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Thursday, 12 July 2012

Soft fruit

Whilst tree fruit is notoriously unreliable due to the vagaries of the weather and diseases (notably brown rot here), the same cannot be said for soft fruit. It's for that reason that I grow so much of it, because when a lean tree fruit year comes along such as this year, I know I'll still have tons of fruit.

The soft fruit this year is abundant and loving the wet weather. Normally I have to irrigate the raspberries with seep hoses and continually water the strawberries. The wild blackberries here rarely produce decent fruit unless there is adequate rainfall so I now have cultivated thornless varieties in the garden, way too many in fact having seen how many are forming on just two plants, and my friend gave me five of the things! I see a lot of bramble jelly being made; just as well I'm going to England later in the year as my gifts to friends and family are usually home made jam, jelly and chutney!

I also have a new raspberry bed so I've twice as many raspberries as I usually do.

New raspberry bed. Netting wasn't easy and it's not well covered, but so far
neither wild birds nor ducks have taken any interest!

This I've situated along beside the chicken run as it's quite hard sometimes to find the right place to put something like this. It's not ideal for picking the fruit with the fence behind but I thought some canes can grow through into the chicken run and the chooks can have fun jumping up and eating them. I know there will be plenty to share. They absolutely adore raspberries and whenever I go to pick them I get an overexcited squealy audience.....

Two for me, one for them

Actually it works out fine, because there are always some grotty ones which I would normally chuck out for the wild birds to eat so I chuck them to the chooks instead.

Raspberries, like the currants, have very insignificant flowers and I normally only notice when it is flowering time by the buzzing of the bees, who adore them.

Honey bee on raspberry flower

Bumble bee on raspberry flower

Next to the raspberries I have two blackberry plants. I planted these last spring as small plants and had just a few fruit off them (the ducks ate most of them). I will probably have to fence this area off from the ducks with a temporary chicken wire fence again. The fruit are huge and sweet and miles nicer than the wild ones, plus there's the added bonus of not getting snagged on thorns!

Pic taken about a month ago. They keep on growing.....

Blackberries do have pretty flowers, also as much loved by the bees as the raspberries.

Bumble bee in the blackberries. And a fly!

Now. Still producing flowers even though the first fruit are starting to turn dark and ripen!

There's also the one blueberry bush which lives in a pot. Because it likes very acid soil, I had to dig it up as although I had originally planted it with tons of ericaeous compost, it just wasn't enough to acidify my neutral soil. Since putting it into a good sized pot it has grown enormously and whilst I'm not harvesting kilos worth from it, there's a good couple of handfuls every few days which we just eat raw as they are so sweet and delicious.

Delicious blueberries

Last year, as well as acquiring the blackberries I was given some gooseberry canes to take cuttings from. Thankfully this spring I managed to give away all but two of the plants and each of them are now growing fairly well, in a semi shaded position along by the farthest chicken run. The fruit is still quite small and hard though and they are supposed to be red gooseberries, so I'm just checking them regularly and hope they will turn red at some point. Otherwise they'll be green ones!

Either green or red gooseberries!

And then there's the currants! These have been going strong for years now and I have two bushes each of red and blackcurrants. This year the blackcurrants have produced masses of fruit and I've had to prop up the stems as they were so heavy they were trailing on the ground. 

I've so far picked, cleaned and frozen over 8kg of blackcurrants and there's still loads more on the plants. Last year was 7.7kg and the year before 4.8kg (yes I made a note!). Just hope to god I don't get more next year..... Actually I enjoy picking blackcurrants but really loathe doing the redcurrants as they are so soft and squidgy and really hard to pick and get off the stalks. It's not my favourite time of the year but needs must and if I'm to make some more of the famous Susie Gee chilli jam I need redcurrants for it. (Chillies and tomatoes too so hopefully I will get some at some point).


Redcurrants at the stage where the flowers start turning into fruits

Ripe and very attractive

Last, but not least, I have strawberries galore too. The early non remontant Gariguettes are over now but the remontant variety called Charlotte will continue to produce fruit until the frosts, though luckily more in fits and starts through the rest of the summer and early autumn. I can't cope with all this harvesting!

Charlotte. Taken in the rain this morning!

At some point I hope to be able to turn my attention back to my non edible garden as it's rapidly becoming a bit messy and in need of some weeding and deadheading and general tidying up, not to mention my house which is in dire need of a clean! But harvest time comes first, and once all those currants and the excess raspberries which we can't eat fresh are in the freezer, I will be free to get on with other things, and the fruit can be dealt with as and when in the future for various recipes such as ice cream, coulis, jelly and cordial. 

A tip: I weigh my fruit before freezing it so I know how much to get out of the freezer for specific recipes. It helps!

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