Ripe time to feed berries
FOR really big yields of delicious berryfruit, mid- spring is the perfect time to start feeding and preparing the plants. Tasmania has always been the ideal place to grow the biggest range of raspberries, brambleberries and strawberries.
That’s because the mild summer temperatures and frosty winters are ideal for these cool climate plants. All need a good winter chilling in order to induce heavy crops.
Last summer, the blackcurrant bushes became so weighed down with tight clusters of glistening black fruit I had to prop up the branches with short stakes.
Raspberry canes are now beginning to flower and the way the plants are treated over the next few weeks will determine how successful they will crop. As the fruit forms and matures the canes become top- heavy, sometimes bending almost to the ground.
However, raspberry plants don’t really need a supporting frame. Simply secure several canes loosely together using a soft tie.
Any isolated individual canes can be cut off at ground level. Later as the berries mature, stretch bird netting over the top, propped up by a few garden stakes, otherwise most of the fruit will have disappeared before you get up.
Apply a thick mulch of straw around the plants, heavily laced with lots of sheep or cow manure. Any suckers appearing between the plants can be quickly grubbed out with a sharp hoe and all dead or diseased canes cut.
Young, newly planted canes, which do not fruit until next year, are best not mulched until January to avoid cane blight due to lack of light and air at ground level.
Brambleberries such as loganberry, thornless blackberry, boysenberry, youngberry and silvanberry all need a climbing frame. Three strong, 2m- high posts spaced 3m apart, linked with several tight strands of fencing wire will support a couple of brambleberry plants.
The canes that carry the berries always wither and die afterwards. Meanwhile, lots of new canes are emerging from the roots.
The best technique is to bundle the bearing canes loosely together and secure them to one side of the frame. This not only keeps the berries together for easier harvesting, it allows bird- netting to be thrown over as they ripen.
After harvesting, the now dying bundle of canes can be quickly cut off at ground level. Meanwhile, the new canes are loosely bundled on the other side of the frame and remain together for the following year’s crop.
Strawberry plants are growing and flowering vigorously now.
Competition from weeds is always a big problem and they should be carefully dug out as fast as they appear.
However, mulching materials, tightly tucked in close to the plants can effectively suppress most annual weeds.
A good mulch also keeps ripening strawberries clear of the soil where they quickly rot. I’ve long used a mixture of pine needles mixed with pulverised cow manure as a mulch around strawberry plants.
The most important job with all berryfruit plants as they start cropping in December and January is regular, deep watering. This ensures the fruit is big, juicy and delicious.