Showing posts with label raspberries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label raspberries. Show all posts

1 Aug 2021

The good and bad of my veg patch this week

Curly kale plant growing
Last kale standing
(and yes it is surrounded by self seeded forget me nots that will need to be moved, eventually)

Honestly, there are times when I wonder why I grow veg. With my small veg patch, my efforts are hardly a step towards self-sufficiency, especially when plants give up the good fight against pests, predators and precipitation (rain). (I do love a bit of alliteration.) But, then again, I’m an optimist by nature and have learned to roll with the heartache of seeing weeks of nurturing wiped out.

As we’ve come to expect in this very British of summers, variable weather conditions have favoured slugs and snails this past week, although I must say that lovely rain has left all the greenery looking very lush, even if my kales and cabbages have all but disappeared. Luckily I have a few spares waiting in the wings; veg growing is nothing if not a learning curve.

Yesterday was one of the brighter, yet chillier, days (perfect weather!) so I was able to grab a few photos in the evening as I inspected the patch after work. 

Green tomatoes ripening on plant

Ah! The waiting game as tomatoes gradually ripen ... they would get there quicker if grown in the warmth of a polytunnel or greenhouse but I don't have that luxury. Mine are chosen for their ability to be grown outdoors - hellooo again, British weather! Dare I keep my fingers crossed and hope for another blight free year?
These tiny tomatoes in my photo above are Mr Happy from Mr Fothergill’s children’s seed range and were destined for my niece’s young family to grow. Lockdown dictated otherwise and the plants stayed with me. I just love the name though - and if they ripen, I will indeed be Miss Happy! 

Single green plum on tree
Plum. Singular.
Readers may recall my very reluctant plum tree - yes, it’s still standing. Very close scrutiny joyfully revealed one solitary large plum dangling in the branches. Whoop!  Now don’t get too excited, this should be ripening by now but the tree is sending me a message - it’s reminding me that it’s the perfect time for pruning stone fruit trees, and that's long overdue here. One more for the weekend agenda, then. (I seem to be constantly chopping things down or digging things up recently - life as a gardener!)

And speaking of digging things up, the broad bean plants can come out; these were a major fail this year. I’ve never had a problem with broad beans but this year the pods refused to swell - probably the unexpected heatwave and not enough watering. The delicious primavera risotto that I make with home grown broad beans, asparagus and peas will have to wait until next year.

Turning resolutely away from the disasters, let’s look at my raspberry patch. I mulched around the canes with some of my Hotbin compost earlier year and, together with regular bouts of heavy rainfall, the difference is noticeable. The first clusters of large firm fruits have ripened - even though they're an autumn fruiting variety - several small handfuls have (in time honoured tradition) been picked and eaten straightaway and I’m hopeful of a steady crop in the weeks ahead. This variety, by the way, is Polka.

So, not all bad news then ... 

This week I'll be filling gaps in the veg patch by sowing 

  • two varieties of spinach - a hardy winter cropping variety that can be sown from now until the end of September, plus a vigorous summer variety for baby leaves. 
  • chard - can be sown again, now we're past midsummer. This sowing will give me baby leaves for salads and larger leaves in autumn and winter. Pink Passion for colour and Fordhook Giant for flavour. 
  • Coriander - delicious in salsas, salads and the lentil dhal that I make regularly. I'll be sowing this now until the end of August and hope the plants mature in time for some seeds after the pretty flowers. 
  • Plain leaved parsley - this is a last chance sowing as the window for outdoor sowing is March to July, although the temperatures now are not dissimilar to those in April. I chop flat leaved parsley into just about all savoury food so like to have some on the balcony and in the veg patch. 
  • Carrots - I sowed another batch of carrots last week; this time I used Extremo (Mr. Fothergills), a variety which crops over winter. I've not grown carrots over winter before but am really quite excited at the prospect of harvesting carrots in the colder months ... allegedly until April, if what I read comes true. 

5 Dec 2017

Early December in the Veg Patch

How many people are currently hunkering down inside, away from plummeting temperatures and relishing the warmth and cosiness of being tucked away from the cold?  I know the temptation to stay indoors on a dreary, possibly drizzly, day gets me every time. Grey skies do not motivate me. But I always surprise myself with how good it feels to get outside, wrapped up against the cold, for a walk or an hour's work in the garden.  There are always jobs to do, even (or especially?) at this time of year.  I still have leaves to rake and store, bulbs to plant and mulching to finish. Trees need pruning and a few perennials need to be relocated. I admit I enjoy the peace of working outside in winter, it clears my mind and gives me the headspace to think.

Last weekend Michelle at Vegplotting blog hosted another of her #mygardenrightnow challenges, inviting gardeners to get together on social media with a snap of themselves in their winter gardens.  We've had such a good warm autumn (and by that I mean temperatures still in the mid to high 50F range (10-15C) with occasional sun) that many of those gardeners were able to show plants in bloom.  Could I match that with anything in the veg patch? Let's have a look.

1 Sept 2015

Re-evaluating raspberries

Oooh, I do love raspberries, don't you?  But, if you're going to go to the bother of growing your own, you'd hope that the end result will be better than (or at least as good as) anything you could buy in the shops, yes? Despite recent heavy rain which has perked up my raspberries no end, I can't help thinking (again) that Autumn Bliss aren't quite hitting the spot for me.

I've written before about my disappointment with the quality of the Autumn Bliss raspberries that I'm growing here; I could also add confusion to disappointment as I read online that Autumn Bliss, bred in the UK, have large, firm fruits with an excellent flavour. That doesn't sound anything like mine. In past summers, the fruits on my Autumn Bliss canes have been small, squishy and slightly tart; sighting of a large plump and firm fruit would cause great excitement, so rare was it.  So I can only assume that it's something to do with my soil. Dig down about 12-15 inches and I'll find clay - but raspberries are shallow rooted. I confess to having never tested the pH factor of my soil and raspberries apparently like a slightly acidic soil.  I wonder if mulching with coffee grounds would help. (The lack of regular watering is probably another huge factor.)

Last year I was tempted to rip them out and start again. They take up a fair bit of veg patch space (not as much as summer fruiting canes though) and I want those big fat raspberries that you see in the shops.  (Don't we all?)  I started looking.

I made a start at replacing the canes by buying a few Polka canes early 2014 but couldn't quite bring myself to dig up the old canes until the new ones were established.  So I now have a patch of Polkas and a line of Autumn Bliss. Time for a comparison.

Polka on the left, Autumn Bliss on the right.

I've been picking a bowlful of raspberries from each patch every couple of days throughout August. I've probably got about 8 Autumn Bliss and 3 Polka canes but the Polka raspberries fill the bowl more quickly, being consistently much larger and firmer than the Bliss berries. Their taste is better too, being slightly sweeter.

The Bliss canes, however, usually start fruiting earlier in mid-July.  They're cut down in late November, leaving just one or two canes per plant at 40cm.  I've pruned like this every year and have found that this is a method that works for getting a small but earlier harvest. The Bliss canes were still fruiting in early December last year while the Polkas had all finished by then.

There are other considerations.  I find that Polka hold their shape better and for longer on the cane than Autumn Bliss and the latter fruits occasionally have a slightly musty flavour.  And why am I finding slug trails on fruit at the top of the Bliss canes? Now that's determination for you.

I think my decision is made.  Roll on with the replacement programme.  I'm also thinking of trying Joan J and perhaps some gold raspberries.

What about you?  How do you grow yours?
Have you got any favourites or have found a variety to be particularly successful? I'd love to know!  
And do you mulch and net your raspberries? 

More Polka berries on the way …. 

20 Sept 2012

Autumn Bliss

I hardly feel as though summer has been and gone but there's no denying that the end of the year is approaching.  Yesterday evening's chilliness had me wondering whether the winter duvet should be put back and where I left my slippers.  (I have terracotta tiled floors in my hallway and kitchen; lovely underfoot in the heat of summer, not so when temperatures drop.)

I'm noticing conkers lying on the ground, hips ripening in the hedgerows and seed pods forming on perennial sweet peas and orache.  This photo was taken this morning; this is my favourite season for orache as the colours of the seed pods really sing out.

Autumn Orache

I'm about to have another little break from work, a holiday-at-home where I can potter about the veg garden, tidying and mulching and preparing for colder months and, I hope, more regular blogging! Today was the first of those days; I was able to spend some time giving the veg a good watering and noting what needs to be done - quite a lot, as it happens...  who says that spring is the busiest time for gardeners?

The Autumn Bliss raspberries are still fruiting well; if I didn't munch them as I went round, I'd have brought home a small punnet but still have a good handful or two for later.  These are the canes that I chopped back in February, leaving some of them at 40cm to see if they would fruit earlier (a tip gleaned from the internet).  Looking back at photos, I see the first fruits ripened in the third week of June:

First raspberries June 2012
:: June ripening Autumn Bliss raspberries ::
... and are still fruiting today, with more to come.

Raspberries: Autumn Bliss
:: Still fruiting third week in September ::

Three months of raspberries.  Result.  But who can tell whether this is due to my "experiment" or the bizarre weather we've had this year?  Either way, I'm happy.

Elsewhere in the garden, my "Striped Pyjamas" spaghetti squash has stopped sulking and trebled in size, yielding this marrow sized beauty before climbing up and through the plum trees:

Spaghetti Squash

I love spaghetti squash - so simple to prepare and so delicious in a squashy-marrowish way. I like them cut in half, microwaved, seasoned and served with lashings of butter over the forked flesh. Unfortunately for me I started a fat free slimming diet last week so I hope they store well - it will give me something to look forward to!

I won't be posting or gardening tomorrow; rather excitingly, I'm starting a part-time garden design course at Capel Manor.  I'll be studying horticulture in the mornings and drawing and design after lunch. Combine that with a stroll around the college gardens and I couldn't think of a nicer way to spend my Fridays (rush hour traffic excluded).

10 May 2012

It's a Kind of Magic...

Cherry tree seedling

While I try and squeeze a few moments to write up my notes about my trip to Jekka's herb farm, I wanted to share a little bit of magic going on in the herb patch: free cherry trees! I almost didn't see this tiny seedling as I weeded under the cherry tree but my eye was drawn to the two halves of a cherry stone lying on top of the soil and it dawned on me what the seedling must be. I stayed my hand and placed a marker stone to remind me where the seedling was. Several weeks later and the little tree is now 3 inches tall with four true leaves. There are a couple more 'trees' that have popped up and will be similarly nurtured. My first foundling has been potted up, ready to be taken to the school gardening club this Friday and will eventually be grown in the school's raised bed in the kitchen garden at Lauderdale House in Highgate.

The example above reminds me that every seed wants to grow, given the right conditions and freshness, and every plant is genetically programmed to propagate itself. Even in an urban environment it wouldn't take long for nature to take over. There's a copse of Victoria plum trees growing alongside a lane near my parents' home; its origins lie in the fruit falling from trees in a private neighbouring garden. If I left the York Rise veg patch alone this year, growing in between copious amounts of weeds (chickweed, dandelion, daisies - all edible; goosegrass, couch grass, thistles - not, unless you're a donkey) would be red orach (mountain spinach), sunflowers, nasturtiums, potatoes, horseradish, calendula,  nigella and monarda. Every one of them is self seeded.

Even the autumn raspberries have spread a bit too enthusiastically, sending out runners where they shouldn't. Earlier in the year I pulled several out while tidying round. Obviously I didn't get them all because there are more than half a dozen raspberry canes still flourishing in the bed used for last year's courgettes.

Don't make my mistake: I thought these runners were suckers which stole energy from the main plant; I've since learned that they can be moved and grown as new canes. More free plants! Now that's magic!

(I feel I ought to apologise to anyone who will now have that Queen song running around their heads all day. I just can't get it out of my head... whoops, there's another one!)

25 Nov 2011

Too Soon to Prune ...

I'd earmarked November as being my month for thinking about fruit. I need to move half of my 3 year old fruit trees to space them out more and I also want to order more: a couple of apple trees, a peach tree, some blueberry bushes and two sweet cherry trees. No problems there because the milder weather will make the work much easier than digging and planting in the biting cold.

I'd also thought pruning would be on the task list by now but no.  The cherries are the only fruit trees that are dropping their leaves. Plums, apples and pears are still fully clothed.  The raspberries that I've grown are late fruiting Autumn Bliss - they started fruiting in August and are still providing the odd handful. In any case, I've read that autumn raspberry canes should be left until 'late winter' when they can be cut to the ground. What does that mean? Does late winter mean calendar December or, more likely, when truly cold and frosty weather is upon us?  Do the canes drop their leaves so that I know for sure? Help! For me, late winter is the last cold month to get through before temperatures start to rise, possibly late January/early February. Could anyone shed any light on this for me?


Pruning is a subject I knew very little about until recently.  (I'm reviewing an excellent book with very good chapters on this subject, more very soon.) As luck would have it, last Sunday afternoon I was invited to join a fruit pruning workshop in a local community garden behind a block of council flats. Fruit trees planted there a couple of years back by the Carbon Army (BCTV volunteers) had never been pruned so the council had booked a mid-November tree pruning workshop for the tenants. Problem was, with weather still continuing to be mild (for this time of year), we weren't able to tackle much. The only bushes that were obviously ready were the gooseberry bushes which looked like bleached thorny twigs.

Pruning workshop
Tom shows a workshop participant how to prune gooseberries.

We wandered around looking hopefully at redcurrants, blackcurrants, peach trees and espaliered apple trees, all holding onto their autumn leaves, and were advised that it was best to put our secateurs away. Tom Moggach from City Leaf was our teacher for the workshop and, having explained about the best time to prune different fruit trees and bushes, the hows and whys of shaping an espaliered fruit tree and airborne fungal diseases, he then told us of the 3 D's of pruning (dead, dying, diseased, all should be pruned out) and demonstrated how to shape.  We were let loose on the gooseberry bushes, pruning out any of the 3 D's and crossing stems, cutting back the strong leader stems by one-third (to an outward facing bud) and then trimming back any other stems to two buds (again, looking for a bud that would enhance the open basket shape of the bush). Tenants said that these gooseberry bushes had fruited well in the summer and were loathe to chop them back too much but Tom explained that this would promote healthy growth for next season, allowing air to circulate through the centre of the bush and so reducing the risk of any problems from pest or fungal infection.  It was really satisfying to get hands on with the job and I think it all looked much tidier when we'd finished!

It was a very informative couple of hours but I'd really gone along to have a look at the gardening space (and available light) as one of the tenants has asked for a bit of help with growing vegetables next year.  I have to say, I think she's doing a pretty good job by herself (wonderful nasturtiums, made into pesto for the winter picnic) but the trade-off was being able to see pruning in action.  I'm much better off actually seeing something being done (and being able to ask questions, if needed, to confirm that I've got the idea). I've come away feeling that my book learning has been reinforced and, yes, have the confidence to know what I'm doing with my trees (once the leaves fall off!).
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