Wednesday, 12 October 2016

REVIEW OF THE SOFT FRUIT SEASON



REVIEW OF THE SOFT FRUIT SEASON

The crops have now all been harvested, apart from some blackberries, autumn fruiting raspberries, and perpetual fruiting strawberries, so it is a good time to recall how they performed so we can plan next years fruit season. If we intend to change some variety of fruits or just try out new ones now is the time to be ordering them for planting in the dormant season or early spring.
Anna brings in some fruit
Looking back over the year and comparing it with previous years it has to go down as one of the best fruit years for a long time. We have been eating fresh fruit from May onwards and still find raspberries, strawberries, a few brambles and figs. We have several months of jams ready, the freezer is packed and I have numerous demijohns bleeping away with some fantastic blackcurrant, red currant, Saskatoon, Aronia and gooseberry homebrew for sampling in three years time.
Aronia Viking
Success in fruit growing is not just about good growing practice, but also good choice of varieties coupled with favourable weather over at least two years. Many fruit bushes initiate fruit buds as growth ripens up in the autumn provided there is reasonably dry and sunny weather. Wind and a few cold nights are helpful, and if this is followed by a mild winter punctuated with several really cold snaps, most plants will just love it. Some plants such as the currants need a more prolonged cold spell than others, and saskatoons had a really great year after the severe winter of 2010.
This year over in the east of Scotland, it has been dry and warm for a long time, though we seem to have missed the heatwaves coming up from the south. Rain has remarkably kept falling over nights, but drying up in the daytime.
Strawberries started to ripen up at the end of May from Elsanta grown under a low polythene tunnel, followed by Elsanta in open ground then my two later varieties Symphony and Florence. Just as these were finished my perpetual strawberry Albion started cropping and still crops as I write. Albion has large bright red fruit and a good flavour, but needs to be left on the bush for full ripening otherwise it can be a bit hard. Another new variety Colossus has been making a lot of growth, but not one berry this year. 2017 could be its year of stardom.
Raspberry Polka
Raspberry Glen Fyne has been very consistent over a long season with a great crop, and the newer Glen Dee just recently planted is making some good canes for fruiting next summer. Autumn fruiting Autumn Bliss keeps the season going into October, but two new autumn fruiting raspberries are now being tried out. Autumn Treasure starts to crop at the end of September but fruit is large and delicious. Polka starts at the end of August and again the fruit is much larger than autumn Bliss and both the new varieties are a lot less prickly for picking.
I am trying a new (primocane) blackberry Reuben, now in its second year said to fruit on canes grown in the same year. My canes only grew four feet and flowering has just started, but as we are now in October I don’t hold out much hope for a crop this year. Last year the canes flowered in November, and then just shriveled up. Maybe this variety is just not suited to our Scottish climate.
Blackcurrant Ben Conan has had a brilliant crop of large sweet berries, but my new variety Big Ben is a wee bit sweeter and berries even bigger. Both are brilliant blackcurrants.
Saskatoons gave me a massive crop that I struggled to use so the local blackbird helped me out plus a few other allotment plot holders. Just as well as the blueberries were the odd ones out with a poor crop of small fruit. Is it the weather or the soil?

Wee jobs to do this week
Taking geranium cuttings

As geraniums and Impatiens come to the end of the summer flowering season now is the time to look ahead to next year and take some cutting to root now and over winter as young plants on a windowsill or frost free greenhouse. Take impatiens shoot tips about 3 to 4 inches long, removing lower leaves and dibble them into a shallow flower pot in free draining compost and water them in. Geraniums are best snapped off at a leaf joint and treated the same. Both these plants are easy to root and grow and most likely will flower in late autumn as a colourful house plant.

 END

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