Tag Archives: Raspberries

Glory of the Fruit Cage

Another long overdue post, but we’ve been busy and summer has finally arrived. Working as a professional gardener has kept me extremely busy and I’ve been heading to the plot as much as I can to keep things ticking along there.

While there have been a few spits and spats of rain, my main job has been keeping everything watered. With the late start this spring, we have lots of seedlings and young plants coming along right now. We’re very much a month behind compared to last year, but I’m hopeful this warm weather will continue on.

One area of the allotment that’s blowing our socks off right now is the fruit cage. Despite the late start, all the plants are fruiting beautifully. Both the gooseberry and currant shrubs are laden with fruit. The raspberries are forming up nicely. Just having to keep up with trimming the grass in and around it really. For no other reason than keeping the b*****d slug and snail population in check.

Red currants colouring up nicely.

Red currants colouring up nicely.

By far the best has been the strawberries. We planted them very early spring last year and they have truly hit their stride this year. In the last week we’ve harvested about 4lb of strawberries and there’s plenty more coming along. Frantic weeding and a few pinches of slug pellets* has resulted in beautiful, lush berries, some of which never seem to make it back home…

Strawbs!

Strawbs!

We built the fruit cage last summer and it has truly paid dividends. Simon did a fantastic job building the frame work, it’s sturdy and has plenty of space to move around in. Which is especially important as I am rather freakishly tall. Getting the netting, bought cheaply on eBay, was a bit off a faff to get on. When I say faff, it means I ended up using language that would have made a sailor blush. I was chatting to someone late last year and she commented on the lovely new fruit cage, “it’s always worth putting in the effort to build one of those. You really have no idea how much of your crop is lost to the birds until you build one.” Wise, wise words.

Looking good.

Newly built fruit cage

 

*Apologies to those that oppose the use of slug pellets, but they do bloody work and I can’t bear to let all that hard work go into feeding and already exploding mollusc population.

Planting Plans:Ornamental Plants

I feel like I’m being quite lazy this spring, as it seem we haven’t spent much time on the plot this month. Of course, my decision to buy in many of my plants has meant our flat isn’t awash in tiny seedlings this year. Also, given the recent weather, I’m quite happy that there isn’t anything that urgently needs doing. It’s given me far more time to make plans and work on other parts of the plot. The most neglected section was probably the ornamental beds at the top of the plot and this year I’m determined to make something of them.

Last year we cleared the top area and moved the raspberry canes down into the fruit cage. These beds are right next to the access road that cuts through the allotment site and is quite close to the main gates. We get lots of passers-by,  and lots of hellos as well, but in years past Simon noticed that these raspberry plants never produced fruit. We had a slight hunch that fruit theft wasn’t entirely down to birds, so we decided to move the more tempting fruit to the far end of our plot.

The first stages of clearing the ornamental beds.

The first stages of clearing the ornamental beds last winter.

 

In the late autumn, we planted spring bulbs galore and have done so again last autumn. The daffodils from the first year have returned in abundance, as daffodils often do. The tulips last spring were a bit stunted, so this year I’ve mulched the beds with our lovely compost we produced. The trial beds of tulips are coming on well too, I do love having fresh cut flowers in the house when ever possible, especially in the early spring.

Fresh Daffodils in the house.

Fresh Daffodils in the house.

Last year by the summer however, the beds had become a fairly weedy mess. Other than the sunflowers and sweet peas, the beds we’re really not looking like much. I had attempted to sow some wild flower seeds, but they never really took. So in the autumn, I cleared most things out in an attempt to start over and added a few perennials such as Japanese anemones and coreopsis. I’ll likely add more and include some annuals such as cosmos and corn flowers later in the early summer.

While I’m mainly after cut flowers, I can’t possibly use everything and the excess flowers will left to attract bees and other pollinators. We did have an enormous comfrey plant in one bed, which did an amazing job attracting bees. Sadly, it also did a stupendous job at protecting and feeding hundreds of slugs. So I’ve dug it out and will replace it with something else. As  I’ve also ordered some summer bulbs of dahlias and species lilies, which will need to be planted soon, they likely take up that space happily.

I’m not really planting with any real design, which is a bit of a departure from what I do all the time in my job. With this little patch of ground I can plant what I like and where I like, no client imposing any limitations on me. I find it quite liberating to plant like that and I imagine some interesting combinations will come out of it. I’m hoping I’ll finally make something of it, even without a absolute “plan.”

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Feeling Fruity

Dare I write it down? Dare I even say it out loud?

I think we’re finally winning the War on Weeds. Now we haven’t won, but the plot is looking pretty tidy. I think this is primarily due to the super tidy I did in the fruit cage and it’s surrounds.

Having emerged from the sea of grass and waves of bind weed, I’m very proud of our fruit cage. My only regret is wishing that we had built it sooner. Recently I was stopped by a woman standing outside the allotment site, it turned out she once had a plot there a few years ago. She politely asked if she could be allowed in to have a look around. We had a great chat and she spent most of her time having a look over our plot. She gave a strong nod of approval to the bright blue shed, but most of her admiration was given to our fruit cage. “It’ll be the best investment you make. You don’t really get how much fruit you lose to the pigeons until you have a fruit cage. It’s so easy to just blame the weather, plants or yourself for poor crops.”

I think I understand what she was getting at. The netting went up pronto after I caught two wood pigeons sitting in our currant bushes in the midst of gluttonous abandon. Their one afternoon of snacking has meant we’ve gotten virtually no currants this summer.

This year’s currant crop: underwhelming

We planted two rows of strawberries this winter and they have been doing well. Lots of runners, which I’m trying to keep managed. We don’t have a huge amount of space for them, but I’d like to get a few offshoots to fill in a couple of gaps. As they are in their first year, we should really be picking off the flowers to stop them fruiting. This is to allow them to put their energy in growing, not fruiting. As much as we try to do things “right,” this is one aspect we’ve been a bit naughty with. The odd strawberry is such a treat, assuming the slugs don’t beat you to it first. There’s nothing more disappointing than spotting a glorious red strawberry, only to turn it over, only find it hollowed out and a happy fat slug smiling back at you. Okay, so they don’t actually smile back, but the way those beady little eyes look at you, they must be smiling in their own way.

Ripening strawberry, so far untouched!

The raspberries have been wonderfully abundant, I even got enough at one point to make home made raspberry ice cream. Mostly, at the end of a tough work session, I just pop into the fruit cage and announce loudly, “treat time!”

 

Raspberries galore

Next to the fruit cage is our patch for our rhubarb/asparagus bed. Initially, it was only rhubarb, but we were gifted with several asparagus crowns in the spring. Asparagus is one of my absolute favourite veggies, so I faced the dilemma of having to clear out some of the rhubarb to make room for it. I managed to gift two largish plants to our neighbour Tom, who has been enjoying them all summer. There’s still one big rhubarb crown that needs moving, but it’s also one of our best producers, so I’ve put off shifting it. I’ve decided that this winter, I’ll figure it out and re-jig things. We have too much rhubarb anyway, not enough asparagus!

Rhubarb & ‘Gus patch

 

So that’s that bit sorted, tomorrow I’ll get the ornamental area at the front weeded and done, then I can claim the victory over the weeds. I let you know how it goes.