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Fruitful Year to come?


I think I’ve been a bit spoiled while I was growing up. My father always grew lots of vegetables and had strawberries and fruit bushes, my grandmother had 2 plum trees and an apple tree so we always had a good harvest from them, and every summer there were regular blackberry picking trips. We never really ate fruit raw but mum would make pies, wine and jam from them instead. It’s thanks to that that if I were to be stranded on a desert island then the one thing I would crave would be raspberry jam.

Fast forward a few years, and despite the abundance of free fruit in the hedgerows around me (blackberries, elderflowers and elderberries, a few apple trees, a pear tree and a damson tree) I’ll always grow fruit.

When we first got the plot we decided to move the 2 apple trees that had been planted in the house garden to the allotment. While they were only 8 feet tall they were out of place and may have got bigger. So one surprisingly mild day in early February mrs MK and I very carefully dug up the 2 trees and carried them to the allotment. A quick planting session later and all was good. Generally I’ve done nothing with them, and each year we get a good sized box of apples from them for storage. I have no idea what the varieties are, but they taste nice.

This year they have been covered in blossom and are currently setting small fruit.

When I started with the plot, my neighbour gave me a dozen strawberry plants. This year I have given 40 away to friends and still had about 80 to 100 on my plot and around it. With anything else this would probably count as one of the most pernicious weeds you can get. However when they can crop at a pound of fruit a day then I’ll put up with them.

A few years ago I was politely asked by my allotment representative that the powers that be were ‘concerned’ about the tall grass on my plot and recommended to just poison it all and keep it down. The tall grass was growing in my strawberries and because of the wet year that year (and as it turned out, the following year) I didn’t want to get on the plot and weed it, plus I’d had the strawberries, so what was the point? As a result, last year I carefully dug out all the strawberries and dug the soil down to a depth of about a foot, built a retaining wall from a single plank and lined the resultant hole with weed membrane. I filled in the hole with the soil I’d dug out and re-planted the strawberries. A week or so later I acquired a straw bail from my father-in-law and put that around the strawberries.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it is this hindsight that tells me that the straw around the strawberries meant that they didn’t get as tall as they could and so they didn’t fruit very well last year. This year they have grown above the straw and they are both covered with flowers and the fruit is starting to set. Probably the biggest job for me in the next few weeks is to net them to keep the birds out and to put in a few beer traps to catch the slugs.

When I started on the plot I had 2 raspberry canes that were just growing randomly on the allotment and not really doing much, so I moved them to where they are now, and they really have settled in well I’ve tried to fill in the gaps with more canes each year, but these haven’t always taken, so up until last year I had 3 raspberry canes. Mind you, last year I had 2 crops from them, one early and one fairly late, and from 3 canes I was getting about half a pound of raspberries a day in the autumn.

The powers that be (them again) voiced their concerns about the untidy nature of the area near my fruit bushes, and the allotment rep once again suggested that I just poison it. I didn’t though. I came up with a happy solution. I had some weed membrane left over and also in the strong winds of last year had acquired some more by the simple expedient of it blowing onto my plot. I also had a few old grow bags and compost bags which I split. Luckily for me I had enough to cover the middle section of the fruit and all up the side as well. My initial plan was to cover it in stones from the allotment itself (a nice cheap, convenient solution), but that did mean that the weeds were growing from the soil on the stones. With that plan scuppered I moved the stones from on the membrane to around the apple trees to keep weeds down. This did mean that I needed to replace the stones on the membrane. Unfortunately I didn’t have a ton of stones lying around spare, so I had to resort to a bit of skulduggery to get them. It took a few weeks (and a lot of car loads) to get them, but they are in and around my fruit bushes. And they work a treat. The weeds are easy to control, the membrane holds water in and the stones reflect heat up warming the plants and fruit. In all I wish I had done it before. I will have to expand the holes the fruit sits in to allow for growth next year, but I’ll do that in the Autumn.

This year the raspberry bushes look incredibly good, some of the bows are really bent over with the weight of leaves and fruit. I may have to run some wires to support the longer of the branches.

A few years ago one of the other allotment holders was leaving the plot and said that I ‘could take anything I wanted’ from the plot. As I already had a shed and a greenhouse I left those, and instead took 2 gooseberry plants and 2 blackcurrant plants. These were established plants and did take a lot of getting out, but early one Saturday morning they got moved and settled in to their new home.

The blackcurrants have never been as heavy cropping as they were, but I put that down to laziness on my part in not watering, the weeds and having moved them as well. This year though there are lots of fruit on them

The gooseberries have always been decent though. One crops very heavily and one is a decent cropper. I put this down to the fact that a couple of years ago it was decimated by gooseberry saw fly and I honestly don’t think it’s been the same since. It is amazing how quick those little devils can strip the leaves off a plant. In a way, the membrane stones around the base was a direct result of the sawfly. I know they fall to the ground and pupate around the base and then eventually lay eggs around the base of the plant, so the next generation has it’s wicked way with your recovering gooseberry.

This year the gooseberries are doing nicely and even though the plant has dropped a few I am looking forward to lots of lovely goosegogs in the future.

This year I happened to be at a garden centre when they had a special offer on fruit bushes, so I bought 2 more gooseberries, 2 blackcurrants and 2 raspberry canes for a grand sum of £10. I managed to plant most of them but eventually gave one gooseberry away to (oddly enough) the allotment rep.

As I mentioned in the blackcurrants bit above I haven’t always been the best with watering around the fruit bushes, mainly because the hose provided never reached that far and I wanted to try and keep it off the plot where I could. Anyway I now have an extension and the hose will happily reach all the bits I want, and so I can now happily water my fruit. That’s been my job for the evening. Yes I know it may well rain tomorrow, but a good soaking never hurt them.

Water makes the fruit big, sunshine ripens it. This should be the best of both worlds, especially if the summer brings forth the promised weather. Here’s to a fruitful summer to all gardeners.

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Sounds like your fruits are really "going to town"! : )
Also sounds like that rep is poison happy, don't they understand? Keep up the good work! BTW my strawberries are infested with ants this spring...any suggestions?

28 May, 2009


I really envy the quantity of fruit you have on your plot. I just dont seem to have enough room for anything other than alpine strawberries at home, although I am going to try to 'espalier' a couple of fruit trees against a low wall.

I can just 'taste' all those jams and especially fruit pies and crumbles (that no one but me in our house likes - sob) so I dont get to make.

28 May, 2009


MK, well done on your successful "fruition!"

Those allotment peeps don't sound a very nice lot, they also don't sound as if they know an awful lot about gardening, d'oh! Grrrrrr!! No wonder you have to "sweeten" them with a fruit bush!

1 Jun, 2009

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