Archive for the ‘Raspberries’ Category

Raspberries in back garden

Utopian dreams of a back garden potager have been rather crushed this season by the vigour of my ‘Polka’ raspberries.  I’m not saying that I don’ t love the fact that I can pop out in my pyjamas to pluck a few tasty berries for breakfast, but when space is tight in my petite urban patch, these autumn raspberries have been pushing their boundaries somewhat, crowding out roses, sedums and tulbaghias in their wake. Also, as they make their way further into the bed, I end up trampling other plants as I venture in to pick these irresistible fruits.

Tasting raspberries

On a recent trip to East Malling Research Station (courtesy of Lubera), we spent a blissful sunny afternoon tasting row upon row of raspberries in their test fields. And one of the topics we did discuss (as well as the fantastic breeding programme at EMR) was the need to protect other plants form raspberries by placing barriers (about a foot deep) around them if you want to keep them contained. Even in my front garden, which is more allotment style planting, these enthusiastic growers have romped through what once was the asparagus bed and I’ll need to cut them off at the pass before they continue their journey into the herb patch. Not quite sure what I’m going to use to do this. Sheets of slate perhaps or length or two of steel? (Lizzie from Puggs Meadow Flowers, below, suggests bamboo root barrier, so I’m going to give this a try).

Salvia 'Love and Wishes and Kniphofia 'Light of the World' 2However, I’m not going to corral the brutes in my back garden and have decided it’s time for a few more flowers, moving the raspberries to the front garden (once they’ve finished fruiting), where they’ll get a little more room to spread.

Great Dixter Plant Fair, with its top notch nurseries from the UK and Europe, has been very timely and this weekend I’ve found a few treasures to fulfil my re-design. Above is the gorgeously delicate orange Kniphofia ‘Light of the World’ from Edulis  which shines out like a glowing torch on a dull autumnal day and will contrast beautifully with this just about hardy (in London) Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ from Dysons Nurseries.  Seduced by its rich hues and very long flowering period (June to November, yes indeed), I shall overwinter it for its first year in the greenhouse, then it will have to fend for itself. Fingers crossed.

Salvia 'Love and Wishes and Kniphofia 'Light of the World'

Both seem to sit well in colour and texture with the softer and brighter pinks already flowering at this time of year in the garden and I’ll just have to get dressed before I gather in my raspberries next year (oh, for an extra half an acre!).

Red and Yellow Pistils Great Dixter Oct 2015On a slight tangent, there were some great talks at the plant fair and Marina Christopher of Phoenix Perennials was very informative about which plants attract bees and other pollinators into the garden. She also demonstrated, with these Asters, that pistils (the pollen area on a flower) will turn from yellow to red once pollinated, so that bees won’t have to waste their time visiting flowers already depleted of their food source. Amazing.

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Polka raspberries

My Polka (autumn) raspberries are coming thick and fast at the moment. This is their second year and they really seem to have come into their own. They’re huge substantial berries (just over an inch long and almost meaty), and everyone who’s sampled these gorgeous fruits expresses delight at such a sweet tasting thing. Manuel across the road would like a cane or two, and this won’t be a problem as they are spreading rapidly and outgrowing their small plot. I can dig up some spare canes when the plant is dormant come February.

raspberries in a wine box

I also grew some Polka canes in wooden wine boxes last year and had plenty of fruit too, so whatever space you have, if you love raspberries, it’s definitely worth giving this tasty variety a try.

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Cos freckles lettuce 2

Just before Christmas, Mark from Vertical Veg  sent out a questionnaire for growing in 2013. It contained a few simple and very pertinent questions and ones which got me thinking about the many positive aspects of growing your own fruit and vegetables. Question one: why do you grow your own food?

For me, I find it joyful and incredibly rewarding to be able to pick fresh veg from our doorstep. And it’s not just picking any old veg. It’s being able to choose and grow the things that you really love to eat and that will flourish in the growing conditions that you have in your garden. In a less than sunny part of the front garden, my lettuces thrived throughout the dampest of summers and supplied delicious sweet fresh leaves, unsprayed by supermarkets (and with zero food miles) for months on end. Pea shoots came a close second, supplying a succulent alternative to lettuces and being very quick to grow (about 3 weeks from sowing to harvesting from May onwards). I also love growing food that is sometimes difficult (or impossible) to buy in the shops and I’m going to really concentrate on the less run-of-the-mill herbs next year such as Lovage, Sorrel and Sweet Cicely.

Autumn fruiting raspberries

Next question. What’s your biggest challenge? Time (and space-could do with an extra half an acre at home!). Allotments are great, but they do take a feat of organisation to fit in with our busy lives. Whatever I grow on the allotment (leeks , raspberries, jerusalem artichokes….), I still love the fact that I can harvest salad leaves, strawberries and rhubarb only minutes before cooking them if I can grow them in the front or back garden (or in a pot on a windowsill or balcony). Jono from Real Men Sow has written an excellent piece on giving up his allotment and his move to growing everything (including some ornamentals) in his new garden at home.

Space in our urban environment is another constant challenge; trying to squeeze in everything I’d love to grow, but then planning becomes the key to getting the most out of our growing space.

Asparagus tips

In 2013 I’m planning for more effective successional growing, so that as soon as one spot becomes available, I’ll have the right seeds or small plants to pop right in there, and for sowing at the right time of year to provide crops throughout the seasons. Next year I’ll be attempting to fine tune my seed sowing for autumn and winter lettuces (I reckon August is the key month) and trying not to forget (in all the spring excitement) to sow seeds for some purple sprouting broccoli, as I always regret the absence of this fine vegetable come the following year. I’m planning to grow more perennial fruit, vegetables and herbs such as Rhubarb, Blackberries, Asparagus and Marjoram that will happily look after themselves (apart from the odd bit of mulching and training) and hopefully this will leave me with a bit more time for some more ‘no dig’ trials and to sow some new crops that I’ve only dreamed about so far.

During this wettest of Christmas holidays, it’s been great to have time to reflect and imagine my ideal plot, and I wish you all a Happy New Year, and one full of exciting growing experiments and successes throughout 2013, whatever or wherever your veg plot is.

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