Berry Plants : Growing Berries in Your Garden
Blackberries, wineberries and loganberries can be used to cover a shed or to disguise an old tree. Raspberries can be grown along the side of a path where thewill keep them from trespassing as they are inclined to do. Currants take little room because they have to be well pruned every year. Alpine can be grown as a ground cover or as an edging. New varieties give you large, delicious fruits which go on and on.
In my family, we are often eating bowls of strawberries and cream in late November. The other types can now be chosen to give you a selection that will take you on into November. If you’re growing berries, such as strawberries in strict rows and not in an unpractical bed, you will have little work. Three rows are needed, the oldest, which has been allowed to fruit for three years only, being discarded annually and replaced by a row of young plants raised fromtaken from the youngest and most vigorous row.
I never put straw down around my berry plants. I did at one time, but now I have another method of keeping them clean and helping them to ripen. As soon as the fruits begin to swell, I place slug pellets along the row (one finds too many slug-hollowed fruits if this precaution is not taken) and I also dust thewith ant powder at intervals. The row of plants is then covered with a strip of polythene, which is weighed down at the edges. This actually rests on and touches the plants, but because it is at ground level no burning of the foliage results. The first time I did this, it was so successful that I tried it on the raspberry rows (at that time we had no fruit cage, and birds were taking too many of the berries) but all the young autumn fruiting canes became scorched, no doubt because, being so far from the soil, they were not, like the strawberries, kept cool. Alpine strawberries are treated in the same way. When you come to pick the fruits, it is a simple matter to turn the plastic back, and then to replace it when picking is finished.
But to return to the strawberries. I know that correct horticultural practice recommends that one should remove all thefrom the plants during the first year so that the second year’s crop would be heavier than the first and second together. Quite frankly I doubt whether the probable quantity of fruit in the following year is sufficient compensation for missing the first year’s crop. All I can tell you is that, rightly or wrongly, I have never removed the bloom from my strawberry plants but have always let them fruit. However, and I cannot stress this too much, I do believe it is essential to feed the plants well. While many soils suit strawberries, very dry soils and very limy ones do not.
Strawberries suffer from a certain virus, and so it is essential to buy from a reputable source where plants will be given a Special Stock Certificate. Although planting can be carried out in spring, autumn is the better time. If you can be sure that the plants will be watered and cared for, it is also quite all right to plant in July and August.
Once you have your own berry plants, they may be increased by the runners produced by the parent plants. More runners than are needed will be produced, so surplus should be cut off as soon as they are seen and not allowed to grow and root. As I grow mine on the three row system already explained, I increase the stock as simply as possible. A line across the plot is placed 2-1/2 feet from the youngest row. Runners are directed from the plants to reach the line and spaced out between a foot and 15 in. apart along it. Usually, I anchor them down with a lump of soil placed on the stolon. I also scatter a little peat along the line to stimulate rooting and to give the young plants a little acid soil to begin with. Once the row is filled, every other runner made by one of the plants in the three rows is cut off so that the one row alone grows. Runners go on being produced until the early autumn so you need to keep watch on the plants all the time.
There is now a fine choice of varieties for the early crop including those like Cambridge Rival which do best under cloches and are good for deep freezing. Cambridge Sentry is especially suitable for heavy soils. The strawberry season can be extended by growing some of the Remontants which come into production from August onwards. There are several varieties and the flavour is a little different from the early type.
I used to grow the alpine strawberry Baron Solemacher which is delicious, but I have transferred my affections to Alexandria which retains the delicate, almost banana-like flavour and texture but which has much larger fruits. Both of these varieties can be raised from seed. Germination is erratic, so after pricking out seedlings, retain and care for the box or pot for some weeks and more seedlings are almost certain to appear. Fruit may be picked the first year from seed if you sow early in the season. Later on as they grow big, plants can be divided.
The so-called climbing strawberry is attractive grown in hanging baskets or a strawberry barrel, but it makes a better ground cover and can be grown in a separate bed or among shrubs.
Raspberries are good fruit for most soils but, like strawberries, these do not like light, dry soils. In dry seasons on dryish soils, you will find that it considerably improves the crop if as soon as the fruit is set, you water the ground very well. I keep my own raspberries, Lloyd George a “perpetual” fruiting variety, heavily mulched with grass mowings in summer and manure in autumn and winter and I gather fine fruits up until November. Peak crop is in June — July. There are many good varieties.
Plant any time from mid-October until March. However, if the season is moist and the need urgent, I have found that planting can be done at almost any time. So if you are moving house, don’t hesitate to take canes with you, but make sure that you lift plenty of soil and keep the roots from becoming dry.
To keep the fruit on the heavily cropped canes off the ground each should be tied to wires stretched parallel along the rows from strong posts. The top wire should be five to six feet above ground level. Allow each plant to form five or six canes, and spread these apart, tying them to the wires.
Prune summer fruiting varieties as soon as the canes have finished fruiting. Cut them to 6 in. above ground level. Young canes soon take their place. Keep long canes tipped, so that they do not tower too far above the top wire. Canes which have fruited in autumn should be cut back in February.
Blackberries, loganberries, wine berries and other hybrids, all do well in ordinary garden soil but they dislike dry poor soils. They enjoy summer mulches – just think of the lush places where you find the best blackberries growing wild ! Plant eight feet apart. Growth can be very vigorous. After fruiting, all spent canes should be cut to ground level and the young softer canes tied into their place. You will find it easiest to have double training wires, just a little apart from each other. Tie this year’s canes to one layer of wires, and as the new canes form, tie these to the other. You will then find work less irritating when you come to prune. I find it best to snip the cane away in one foot or two foot portions, starting from the tip rather than to try to pull out the entire cane. This way also, they fit into a barrow better.
Before ordering fruit, make sure you know what shape of tree or bush you wish to grow. Red, black and white currants and gooseberries are grown as bushes and should be planted about four feet apart. Gooseberries can also be successfully grown as cordons and planted closer. I have twogrowing in a mixed border, simply because they happened to be there when we made the border, and we have never got round to moving them. They do very well, but they have to be netted against birds when the fruit is ripe unless I get there when the fruit is just colouring.
Then I cut the branches and take them indoors and stand them in buckets of water until I am ready for them. Pruning is done at harvesting, a most convenient factor. All branches bearing fruit arc cut and the berries removed in comparative comfort. This is not the case with red and white currants, which are produced on the old wood and so cannot be harvested this way.
Blackberries, wine berries (greatly to be recommended if you don’t know them not only is the fruit good but the canes are handsome enough to be grown against a wall), and loganberries need ten feet between the plants. After the first growth, these will produce strong growingor canes which should be tied on to wires or a framework. These vines can be trained to run horizontally. I grow mine inside the cage, tied to the wires which support the wire netting walls.
Raspberries, planted two feet apart grow into clumps and subsequently join up in rows. New canes push up from the ground and are inclined to wander and cause the row to widen and spread. I keep mine under control by mulching the area lavishly beyond the row’s limits with fresh lawn mowings. This keeps down weeds, enriches the soil and prevents the young canes pushing up in this area. One can hoe them off, pull or dig them up when this is necessary. Raspberries root very near the surface so this should be disturbed as little as possible.