If you are a regular reader, you may remember that we have a redcurrant patch on our allotment that we inherited when we took on the plot. We have no idea what variety the six bushes are or even whether they are all the same variety but no matter as they are very productive.
Each year they produce enough berries to fill our freezer with enough redcurrant compote to meet our needs with some left over to share with the birds.
When we inherited the bushes they were hidden in grass and weeds as high if not higher than the bushes themselves. The bushes were already well established and so digging out and replanting wasn't an option so we had to settle for strimming around the plants and keeping things as tidy as we could.
Once the bushes were in full leaf ang fruiting this was no easy task and each year, at some point, the grass claimed victory over us and provided ideal cover for the wasps' nest that I inadvertently stood in when picking the fruit. The wasps were not happy and neither was I especially as at the time I was trapped under netting with a full punnet of fruit in my hands.
Again regular readers with be only too aware that we are fans of weed control fabric. The redcurrant patch was where this all started. We decided to use the fabric under the redcurrants. Of course it would have been far more straight forward if we could have laid the fabric before planting but this wan't to be.
Once in place the fabric was mulched with wood chippings and edged with hazel poles cut from one of our bushes. Tree stakes were driven in to support netting as needed.
We used wire netting around the lower half of our makeshift cage so inquisitive birds didn't become trapped when trying to find a way into the fruit.
There were grass paths to three sides of the patch. One problem was that once the netting was in place it was difficult, (impossible) to keep the edges tidy so at the end of each season the net had to removed in order to tidy up. Also the bushes were outgrowing their allotted space and it was a bit of a struggle manoeuvring between and around them under the netting when harvesting.
Also over time - the fabric was laid seven years ago which is hard to believe - some weeds do manage to colonise the mulch and the density of the planting meant that the only way to tidy up was to crawl about under the branches.
This year we decided we needed to carry out some major renovation work. First job was to take down the cage.
Framework removed we had to pull out any grass that had gained a foothold in the mulch. This was far easier than I expected as few roots had penetrated the fabric. The brambles that had found a way through the planting holes were a different proposition. I had to be content with hacking them back and they will inevitably regrow so I will have to be alert and nip them off when I see them.
I also thinned out the bushes firstly removing the branches that always trailed onto the ground when laden with fruit and any that would block my route when harvesting.
We decided to extend the mulched wcf/mulched area so that the posts for the cage could be fixed inside this area. In this way the grass wouldn't grow up against the netting.
To one side of the bed a narrow grass path ran between the redcurrants and a bed containing some small apples trees. This wouldn't allow enough space to extend the cage so we decided to take out the grass and extend the fabric and mulch between the beds. Fortunately we have a free regular delivery of bark chippings courtesy of the council parks department.
This should allow for the cage extension and walking space between the beds. We may need to demarcate the edge of the apple bed with some hazel poles.
The idea now is to build a more substantial cage that can be a more permanent fixture. This can be done at a later date. I do have one bet with myself though. I bet the height of the cage is just high enough for me to get under and far too low for Martyn.