Beau­ti­ful berries in dis­guise

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Tino Carnevale

THERE are many plants we re­fer to as bram­bles – in­clud­ing tay­ber­ries, boy­sen­ber­ries, lo­gan­ber­ries and sil­van berries – but it might be a shock if I told you none of these are tech­ni­cally berries.

These bram­bles and many more va­ri­eties are all the re­sult of cross­ing rasp­ber­ries, black­ber­ries and dew­ber­ries – the great- grand­par­ents of the group.

They are easy plants to grow, re­quir­ing lit­tle work. An in­di­vid­ual plant can pro­duce ridicu­lous amounts of fruit and win­ter is a great time to plant them. They tend to be bitey plants and you may lose some blood but the re­ward is well worth the pain.

Good soil prepa­ra­tion be­fore plant­ing is the trick to hav­ing well- es­tab­lished, healthy and there­fore pro­duc­tive plants.

They like a fl uffy, well- drained, slightly acidic soil con­tain­ing plenty of or­ganic mat­ter.

In light soils, they can tend to dry out, and in heavy soil there is the risk of plants rot­ting if the ground is not well- drained. If you have ei­ther of these soil types, the so­lu­tion is or­ganic mat­ter in the form of com­post and an­i­mal ma­nures, al­though I save the lat­ter for spring when the plant needs the ex­tra nu­tri­ents.

In heavy soils, it is best to cul­ti­vate deeply, then mound up the soil and plant in the top and, in light soils, you can do the op­po­site by dig­ging a shal­low trench and plant­ing in the base.

They pre­fer a soil with a lower pH level, al­though they tend to be fairly tol­er­ant of slightly sweeter soils.

It is gen­er­ally not a ma­jor prob­lem as many of our soils are slightly acidic nat­u­rally.

If you are wor­ried, test your soil’s pH. It may be that you need to add some sul­phur or you can throw your used cof­fee grounds over the

When it comes to se­lect­ing a po­si­tion for your plants, an open sunny area is usu­ally best for good fruit pro­duc­tion, al­though they will thrive and pro­duce in part shade

plants, which is slower- act­ing but works just as well.

When it comes to se­lect­ing a po­si­tion for your plants, an open sunny area is usu­ally best for good fruit pro­duc­tion, al­though they will thrive and pro­duce in part shade. In fact the thorn­less black­berry prefers it.

They are gen­er­ally hardy to most con­di­tions al­though se­vere frost can dam­age plants, ex­treme heat can dry out the canes and strong winds will dam­age the grow­ing tips.

Al­though they can be very vig­or­ous plants, if they get crowded by weeds their growth will be slowed and the like­li­hood of pest and dis­eases at­tack is in­creased.

Al­though us­ing a hoe to chip the weeds out is the easy so­lu­tion, it will in­jure the roots and weaken the plant, so I am sorry to say hand-weed­ing is the best con­trol method.

The good news is they grow well un­der a layer of mulch, which helps slow down the weeds. I put a thin layer of pine nee­dles to help acid­ify the ground, then some straw, then I throw a cou­ple of shovel loads of com­post over the top to help hold it all in place.

Al­though the canes of most va­ri­eties grow fairly up­right, they will need some sup­port. This can be as sim­ple as a sin­gle pole that you tie the plant to or an elab­o­rate wire trel­lis.

It is worth not­ing any sup­port for your plant will in most cases act as a frame for netting the plant dur­ing fruit­ing pe­ri­ods so it needs to be mod­er­ately sturdy.

Bram­bles tend to be pretty re­silient when it comes to pests and dis­eases.

They can suf­fer from fun­gal at­tacks such as rust and botry­tis, al­though this is usu­ally eas­ily con­trolled by good prun­ing and train­ing prac­tices such as keep­ing the plants weed- free and mulching. Netting is es­sen­tial if you want any of the fruit for yourself, other­wise fl ocks of birds will hap­pily oblige by gob­bling up the crop in record time.

FRUITS OF THE FOR­EST: Lo­gan­ber­ries, above, and sil­van berries, right, are rel­a­tively easy to grow.

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