton. Finally, if you know you have club root in your garden, try to avoid spreading it by walking from infected soil to healthy soil.

Jobs for the week

Plant wallflowers into the garden making sure the roots are well firmed and watered after planting. After a few days the wilting plants will start to establish and perk up.

Check around winter brassicas such as Brussels sprouts and cabbages and remove any dead or yellow leaves from the plants. This not only makes the plants look better, it also helps to remove any pests or diseases on the foliage.

Now the weather is cooling down, the central heating will be on more. The dry atmosphere cause by the heating can cause the tips of some houseplants leaves to dry out. To prevent this, mist foliage plants with water or stand the pots on a tray of damp pebbles.