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The Soft Fruit Harvest.

Whilst the early soft fruit harvest this year has been generally good, success has been a little mixed with some bushes not producing. After reducing the quantity of my Strawberry plants, by removing a lot of plants and making the rows back into recognisable rows, I expected there to be far less fruit, but there was still a fairly good quantity. My patch of young White Strawberries, (Pine Berries) were a totally unknown entity so even getting a good tub full was a bonus. The berries were a bit on the small side, but the plants are still only little and it was the first years fruit, so maybe as they get more energy they will produce bigger fruit, or maybe they are just small berried plants. The original, single parent plant that I bought, had one or two larger fruits on in the first place. And yes it is quite easy to tell when the fruits are ripe as they get a pink blush round the pips on the berries. As the Strawberries get over ripe though, they get an unappetising brown hue to them. Taste wise the white strawberries do have a little less sweetness about them, but in a blind taste test most people would probably not realise there was anything special about them. However, when you first try one your senses get mixed singles with the fruit being white and yet they still taste like a normal Strawberry. Very weird!

The red Gooseberries on my plot have fruited well this year with no problem over Gooseberry Sawfly and no leaf loss. I donít think that this was due to my companion planting of Onions and Thymes, although I would like to think so, but I think it was just a bad year for that particular pest as other people have had no problem with Sawfly either.

Nor have the Red and White Currants suffered from Gooseberry Sawfly and the Blackcurrants have yielded quite a good crop of berries some of which have gone into the freezer at home for the Winter months.

I have lost patience with my two big Josta Berry bushes that are a cross between a Black Currant and Gooseberry and that have been a complete waste of time as they have never produced much fruit. Last year I think we had just one pound of berries and thought that it was a sign that they were going to do better, but they havenít, so they have been cut down and shredded for use as a mulch. They were huge bushes so the roots will take some getting out, but I am sure that my pick will do the job. When they do come out, the soil will have to be re-energised where they were before replanting with anything as it will be very poor and dust like after 4 years of having all the nutrients taken from it.

Elsewhere on my plot my Blue berries are doing much better than they were at home as the free draining soil obviously suits them and my Pink Blueberries are settling in nicely with lots of fresh growth. At least one Blueberry bush has a worthwhile picking on it already.

Moving onto the more exotic - the numerous small bunches of grapes are developing nicely on my plot and the vines are obviously loving this hot spell and showing their appreciation by putting on lots of soft, luxuriant growth that I have to keep trimming to keep them in shape. Some cuttings have been rooted fairly easily in water to replace any vines that might succumb in a hard Winter.

A couple of my Cape Gooseberry bushes that I replanted after over-wintering have died leaving about 4 still growing. Hopefully, these will fruit well enough to make up for their small numbers. This coming Winter though, I will make more of an effort to keep them better.

On my plot I also have two little Fig trees that were grown from cuttings taken off my big tree at home. They are only about 3 feet high, but are getting established and have their first figs on that will ripen in September. As they grow I will prune them hard and train them out into a sort of fan shape, so that they donít take up much space.

Still on the subject of fruit, many people like to protect their soft Fruit with netting. However, people should be warned that we have had several instances of birds getting trapped in loose netting and even inside a fruit cage. They will quickly die if they get caught, so plot-holders should make sure that any netting is fastened down tautly and securely, although I did point out to the fruit cage owner that the bird would have been all right if she had left it as it had plenty of food in there! Another problem for birds in hot weather is getting water. We have already had one instance of a bird drowning in a water tub, so here again people should be wary of problems. Personally, I think that if the plants are doing well they should produce enough to go round without resorting to netting all the fruit.

 

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