Saturday, 21 July 2018

Soft fruit - almost a wipeout

Earlier this year I was full of enthusiasm for the prospect of getting a lovely harvest of fruit from my new plot at Courtmoor Avenue, and in between spells of digging I spent some time pruning and weeding lots of rather neglected Blackcurrant bushes and Raspberry canes.

However... my hopes have all been dashed, by a combination of two factors - weather and birds. The current hot dry spell of weather started at more or less the time when the fruit began to ripen, and ever since then my attention has been primarily focussed on vegetables rather than fruit. By this I mean that each time I have visited the plot (approximately an hour and a half every other day) I have had to spend most of my time watering, just to keep the plants alive. I haven't had the time (or indeed the energy) to do much to the fruit bushes. They ought to have been netted, and I ought to have pursued more vigorously my hosts' vague mentions of "We used to net them...", but I didn't, and I still haven't established if there are any nets available. The lack of netting has given the birds (specifically Blackbirds and Pigeons) free rein with the ripe fruit. They cleared the whole lot, and to the best of my knowledge none was picked by humans.

The total lack of rainfall for the past several weeks (it must be about six weeks now) has meant that the Raspberry crop was negligible anyway. If the weather had been kinder, the fruit would have swollen and become juicy, but instead the Raspberry canes have become parched and desiccated and the fruit was tiny and dry - almost crumbly.

Miraculously, the plants have managed to put up some new canes which are surprisingly green!

These canes are what will (or should) produce fruit next year, so I can only hope that we get some rain soon, so that next year's harvest is not lost even before it has begun! I'm tempted to make these canes into a new row of Raspberries, erect a new support system and remove the old one.

There is just one little shred of good news. I managed to pick about half a pound of Blackberries this week:

These came off the plant which I had protected with a scrap of spare Enviromesh. It looks as if I did this just in the nick of time!

I felt that the plot-owners should get first priority with this meagre harvest, so I can't tell you what the berries were like, but I'm hoping there may be a few more to pick next time I visit, and if so it will be my turn.

This coming Winter I will obviously have to spend less time in digging and preparing the veg-plot, so maybe I'll be able to spend some time giving the fruit bushes / canes / vines a bit more attention. Oh, and maybe I'll be able to sort out something in respect of netting...

Incidentally, back in my own garden the Blueberry bushes that normally give me a few pounds of fruit have produced practically no berries at all this year. I don't really know why, but I suspect it has something to do with the really cold, snowy weather we had in the early Spring.

The Blueberry plants are in pots, so I have had to water them religiously to keep them alive in the scorching weather, hoping all the while for a better result next year.

Still, looking on the bright side, at least this year I don't have to worry about netting the Blueberries, hehehe!


  1. This is really sad. It's also encouraging to be reassured that everything doesn't go to plan even for the most experienced gardeners. I'm having to do so much watering I am torn between keeping things alive and feeling guilty for using so much water when the reservoirs are running dry.
    No blackberries ripening here yet.

    1. The blackberries I picked are the thornless, cultivated type, Lucy. They do tend to ripen earlier than wild ones.

  2. Hard luck with your blueberries Mark. After reading your helpful comments a couple of years ago we have put a large netted cage over our three plants and since then have had very good crops - even this year. It seems as though just keeping the blackbirds off have improved the pickings enormously. The netting that came with our cage has gone brittle this year and some birds found their way in, so next year it looks as though a complete net refurbish is required. Think we have had 2/3 lbs of fruit this year. P.S. We have kept them well watered and also fed them with tomato feed occasionally!

    1. This is good to hear! I don't know what went wrong with my Blueberries this year. There were very few flowers, so of course very little fruit. I only hope they come back to form next year!

  3. This does seem like small return for all your efforts. Hard lines. I am intrigued about the blueberries which you have lavished attention on. Just a thought: What is the pH of your tapwater or do you only use rainwater? (If it is alkaline, and your kettle furs up, the blueberries wouldn't like the tapwater). But looking at the pictures the plants themselves look healthy enough with plenty green leaves. Here in Scotland the blueberries flowered away and are producing a steady supply of fruit - under a net.

  4. Three of our four blueberries have fruited normally but the fourth which usually has smaller fruits has been loaded with fruits so tiny that they are not worth picking. I wonder whether being in pots makes a difference. Our bushes ware about four feet high now and being in the ground probably have a bigger root system to sustain them.


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