While I was in the garden on the weekend, toiling away in the heat of the greenhouse, Kitty got her hands dirty in the Berry garden. We have five specially allocated raised garden beds into which we have planted all of our Raspberry canes, and majority of our blueberry bushes. While it would be more diverse to spread the plants around (and prevent any disease which could infect them easily as they are close together) we decided that for ease of care, collection and protection, to plant them in a large group.
We love eating the berries we grow, with Blueberries being our favourite. In addition to the Blueberry and Raspberry plants, we also have strawberry; Loganberry; White, Red, and black currents, and several varieties of grapes (which are not berries, yet they are small and yummy like berries). Only the Blueberry and Raspberry plants are protected in the garden beds (with Strawberries planted at the base of the plants), as the others seem to go unmolested by the many garden pests.
We didn’t have the best Blueberry and Raspberry year last season, mostly as we failed to look after the plants properly. We were busy with other projects so it slipped by the wayside and we ended up with a smaller than average harvest. That said, we still enjoyed and savoured every single berry. To protect these desirable fruit I have erected wire barricades around each garden bed. So far these fences have kept out all but the most aggressive animals (such as our large dog Orlaith, who walks were ever… and through whatever… she wants), with only the need for a small amount of bird netting to be draped over the top when the fruit begins to grow.
I am not so sure about the value of currents. We have grown them for some time and we are never happy with the berries which grow from them. The red currents never taste good, the white currents seem to be eaten by the birds, and the black currents are pretty sour. You have to collect the black currents at exactly the right moment, right before they rupture, in order for them to taste slightly sweet. I have several kilograms stored in my freezer, yet no one in my family eats them so I don’t know what to do with them at the moment.
The tending of the beds usually entails a good weeding to remove all unwanted plants. This gives the desirable, wanted plants the ability to access all the resources they require without competing with weeds. Kitty may move raspberry canes from areas if they are too closely clustered to other areas with less plant density. This provides the plants with room to grow and spread out over the season.
The strawberry plants only last a small number of years. According to all sources I have found, three years is when they reach peak productivity with a drop off from there for the next three years till they die. You can make your own strawberry plants by starting them from the runners that grow from the main strawberry. I did this many years ago, and will do it again once the season gets underway.
I also planted an elderberry tree out the front of the house, near my hazelnut tree. We bought it a year ago and it was not in the best shape. It has really taken off over the winter and shown itself to be healthy. I know it isn’t the best thing to plant it… I really should just get a new, better, tree. Yet, I feel the tree has shown real tenacity so I want to take a chance on it.