Fruit harvesting for us began way back in May when the first taste of strawberries came from pot-grown plants in the cold greenhouse.
Picking has continued throughout the summer from a range of soft and top fruits, the latest being apples and plums. But it can’t be all take, we have to put something back into the system that ensures a repeat of bumper crops next year. Now is a good time to start.
Last week I waded into the main-crop raspberry section of a patch that also contains autumn fruiting types. With the summer crop now over, the bulk safely in the freezer, it was time to remove all the spent fruiting canes by tracing them to ground level and snipping with the secateurs. This immediately lets in the extra light and air that will encourage rapidly developing young canes to mature and bear next year’s crop.
In a different part of the patch, autumn fruiting varieties have just started to offer a new batch of ripe raspberries. These will continue production well into November, weather permitting. Then just before serious frosts arrive we’ll remove any weeds and lay a generous organic mulch throughout the bed.
This keeps the surface roots warmer in winter, cooler in summer.
There are four varieties in the strawberry bed and their cropping period covers June to September. Once those remaining have ripened, we’ll select a few healthy young plants to replace some three-year-olds. This helps retain vigour. Then step in with the hedge clippers and remove most of the top growth, weed between the rows and tidy up the bed for winter. The final act, as for all outdoor fruits in this garden, is the applying of mulch.
Traditionally, blackcurrant bushes are pruned as soon as the strigs of berries have been picked but I prefer to wait until leaf-fall when a full view is available. The dark old stems that have fruited are removed to encourage pale young growths that ideally emerge from ground level. Otherwise, follow old stems down from the tip and cut at the junction with new growth.
The pruning process for gooseberry bushes should aim to avoid a congestion of growth because that encourages mildew which ruins the plant and crop. By removing weakly stems and keeping the centre of the plant open, you allow the air to circulate. This is best achieved by training in the shape of a goblet.
Surround the young bush with canes pushed into the ground at an angle radiating outwards, and tie a stem to each. Leave these in place for a year or so until the branches support themselves in that position.