Tuesday, February 14

Let battle commence

This afternoon we decided that we really did need to get on with some jobs on the plot. It wasn't raining and the temperature had risen a little from perishingly cold to just cold so we really didn't have any excuse not to go and get stuck in. Never mind flying visits to collect vegetables we needed to do some work.

Martyn decided that he was going to finish off our raspberry support - last year we just let the canes trail as we didn't get round to constructing anything to support them. It wasn't an ideal set up so this year our end of season evaluation was that we had to do better this season. The supporting posts had been in place since before the freezing weather set in but we hadn't managed to attach the wires needed to tie in the canes.

This was Martyn's job for this afternoon. I had given him the benefit of my 'expert' opinion that it would be a good idea for the wires to go through the posts rather than be attached to them. To my surprise he thought that was a good idea and so he did just that.
The canes still need tying in and there is another similar support system to be done at the other end of the plot but on the whole - a job well done.

As for me - well I drew the short straw - for some reason which I can't remember I'm the official blackberry pruner. A job that I take on with a fair amount of trepidation each year. Now this blackberry is a beast. I'm not sure which variety it is as the root was given to us when we first took on our plot, about twenty plus years ago,  by one of the long time plotters. It was one of the first signs that we had been accepted into the plotting fraternity - a privilege not to be sniffed at. Since then it has produced a bumper crop year after year without fail. (Now why did I tempt fate by saying that)?

For those of you who keep telling me that our plot looks neat and tidy - stand by to be shocked as this is what it looked like before I started.
It's not a pretty sight is it? The secret of survival when pruning blackberries is to wear the right sort of clothing and tackle the problem bit by bit. The right clothes means a fleece rather than anything woollen and some strong gloves. Even then the thorns find a way to entangle you in several rather aggressive embraces. In the end I managed to cut out all the canes that had fruited last year and any thin straggy canes. I also cut short any that were making a bid for plot domination.

Now things look like this. 
Really the photo was more to show how much debris, (to be burned later before every bit roots), I created but you may be able to make out the blackberry in the background. 

When I first started pruning the blackberry and its cousin the tayberry, each year I thought that I had overdone things as what was left looked very sparse but it's amazing how much growth the remaining canes will make over the season.

The canes like the raspberries still need tying in but at this stage we were both frozen so we called it a day and headed back to the warmth of home with the feeling that at least we had made a start to our gardening year.

19 comments:

  1. I bet you are both glad to have put those jobs behind you! I used to have aLoganberry bush that was similarly prolific and vigorous. In the end I got rid of it because it suffered very badly from Raspberry beetle attacks, and nothing I did could seem to deter the blessed things.
    Also wanted to say thanks for humouring me in respect of enhancing those photos. I think there are lots of people out there that would like you do do similar things with their work! you should be a professional Animator.

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    1. A pleasure mark - actually U did used to run animation courses for teacher and did some animation lessons for children in a former life.

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  2. I am sorry but I laughed my head off reading about your blackberries. I have just taken on a totally overgrown plot complete with 3ft brambles all over it. I can't wait until I have a neat and tidy blackberry like yours.

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    1. Hi Liz, Feel absolutely free to laugh your head off. Before we took our plot it was overgrown with brambles, docks, thistles and anything else you could name - all above head height. I wrote about it here so I look forward to seeing the results of your labour too

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  3. I am still in the process of removing a bouganvillea from our back fence. I will never grow anything with thorns again (apart from my finger lime) - you have my absolute sympathies. I have fond memories of going blackberry picking as a kid - but you can't do that here anymore as Landcare sprays all the wild ones so you are likely to get a mouthful of weedkiller with your fruit.

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    1. We bought a thornless blackberry last year which we hope will take over from the thorny one at some stage but at the moment it's just a baby!

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  4. All that work makes me feel very ashamed of myself...however I did go and 'look' at my allotment yesterday...survey says, 'not so n=bad for being away a month!!'

    I really do need to get back to it though.

    I understand the need for pruning to keep them tame on your plot...but I also think of all the lovely wild blackberries i pick that have never had a pair of pruners taken to them and I wonder how mush time do we take out to keep things pretty when it isn't that necessary?!?! I've planted my blackberries behind the shed now where it doesn't matter if they do go a little wild!!

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    1. If ours is left unpruned the berries which are really big end up smaller and look more like wild berries Tanya. Also the canes if left alone would stretch for miles. Each time the tip touches the ground it roots and sets off again. You can find it will eventually head across the entire plot. Most hedgerows do get cut back - maybe a lot more roughly than when something is pruned but it is pruning after a fashion.

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    2. I know most hedgerows get cut back....but a couple of places where I go and pick there is no cutting at all...the brambles are very deep but the berries delicious...i will take some pictures this year when I go berry picking again.

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  5. Well done for getting stuck in, I'm still hiding indoors and have yet to put any real work in at the allotment.

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    1. Hopefully it will not be our only visit this week Jo.

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  6. Wow! A battle it is. Looks like you need to work really hard for to clean the plot.

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  7. Raspberries look very smart, will you net them to keep the birds off and if so, how do you fix it?

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    1. We didn't net last year BW and the birds did have a few but we had enough to share so we will probably do the same again.

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  8. Good job, Sue. I can very easily see that won't be your favourite gardening task. Neat and worthwhile when done though and the proof will be in the fruits of your labour ;-)

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    1. It has been in the past Shirl so I'm hoping this year won't be the exception

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  9. I'm impressed - at least by the time you are enjoying the fruits of your labours (!) you will have forgotten the scratches. A satisfying work outing all round.

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    1. Amazingly no scratches Janet although I was stabbed through my jeans a few times and had to disentangle myself - it was a bit like using cling film. As I disentangled it grabbed me elsewhere!

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