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16 October 2014
Gardener's Corner

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John Cushnie On...

Bumper Crops of Fruit

Even at this late stage you can influence the size of this summer’s fruit crop. There is no taste to equal that of home grown fruit. With freezers in every home a glut of berries is a worry of the past. The more there is the longer it will last.

Gooseberries will benefit from extra watering during periods of drought. A good soaking will swell the fruit from fruit set until harvest. Mulch the damp soil to retain the moisture. Keep the base of the bushes free from weeds to encourage good circulation. A lack of air will help American Gooseberry mildew spread destroying the fruit. It is amazing how many strawberries are lost to botryris disease, birds,slugs and snails. Spacing the plants in the rows and removing all weeds will allow air to circulate and reduce the risk of fungal attacks on the berries.

Netting the crop or growing them in cloches will deter birds. Make sure the net is securely fixed with no gaps. If a bird gets under the net and can’t escape it will sit there and eat every strawberry. Bedding the trusses of fruit on clean straw will keep them free of soil and muddy water splash which can cause grey mould on the ripening fruit. On a small scale hunt slugs and snails after dark with a torch. Leave traps for them using beer, milk or citrus peel to attract them.

Raspberries are easier to pick because they are higher up and there is no bending. Check that all the fruiting canes (stems) are spaced 6 inches apart and tied to a horizontal wire. If they are allowed to blow in the wind they may snap off with a heavy crop. When picking the fruit warn the pickers not to walk on the new shoots (spawn) as these are tied in for next years crop. Don’t spray weeds in raspberries in case the chemical travels along the root area killing the main branches.

Blackcurrants fruit on the wood made the previous year. It is essential they are pruned as soon as the crop is picked. Remove the oldest branches, cutting them as close to the ground as possible. Strong new shoots will grow away from ground level. Water and mulch to conserve moisture around the roots. After pruning, feed the blackcurrant plants with a general balanced fertilizer to encourage strong growths which will bear fruit next year.

If there is evidence of large, swollen leaf buds which don’t open your plants are suffering from a pest called Blackcurrant Big Bud mite which transmits virus to the plant. The crop will deteriorate over a few years until the plant dies. Dig up the plant and replace it with a healthy bush but on a different site well away from where the previous plant grew.

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