I’m delving into the classics now. Over the last weekend, the weather had turned lovely again and we had a wave of guests. There were a lot of mouths to feed and a desire from us to showcase GYO. When it comes to desserts it’s easy; one’s thoughts turn to summer puddings and fruit fools.
This is when soft fruit comes into its own, red and black currants; raspberries and gooseberries. Delia provided the summer pudding fruit ratios, (though I found the 7 slices not enough to line my bowl), Nigel Slater, the gooseberry fool recipe, (no pictures of the puddings, sadly, as I was too busy).
Of course, this was the point at which I realised that there is a bit of a gap in our red berry category. Yes, we’re good on redcurrants, plenty there, however our strawberries had finished by the first week of July and our autumn raspberries have just started to set fruit. We’ve not grown summer fruiting raspberries for a number of years, as I always found them to be a bit disappointing. Sadly, we didn’t have any cherries as we hadn’t got round to netting. The birds have feasted well.
I had to nip to the shop for raspberries.
To avoid this in future summers, I’ve been investigating late season strawberries, fruit that will crop into late July and perhaps even August. Some of the newer varieties seem to fit the bill. I’ve plumped on Florence from East Malling, (always good to see that this emminent research station is still producing the goods), so I’ll place an order for 50 runners this autumn.
I did an amble along the field boundaries; the shelter belt is bulking up nicely and the brambles in the hedgerow are full of insects.
It definitely pays to be a bit lax towards the edges of the garden.
We currently grow 4 versions of raspberry Rubus idaeus, – all autumn fruiting. The reds are ‘Polka’, ‘Joan J’ and ‘Autumn Bliss’, and the gold one, ‘All Gold’. They crop heavily each year and are no trouble at all. I hadn’t felt the need to add to them …. until now! I was flicking through James Wong’s website and the posting on black raspberries caught my eye, so I had to track some down.
Black raspberry cultivars are varieties of Rubus occidentalis, a species native to North America. The fruit is grown commercially in the US, (particularly Oregon, Ohio and Vermont), and there was some attempt at commercialisation over here, around 5 years ago, with the fruit being stocked in Tesco but apparently they didn’t take off. The fruit season is short, only 3 weeks, and the plants very prickly so I expect a punnet was very, very expensive.
The most common cultivar to get here is ‘Jewel’ so I ordered 5 canes from Blackmoor Nurseries.
These will be planted in the polytunnel growing area away from the other cultivars as the black raspberries are, apparently, more susceptible to viruses.
We have finished pruning the apples; if the weather holds we’ll prune the pears. I’ll then finish off with the gooseberries and then tackle the grape vines. Today, I sowed the tomatoes, aubergines and sweet peppers in the propagator and did an infill sow of some cells of chilli where germination failed. This weekend we pick up some more hornbeam hedging and we have a LOT of box to plant out.
It’s beginning to get busy…
Reading this week: The long long life of trees by Fiona Stafford
…could be viewed as a list of chores but when the weather is as glorious as it is at the moment then being outside and working on the holding is anything but.
First up – a nice compact job of cutting down the autumn raspberry canes. We only grow primocane varieties now, (Polka, Autumn Bliss and Joan J), as I think these are the best-flavoured berries, plus All Gold for the yellow fruit. In the past, I have left this pruning job until the tail end of winter, so I’ll see how things fare with this change of tack. I did have a go at double cropping but found that too onerous to keep on top of, though looking at the stands I could have beena bit more rigorous with cutting out the weaker canes.
As I cut, the lovely OH shredded and carted the whole lot off to the compost bays.
This year’s canes of the hybrids, tayberry and loganberry, will bear fruit next summer so have been left. Job done and cup of tea time! Next up – pruning the soft fruit and clearing suckers from the pears and medlars.
Whilst we try to keep on top of pruning and clearing in our productive areas elsewhere we are very untidy, as the wildlife wouldn’t thank us.
My favourite tree at the moment is an unknown apple variety in the ‘old orchard’, still laden with yellow gold fruit. Next year I may try to find out what variety this is.
Going into winter we still have good things for eating, plenty in the stores plus red and savoy cabbage, kales, chard, celeriac and parsnip in the kitchen garden.
Reading this week: The Making of the British Landscape by Nicholas Crane.
We have had a break in the rain. Which is a relief because its relentlessness was becoming biblical.
The ground is saturated and in spite of the mildness of the weather there is no point working the soil until it dries out significantly.
Looking back to this time last year, the ground was just as wet. Though it was far, far colder. Last year I cut back the autumn fruiting raspberries in late February. I’ve started clearing the canes today.
And here is why:
Shoots are sprouting forth – if I left cutting out the old canes for much longer I would risk damaging the soft new growth.
There is a small amount of hand weeding to do once the ground dries out. As the new canes are coming through now I’ve top dressed with a general fertiliser:
The old canes have joined the wood store – next year’s kindling.
Indoors the chillies are sprouting.
The year turns round again.
Finally, a bit of blue sky and sun – yes! I grabbed the secateurs, loppers and pruning saw and headed to the soft fruit.
First up – the raspberries.
At the tail of end of autumn I decided to give up on summer raspberries. We now only have primocane varieties, (Joan J, Polka, Autumn Bliss and All Gold). Primocane raspberries mainly fruit on the new year’s wood, so the age old pruning approach is to cut all the old wood to ground level in late winter. Depending on the variety, this produces fruit between August and November. However, the season can be extended by ‘double cropping’. There have been loads of studies on the technique so I’ve decided to have a go.
Erring on the side of caution, (not so brave then), I’ve cut to the ground two-thirds of the stands and left one in three, (approx), of the stands unpruned. Hopefully, this will give an earlier crop of raspberries in July from old wood. I haven’t yet decided on what the subsequent pruning regime will be. Potentially double cropping could shorten the life of the stand so I will definitely rotate between the stands and see how things go.
So being on a roll I also pruned the redcurrants, whitecurrant and gooseberries.
I deserve a cup of tea.
Temperatures have dropped and so have the leaves. We have entered the start of the ‘bare root season’, the best time, in my humble opinion, to buy & plant deciduous trees (fruit/ornamental), soft fruit and hedging – better establishment and better on the pocket.
Some weeks back, having decided to jettison the summer raspberries, I ordered 10 canes of ‘Joan J’. They arrived yesterday and we got them in the ground today before the winds hit. The roots were soaked in a bucket until time for planting – each cane was lifted out and planted with the roots just a few inches below the surface. Spaced 2′ apart, well watered in and then top dressed with a compost mulch.
I’ve not used mycorrhizal granules on the roots this time; recent research on urban tree planting seems to indicate that commercial formulations don’t make that much difference to subsequent establishment and that most soils have perfectly okay populations of the fungi anyway, (see here for the paper http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/Trees-people-and-the-buit-environment_Watson.pdf/$FILE/Trees-people-and-the-buit-environment_Watson.pdf). A tree expert and nurseryman I know described the addition of retail mixes of mycorrhizal fungi as akin to using ‘snake oil’! Perhaps if the RHS hadn’t branded ‘Rootgrow’ there might be more prominent discussion on the matter. Either way it will be interesting to see have to see how these new plantings get on. I fully expect them to perform as well as the ‘Polka’.
Once the weather set in I skedaddled indoors and set about thinking what other ‘necessities’ might be required. The list, (hello Santa), includes – but is not necessarily limited to, some more cider apples varieties; some more hazels/filberts cultivars and a mulberry, (Wellington or Chelsea). to replace the ‘skip’ specimen that never amounted to much.
simply the simple bare necessities!
We have done very well on fruit this year; soft fruit particularly as we still strip most of the top fruit from the orchard. Except for the summer raspberries. The first planting of bare root didn’t come to much and neither has the second. A high proportion of the canes didn’t take and those that did just haven’t produced fruit and I would say they are planted in a better position than the autumn varieties – more sun. So I’m giving up on them. The autumn raspberries have done brilliantly. I used to be a dyed in the wool ‘Autumn Bliss’ fan until I tried ‘Polka’. No contest – strong canes, big, big berries, great yield and a good raspberry flavour. We also grow a few Autumn Bliss and some All Gold, a yellow berry variety.
To get an earlier crop from the autumn fruiters I’m going to have a go at ‘double cropping’. Instead of cutting all the canes to the ground around end February I will leave them. They are then meant to crop earlier. The fruiting canes are then cut back, any new canes will fruit in the autumn. The summer varieties I shall dig out this autumn and replace with another autumn fruiting cultivar – I have heard good things about ‘Joan J’. Raspberries are such an easy fruit to grow and they cost so much to buy – a no brainer on the home grown front.
We picked some blackberries yesterday on a walk – summer pudding for tea!