Archive for the 'Fruit / Orchard' Category


Lone Ranger

After a quick spin around the garden this morning I spotted this little guy sunning himself on a newly opened Blackcurrant leaf. I find the leaves on fruit bushes fascinating. They are always an interesting shape and usually a glorious colour too. If there was a design – it’s a pretty good one.


How to Grow Pineberries

My Pineberry plants arrived. Ten of them in total, in a teeny tiny little bag inside a teeny box. When I unwrapped them I found out why. They are indeed like small Strawberries. Each was no more than four or five centimetres long.

I planted them straight away in the sunniest part of the garden, in a patch that I manured in Autumn. They should like it there. I had a few spare so I planted the extra ones in a large terracotta pot and put it underneath my Grapevine on the South-facing wall. They’ll probably need some watering when Summer comes.

Here are the basics on how to grow them.
Courtesy of Mow it, Sow it, Grow it.

How to plant

  • Prepare the soil by digging over, removing any perennial weeds and adding manure.
  • Place the Pineberry plants every 30cm in rows that are 30 cm apart.
  • Plant with the crown at soil level and water well.
  • Check the plants every other day during the ripening period.
  • Regularly hoe between the rows and individual plants.

Caring for Pineberries

  • From May place straw in the rows and under the fruit to suppress weeds and prevent the fruit lying on the ground. This also keeps snails at bay!
  • If you can’t get straw use polythene sheeting.
  • Well rotted horse manure applied just after winter and once more just before growing will ensure a great crop.
  • Pick regularly to encourage growth.

So, they’re in. The newest addition to My Tiny Plot – Pineberries.


Early Rhubarb Jam

I met a lovely lady today at Frome market selling these very pink jars of ‘Early Rhubarb’ jam. It wasn’t just the jam that caught my eye but the presentation of it too. The labels, the brown paper wrapping, the cute litte jars. Her stall was laid out with patience and attention to detail. She used wooden crates, vintage tablecloths, and lots and lots of glass cake stands to display her products. Her stall just shone out.

I love that. I had to buy some of course, that was a given. I asked her where the Rhubarb came from as mine wasn’t ready yet and she said she’d just had a huge delivery from Yorkshire (the Rhubarb triangle) and was busy making lots of jam for all the local farmer’s markets. What a lovely way to pass these cold, cold months.


Joining the Pineberry Bandwagon

Shall I hop on the Pineberry bandwagon? I’m considering it. Not because they look so darn cool and… they are kind of inside out Strawberries, and… they taste of Pineapple not Strawberry. But because they’re something new to grow that I haven’t grown before. I’m a sucker for a new thing. Any new thing (horticulturally speaking) and I’m there.

To quote the press release that I got this morning, “The strawberries are a natural hybrid from the strawberry plant family, the white fruit which has a very pale pink tinge, appears early and can be ready in May.” The fact that I actually got a press release that was all about Pineberries says it all really. They are this season’s ‘it’ plant.

I like to think that I can rise above all that but the truth is I can’t. I’m already super excited about growing Pineberries and have planned exactly where I will plant them.

J Parkers sell them and so do Suttons. Wilkinsons apparently do them for £2.28 each, And probably lots of local garden centres too.


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

Conventional – 4.75kg
Double – 5.25kg

Conventional – 2.0kg
Double – 7.75kg

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.


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!


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.


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:

Best Late-Season Strawberry:

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!


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?

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