Archive for the 'Fruit / Orchard' Category

mtp

Double Cropping Raspberries

My Autumn-fruiting Raspberries are pumping out the fruit as usual this year, which is all very nice. But next year I might do something a little different.

Autumn Raspberries are described as ‘primocane’ because they fruit on this season’s wood. Usually, I cut the canes down to the ground in Feb and the new season’s growth will flower and produce fruit around about September the same year. I’ve been doing this for years and thought that was the only way to do it. Until…

I came across a technique called double-cropping (sounds like my kind of cropping!). So I investigated further. What happens is this:

Instead of cutting your Autumn Raspberries to the ground in February you leave the canes to grow into Spring and Summer. At some point the existing canes will flower and give you a crop. At which point you slice them down to the ground and leave the newer, greener, springier canes to crop at the usual time. Sounds crazy but it just might work.

I noticed that Which? Gardening have also done a trial to compare how many kg of fruit you can get from the same canes by cropping normally and double cropping. The results are very interesting.

Most Autumn varieties tested produced significantly more fruit when double cropped. Only one variety, Brice, produced less. Here are the results:

Joan J
Conventional – 5.75kg
Double – 6.5kg

Autumn Treasure
Conventional – 3.5kg
Double – 8.0kg

Polka
Conventional – 4.75kg
Double – 5.25kg

Sugana
Conventional – 2.0kg
Double – 7.75kg

Brice
Conventional – 3.75kg
Double – 3.5kg

Fall Gold
Conventional – 3.5kg
Double – 6.5kg

Autumn Bliss
Conventional – 2.5kg
Double – 5.75kg

Clearly it depends which variety you have. But as I have Autumn Bliss I think I will be giving double cropping a go.

mtp

Iron Deficiency in Raspberries

If your Raspberry leaves are starting to look like this, kind of variegated and in some cases a bit yellow, they probably have an iron deficiency, and possibly a manganese deficiency too. I know because mine look like this!

I first noticed it a few weeks ago and actually thought it made the whole plant look a bit more interesting. But I looked it up in my edition of ‘Growing Fruit’. And, yep, there it was, iron deficiency.

The book recommended reducing the amount of water I gave to the plants in the short term and in the long term applying iron sulphate (bought from garden centre) to increase the iron in the soil. And if that doesn’t cure it some Epsom Salts to top up the manganese.

I will also be culling the canes (again) this Winter as I still have way too many Raspberries and I think the close proximity to each other is aggravating their growing conditions. It’s all go in the Raspberry bed right now!

mtp

When is a Peach Ready?

The short answer is when you can give it a gentle twist…

just like this…

and it comes away from the tree easily, like this. If it needs to be tugged at then it’s not ready.

mtp

Red Currants Galore!

I harvested my Red Currants today. Wow! I can hardly believe how many currants I got from one bush. I didn’t have time to do anything with them right now so I’ve frozen them. I read somewhere that the easiest way to get them off the stalks is to run a fork down the stalk and they just pop off. So I tried it and it really works! No more fiddling about trying to pluck the tiny green remainder of the stalk out, they come off clean as a whistle.

I froze them flat and then bagged them up in the freezer. There they will sit until I find the time, and a suitable recipe, to do them justice!

This month Which? Gardening did a trial of 23 different varieties of strawberry to find the tastiest strawberries. I’m a bit jaded when it comes to trials. There always seems to be someone, somewhere doing a trial of something and alot of the results are inconclusive or skewed in some way. But this one really caught my eye. Mainly because of the sheer effort that was put in.

The trial lasted two years with over 1100 people doing the taste test. Which? planted 460 plants through permeable plastic mulch and nursed the plants through their first year. They also erected a huge fruit cage over the whole crop to keep the birds at bay.

When the strawberries cropped in their second year they took them and tromped around RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, RHS Garden Wisley and also took them to their panel of expert testers. I’m astounded at the effort, money, people and time that went in to it. I can only conclude that winners are worth taking note of. And here they are.

Best Early Strawberry:
Joint winners – Darlisette and Sallybright

Best Mid-Season Strawberry:
Sonata

Best Late-Season Strawberry:
Malwina

I would link to the article but it’s not available online, only in the magazine. Shame really. The photo is of my own Strawberries which I think are ‘Alice’ – they were highly commended in the taste test but didn’t win. Never-mind, they will always taste amazing to me!

mtp

Do Strawberries Need Straw?

Good question! I’ve been growing Strawberries for six years now. Initially, at my allotment and then in my garden. I’ve only ever used straw twice, the first year I grew them, and this year.

It took me a long time to make the connection between straw and Strawberries – no really! I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes. But when I did I was all gung-ho about using it. What happened? The straw blew away on my windy, hilltop of an allotment. Hmm…

Since then I haven’t bothered with the straw. I didn’t need to because my Strawberries were big, juicy and ubiquitous. This year they are big, juicy and similarly ubiquitous (as you can see from the photos) but… the slugs have found them. I found one eating one of my biggest Strawberries when they first began to ripen. Not good.

Out came the straw again. Because what do slugs hate? – anything scratchy on their slimy little bodies. Luckily, I got a Rhubarb forcer for Christmas that came packed in lots and lots of straw. I knew it would come in handy and it has.

So, this year I’m doing straw. Apparently, it has other benefits too like keeping the Strawberries off the muddy ground and keeping them clean from rain splashes. I have to say though a bit of mud and some water marks never stopped us eating them straight from the plant before.

But it seems to be working a treat. No more slug damage and actually the red Strawberries look amazing against the pale yellow backdrop too.

Do you use straw? If not why not?

mtp

My Pot-Grown Tayberry

My Tayberry is in its second year and is fruiting like mad again. The fruits are ready slightly earlier this year (must have been all the good weather we had in April). As last year they still looked like this in the first week of June.

But these beauties are definitely ready for eating – and that’s exactly what I plan to do! I reckon I’ve got maybe 15 – 20 Tayberries this year. Not bad for a pot grown plant.

The plant itself seems to be doing well too, vigorous and healthy. I did have some trouble with tiny caterpillars eating the leaves but that was just me not being very vigilant and it doesn’t seem to have affected the fruit at all.

The pot is fairly big and against a south-facing, sandstone wall that gets quite warm in the sun and then radiates heat back out. Ideal for fruit really. Although I’m a bit worried about it getting pot bound so I might check if it needs repotting at the end of the season.

Other than that, roll on the Tayberries!

mtp

Training Peach Branches

Peaches are a lot of work – there’s no argument there. But sooooo worth it.

Now that my Peach tree has reached its full size and is covering most of the allotted space on the south-facing wall it’s time to start thinking about earmarking replacement branches for next year.

I know it sounds ridiculously early (since the poor thing has only just started to set fruit) but it’s essential work if you want some nice straight fruiting branches for next year.

Peaches fruit on last year’s wood (a little bit like Summer Raspberries) but this is unusual for large fruit trees. So much so that it takes a bit of planning.

Firstly, I nipped off all the leaf clusters that were pointing towards the wall. Since this is a fan-trained wall tree, anything pointing towards the wall is pretty useless to me (Peach-lets included).

Once I had done that I pin-pointed one leaf cluster at the base of each branch of the fan as the replacement branch for next year. Then I tied it in to the existing branch to make sure that it grows in the same direction as the branch that is there already – we don’t want any nasty snapping incidents come Autumn!

And that’s it. Each branch now has a replacement branch tied in, with maybe one in reserve too.

mtp

Pear Blossom About to Open

This is the blossom on my Comice Pear. Strangely, it has a red tinge and almost looks like tiny roses about to flower. But when it’s fully out it looks like this, and is totally white. I’ve never noticed this before. I just love the way that if I look hard enough, I see something different every Spring. Even with vegetables and fruit that I have been growing for years.

mtp

Time to Remove the Forcer

I harvested the last of my forced Rhubarb today. It’s time to take the forcer off and let the plant regain its strength. It feels strange to be coming to the end of a crop already when Spring is just beginning but forcing really weakens a plant so I can only do it for a limited period of time.

But wow the Rhubarb has been good. I’ve fallen in love with Rhubarb crumble again. Particularly, Jamie’s Rhubarb and Sticky Stem Ginger Crumble. I’ll be making that this afternoon and serving it hot with creme fraiche tonight. Can’t wait!

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