Friday, February 5

They earn their keep.

Berries and currants certainly earn their place in the grow-your-own garden. After the initial planting the only real attention needed is that some need pruning once a year or in the case of strawberries tidied up. Some need to be tied in to supports or covered with nets to deter predatory birds. They may need watering during very dry weather, (remember what that looks like do you?) and most benefit from a feed. If bushes are grown through weed control fabric with mulch on top very little weeding is needed, otherwise weeds can be kept down by hoeing. After that, pest and disease willing the most labour intensive task is at harvesting time and that is directly linked to how much fruit you grow which in our case is quite a lot! 

The yield is of high value when set against the cost of those small punnets sold in the shops. It's debatable how much money this actually saves you as I doubt that you would buy the equivalent amount of fruit as you harvest. You would need to buy lots of punnets of raspberries to obtain 17 kg of fruit. So you may not actually save money but you do eat a lot more fresh fruit and our freezer is always well supplied with fruit for pies, crumbles and compotes.

So let's take the fruits above one by one.

The thornless blackberry provides a steady supply of large fruits for about two and a half months and what is more there is no pain involved in the picking. We dug up our thorny thug but still have one in a wild patch on the plot in a wildlife area. This is mainly left to the birds and any other passing blackberry loving wild creature but we are sometimes tempted to pick the shiny berries.
The blackcurrants always seem to do well and in spite of the blackbirds flying out of the bushes when we approach, they never seem to take too many and there is plenty for all of us. The total harvest could have been higher but we stop picking when we have enough. Each year some bushes have all the old wood removed. I'm too much of a coward to do them all in the same year.
I don't know what it is about our blueberry bushes but they never produce a large amount of fruit. All the conflicting 'expert' advice doesn't help - prune/don't prune, feed/don't feed, don't allow to dry out/don't give too much water etc. etc. The berries that are produced ripen so erratically that what is produced comes in dribs and drabs. I often pick under-ripe fruit to ripen off the plant, otherwise I could miss much of the fruit between plot visits but no doubt the blackbirds wouldn't.

As in the case of the blackcurrants, we could have harvested more gooseberries but we only pick what we can use. Many of the bushes originated as cuttings which we were given and so we have no idea about varieties. The trick is to pick them as they are ripe and sweet but before they drop off the bushes. It's a case of a gentle squeeze and then a taste to determine the ripeness. I still haven't pruned them which is important to avoid mildew.
Again we just picked the jostaberries that we could use. The bushes produced well this year and what was more exceptional was that the wood pigeons left the fruit alone. Often they raid the bushes and break branches in their eagerness to browse the berries. Jostaberry bushes grow quite large and as with the gooseberries I still need to prune them. We only bought one bush but cuttings are very easy to take. We now have six and given quite a few plants away.
The kiwi berry - Issai - vine is growing in a pot in the garden and this year is the first year that we have had a real harvest from the grape sized berries. 
We were harvesting raspberries for four months. The summer fruiting ones were newly planted last year and so we were pleased with the yield. The day on which we stopped picking the summer fruit coincided exactly with the first picking of the autumn fruits. Glencoe is a purple raspberry that grows in a similar way to a blackberry and has smaller fruits and always crops less heavily than the fruits grown on the more usual canes.
We inherited the redcurrant bushes with the plot and so have no idea of the variety. The plants are easily fifteen years old and still going strong. I just cut out some old branches and trim the tops each year. They are one set of plants permanently covered with a net. This means that neither the blackbirds can strip the plants bare nor can Martyn get under to pick them. This means that picking falls to me. I generally just pull the berries off in strings and destring back at home. As with much of the other fruit we could have picked more than we did but stopped when we had plenty. At this stage the netting is pulled back to give the birds a treat, although like contrary children they tend at this point to leave the shiny red fruits alone. When the bushes are covered by netting they will find any weak spot and sneak under.
Most of the strawberry plants were newly planted and so we didn't expect a large crop. The unknown varieties were from old plants that have since been dug up. We left them in the ground until after fruiting to boost what we expected would be a limited crop from the new plants.
The alpine strawberry plants are past their best and will be replaced this year.

Our most thuggish plant is the tayberry. I think we miss quite a few fruits as it is painful picking. It still needs pruning which isn't my favourite job. I think it is due for some harsh treatment this year.
One plant that rivals the tayberrys savage thorns is the Japanese Wineberry. It has been planted a while and hadn't made much growth or produced much fruit in the past but suddenly the canes have taken off, so maybe this year will be their year!
The final berry bushes that we have planted on the plot are the honeyberries which have yet to produce any fruit but having read reviews of the fruit maybe these berries won't live up to expectations.

By the way has anyone grown a chuckleberry and if so would you recommend growing one.

All in all despite the lack of sunshine I have to conclude that last year was a berry good year for us.

By the way if you are interested my picture diary for January is now complete and is here.


  Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments http://glallotments.blogspot.co.uk/ author S Garrett

31 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post- especially for bare-root planting time. I have never grown a chuckleberry. I so want to now - irrespective of taste, I would just enjoy the whole "to me - to you - to me" Chuckle Brothers bit of planting one.

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    1. I suppose that would be quite appropriate, Sarah a case of to me, to the birds, to me,to the birds.

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  2. Fabulous! That's what I call a berry patch. Have you tried Goji berries at all? I'm tempted myself, but unsure how they'd perform.

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    1. We did plant some goji berries once p, Darren but they had been given to us by someone who grew them from the seeds of bought berries and we decided in the end to take them up.

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  3. I am so jealous ! You have VERY green fingers. I intended to weigh our produce last year but kept forgetting to. I will try again this year. Take care now. Marion x

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    1. Martin weighs most of it, Marion so I don't hath to remember. :-)

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  4. I know I always looked forward to the photos of your harvests--always very impressive. As a fruit-aholic I would be in heaven around your plot in the summer!

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    1. We love fruit to, Sue. You will probably like the next of my allotment posts.

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  5. Thanks for this informative post about berries! We've only had grapes and mulberries...would like more fruit in the yard and garden!

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    1. We have never grown a mulberry, Juliet. The mulberries that I have seen always seem to be quite big trees. We do have a very productive grapevine in the greenhouse. We've planted some of the plot but so far the grapes have never matured fully.

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  6. That's a lot of soft fruit. The kiwi berries look to have quite a hard skin, is this the case? I can take or leave most soft fruit but strawberries are a favourite, I'd like to find room for some here, even if it's in containers.

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    1. They are not hard, Jo. I guess they are something like a grape are a plum skin. We do love our fruit and are hoping that the strawberries produce well next year.

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  7. What a wonderful reminder of the bounties of summer. You're right, fruit really is very easy to grow a lot of the time isn't it. Although I've struggled a bit with raspberries and strawberries these past couple of years. But I'm overwhelmed with blackcurrants and gooseberries every single year, and for almost no input. I love my tayberry, but you're right, it can be a bit of a thug. And the harvest time is very short, they all ripen at once. I freeze a lot of mine, it's good to have a freezer full of fruit come autumn time. Japanese wineberries are funny sticky little chaps aren't they. I got my vine free at the allotment site's "Free Stuff" place. It did well last year and they're very pretty. They look good on top of a cake.

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    1. I have plans for restricting our tayberry to just a few canes this year, CJ. Maybe then the picking will be less painful. I think our Japanese wineberry now has the makings of becoming a bit of a thug. The berries are really strange. We tend to sprinkler ours on top of a fruit salad .

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  8. When we first moved into our present property there was a Loganberry along one side of the garden. It produced some huge fruits, but it suffered terribly from Raspberry Beetle. Does that pest affect your fruit, and if so what do you do to combat it?

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    1. I will probably regret saying this, Mark but we don't seem to have any raspberry beetles. No doubt they will make their way towards us at some point.

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  9. What a lovely selection of berries and currants you grow. We grow, strawberries, raspberries (summer & autumn), gooseberries (red & green), black currants, red currants and blueberries. We don't grow blackberries as there are some wild ones right outside our back gate.

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    1. You have quite a wide very collection there yourself, Julie. We do have a whitecurrant bush but so far the currants of never really looked worth picking.

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  10. Wow - berry heaven. Many of those fruits I had never even heard of (such as thayberry & Japanese wineberry). We only planted our raspberry and blackberry bushes out last year, but I'm hopeful that we'll get a good harvest this season - that is if they pull through this winter with all of this up and down weather.

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    1. Fingers crossed for your raspberries and blackberries, Margaret. Do you grow the thornless blackberry or are you tough and grow the one with the thuggish thorns?

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    2. I planted "Black Satin" which is supposed to be thornless, but the short cane that I received & planted does have some thorns, so I'm not altogether sure. I think I read somewhere that the lateral canes are thornless...let's hope so!

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  11. Amazing! All that lovely fruit! Come on Spring!!

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    1. I echo that sentiment, Belinda.

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  12. Great post Sue, I still have some pruning to take care of but got quite a bit done last year. The jostaberries look like big, not quite ripe blackcurrants!!

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    1. One of the just of berries parents is the blackcurrant, Tanya the other is the gooseberry. Just like with the children they have some characteristics of each parents. Martyn thinks it tastes more like a gooseberry and I think it tastes more like a blackcurrant

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  13. You have had a good yield of berries, I think last year was a good year for them, we did well down on the allotment except for strawberries, they are quite old plants, I cannot make up my mind if they are worth growing.

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    1. We are hoping that our strawberries do well this year, Brian. When you pick a fresh, ripe strawberry with the warmth of the sun on it and taste it you then think they are well worth growing.

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  14. I am always impressed by the wide variety of soft fruit that you grow Sue. I love our raspberries, and think I will try growing a Japanese Wineberry again too, but I gave my gooseberry bush away as it was growing too close to the path and I just don't have another space for it.

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    1. If you do plant a wineberry, Janet be careful where you position it as it is a prickly beast

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  15. Lovely fruit sue. I'm the same and wouldn't buy such a huge amount as we harvest from the plot but it's amazing to have. i don't protect the fruit from birds but hardly ever see them taking any, maybe there's just so much fruit it doesn't make a difference. I did I once see a young blackbird picking off raspberries, which was rather cute.

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    1. I sometimes think that birds see netted fruit sad s challenge, Lou

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