Saturday, 22 July 2017



The berry picking season is now well underway. Early strawberries ripened up at the end of May with the help of some polythene tunnel protection, and then mid season Elsanta kept us in strawberries till July when the later Symphony showed a very heavy crop. However the wet weather in June and July caused a fair bit of botrytis rots, though there was always more berries than we could use so there was plenty for the freezer. The perpetual Albion (an autumn variety) started fruiting in June and hopefully will continue till autumn, but it lacks a true strawberry softness.
Strawberry Symphony
My new Colossus strawberry variety put on a poor show as the expected huge berries described in the catalogue just did not live up to expectations. Not nearly as big as Symphony.
Raspberry Glen Fyne and Glen Dee have been outstanding but we could do with more sunshine to sweeten up the berries. Autumn fruiting varieties are all growing very strongly but cropping is still a few weeks away.
Currants red, black and white are all having a great year. Again Ben Conan is the star performer, but Big Ben in its third year gave us 6 pounds from one bush with very large and sweet berries. They
were perfect mixed into a yoghurt dessert, as well as eaten fresh off the bush.
Gooseberries have all got branches almost broken with the weight of crop, so straw had to be placed under the bushes to keep them off the soil, and last winter I had pruned off all the lower branches.
Cherry Cherokee is now a few years old but still not too tall, so it was not difficult to cover the tree with netting to keep the blackbirds off them. The dwarfing rootstock Gisela 5 keeps the size down but so does some summer spur pruning. This has been a good year for my cherry and so far no sign of blackfly which often infest the young growing shoots.
Saskatoons, aronias and blueberries ripen up towards the end of July but are best picked in August once they have fully ripened as this increases the sugar content. Birds will eat the saskatoons and blueberries so it is necessary to cover them with netting, but usually the aronias are safe as the fruit is somewhat astringent and less attractive to eat.
Nikki Jennings with new raspberry selections
The James Hutton Institute is currently working on improving the qualities of blueberries, blackcurrants and raspberries through plant breeding. Varieties of blueberries are being assessed to find those suited to Scottish soils and climate as well as size of fruit, flavour, colour and texture.
Blackcurrant breeding looks at varieties that can flower and fruit following mild winters as they normally require a period of winter chilling to initiate fruit buds. Berry size, sweetness, evenness of ripening is also important as commercially they will be picked in one operation by machine. As much of the commercial crop goes into Ribena production flavour is very important as well as a high level of anthocyanins to keep us all very healthy.
Raspberries have different needs as today raspberry root rot is widespread so tolerance to this disease is important. Commercially raspberries are grown under the protection of polythene tunnels and a lot is hand picked so berry size is important making picking easier and breeders also include  flavour and colour. Having the fruit available over a long season is assisted by using autumn fruiting (primocane) varieties, but leaving the old canes on to get two crops. Many primocane selections had fruit ready to pick in June almost a fortnight ahead of the normal summer fruiting (floricane) varieties. Although Glen Ample is well established as the industry favourite, Glen Dee with large sweet fruit is becoming very popular, but soon others will be released.
Lettuce Lollo Rosso

Wee jobs to do this week

There is still time to sow some lettuce such as Lollo Rosso for autumn use as with general crop harvesting from mid summer onwards there is always some spare land needing utilised before the end of the growing season. A sowing of winter lettuce such as Hilde can be made at the end of July to grow outdoors in a sheltered spot and will provide the first lettuce next spring.


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