GARDENING with Tom Pattinson
The fruit crops have been good so far this year, with the potential of much more in the pipeline. Whilst anticipating the ripening of harvests to come, grapes, plums, apples and such, those that have already performed need a little attention by way of tidy-up and pruning.
Although we`re still picking strawberries from `Albion,` which is renowned for continuous fruiting, the main crop from other varieties is over. It`s time to clean up the bed and see what we have by way of rooted runners. If you had time to peg yours into pots of compost in situ a month ago, they should have formed roots by now and could be separated from the parent plant. But plantlets will make contact with the soil and develop themselves anyway, so it`s often just a case of rounding up the best in October and slotting them into an established strawberry bed.
Despite occasional downpours destroying some fruits, the summer raspberry crop has been exceptional for us this year. Key to that has been the annual late autumn-early winter mulch of organic matter that encourages such sturdy canes. The present slight pause in fruit production has encouraged us to prune out all the spent summer canes at ground level. This leaves pale-stemmed youngsters with more light, air and space to ripen for next year`s fruit. If you have a wire support system, tie the strongest canes to it and cut out the weaklings.
So much for the early raspberry crop, but we also have autumn fruiting types. Their pruning could not be simpler. At some time during the early part of winter, we cut everything to ground level and each subsequent growth will offer raspberries in autumn of the same year.
Planting a combination of `Octavia`, `Joan J` and `Tullameen` ensures a supply of fresh raspberries from July to September. Add `Galante` for back-up because it performs in autumn, then again in spring. `Polka` is most outstanding of the newer cultivars. Once settled in it will continue from summer into deepest autumn with very large fruit. If you can`t get these canes locally, try www.kenmuir.co.uk and ask them to send their very handy fruit catalogue.
You could prune the currant and gooseberry bushes as soon as the fruit is harvested but we leave ours until after leaf fall. In deepest autumn there is a clearer view of the shape and state of each specimen. Diseased, crossing or damaged stems are easier detected and removed then. The currant and gooseberry fruits develop from short side shoots (spurs) on the old wood so much of the framework is left in place, only the laterals shortened. But it is important to avoid congestion at the centre, allowing air to circulate and discouraging mildew. We therefore aim for a goblet-shaped bush.
The thorn-less blackberries are bristling with ripe fruits at present, way ahead of their countryside counterparts. When production is over it`s a simple matter of removing the old canes and tying in the new, as you would with raspberries. We grow `Loch Ness` and `Helen,` both of which have big brambles. They also have a habit of dipping young stems down to ground level, and where these touch, they root. Speed up the process by pegging them to the soil at the leaf joint area.
I just love growing apples and watching both tree and fruits develop. Subsequently, every new arrival on the scene is welcomed as a potential life-long friend. So when `Redlove` was launched by Suttons Seeds several months ago, it became a must-have trial plant. One serious winter later it looks as though the £20 was well spent.
The plant arrived as a bare-rooted, grafted maiden, with a single stem barely 30 centimetres tall. Planted in October last year, it has taken everything the weather could throw at it and grown to over one metre. Initially, we intend to train it in column form but it can be easily turned into a tree by encouraging side growths later.
The foliage has a stunning reddish tinge and we can`t wait for the deep pink, long lasting blossom that spring will bring. Although it is not self fertile there are plenty of others apples in the garden to aid pollination. Best of all, promotion photographs show it as red to the core, and it is allegedly of most exquisite taste. We shall see!
`Redlove` is not the only newcomer to our garden. There are two further fruiting types and both have a brilliant reputation gained over many years. The large, green apples of `Lord Derby` first graced English gardens in 1862. It`s a good cooker that practically ruled the roost until Bramley`s came on the scene later that century. Unlike Bramley`s, which is triploid and needs two other apples in flower to secure fertilisation, it crops regularly and remains intact when cooked.
This tree was selected from a group because of its beautifully balanced shape, at a local plant centre last October. In the first year it has eleven good apples which will be picked before they turn yellow.
`Peregrine` peach, introduced in 1906, was the other £20 purchase, and it is planted in the greenhouse. If its first year in residence is anything to go by, there are joyful times ahead. The greenhouse is not heated so protective fleece was draped over the plant when heavy overnight frosts came calling. Then February brought stunning pink flowers that were dutifully brushed every day - an activity that secured ten embryo fruits.
Watching them swell to cricket ball size under the influence of a regular liquid organic feed, was a sheer delight. This was topped only by the fragrance and taste of the end product. Can`t wait for October, the best possible time to select and plant more lovely fruit trees.*