Packs of soft fruits stored in the freezer during a summer of bumper crops, are currently being retrieved at leisure.
Black and red currants, gooseberries, blackberries and delicious raspberries, as fresh as the day they were picked, provide a reminder, if one were necessary, of the need to fine-tune the plants for a repeat performance.
What better time to examine your fruit bushes than during their winter rest?
With all leaves gone you can see at a glance any diseased or crossing branches.
If the centre of a plant is congested with stems, it will most surely harbour pests and diseases later, so get the final pruning done before new growth begins.
Spent canes of autumn-fruiting raspberries have been pruned to the ground to persuade new stems that will rise to eye-level and crop from late July onwards.
Autumn Bliss remains a popular variety, but I grow Joan J because the fruits are so large, canes are almost free of spines and it’s such a reliable cropper.
This said, there is a newcomer on the block called Polka.
It has won awards at the National Fruit Show and is being hailed as better than Joan J. This I must try. It’s available from www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk – a pack of six canes costing £12.95.
These autumn or late fruiting varieties are often referred to as ‘primocane’ types, which simply means that they fruit on the current season’s growth.
Floricane varieties fruit on stems produced the previous year and are commonly called summer or main crop raspberries, the earliest of which ripen in June.
If you’re looking for one cultivar that fills a gap between summer and autumn crops, consider Tulameen, which has never disappointed us once in the past decade. Very large fruits, splendid flavour, heavy yields, almost spineless stems, these are some of its virtues.
Three more jobs to complete on the raspberry bed and we can stand back to watch new growth get under way.
First is the removal of any weeds, bearing in mind that this fruit has roots near the surface.
Second is to apply the granular organic feed that helps kick-start the season.
And third is the laying of a deep mulch that brings the best from all soft and top fruits.
No garden? No excuse!
Pomona fruits (Tel. 01255 440410) is flagging up Ruby Beauty, the world’s first patio raspberry.
Ideally suited to growing in a tub container, and multi-branching, it grows to 1m without supports, is spineless and crops through June and July.