Now that the weather's looking up for their part of the UK, Nick Moyle and Rich Hood, aka Two Thirsty Gardeners, our regular guest bloggers and guests of our March issue, venture back to their allotment, to get set for the Summer by planting out some soft fruit bushes... mmm, berries & currants! Well worth the little effort it takes to get soft fruit plants off to a good start!
"Now the snow has cleared and our allotment is once more workable we’ve been out digging holes for a pair of blackcurrant bushes. Soft fruit, sold in pots as ‘bare roots’, should be planted between October and March before their growing season begins in earnest.
"There’s nothing complicated about planting or maintaining the bushes and, once established, you’ll be harvesting plenty of soft fruit that would cost a small fortune in the shops.
"There are loads of varieties to try – from traditional favourites like raspberry and gooseberry – to modern hybrids and imports such as tayberry and goji berry.
"This year we’ve chosen blackcurrants for their brilliance in the jam, wine and liqueur making departments, and here’s how they made their entrance onto our plot:
1. Before digging the plants received a good soaking of water and were left to stand for a few hours.
2. We cleared one of the more weed-ridden corners of the plot and dug a hole roughly twice the width and depth of each plant’s pot.
3. This hole was partially back-filled with a mix of soil and well rotted manure.
4. The plants were eased out of their pots and sunk into the hole, with more soil and manure added so the level of earth was a few inches higher up the stems than the corresponding pot level.
5. Because we used ground that was previously home to weeds we surrounded the blackcurrants with a layer of cardboard*, which was then covered with compost – this will help suppress weeds and the cardboard will gradually decompose, improving the condition of the soil and steadily releasing the compost’s nutrients towards the fruit’s roots.
*Ideally you should overlap any gaps in the cardboard, unlike in this photo…
6. Our newly homed currant bushes received another thorough watering and will continue to do so until they’ve fully adjusted to their new surroundings.
"Many growers more experienced than us recommend pruning newly planted fruit bushes to the ground. The theory goes that this will allow energies to be concentrated to new growth which won’t fruit until the following year but should make for stronger plants. We’ve ignored this advice and are going to see if we get a harvest this year.
"For some fascinating blackcurrant facts, including why they were banned in America, click here."
Look out for more from Two Thirsty Gardeners this month both on our blog and in our March issue, and do explore their blog!