Ripe time to feed berries

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Peter Cun­dall

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.

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