Growing Fruit and Drinking Wine

April 30, 2020

I believe we will see a big change after this crisis. There is no doubt that we need a radical re-think of many aspects of our food chain. Certainly I am focusing more on growing food to reduce purchases from supermarkets etc. My veg gardening used to be a supplement- I am now trying to move it too being the main source of fresh veg and fruit for as much of the year as possible. I like oranges though, and cannot grow those. I have found an interesting project regarding buying fruit direct from growers- not ordered yet as the quantities are too big for just us- but will look to share with friends and neighbours once some normality returns. The website is CrowdFarming.

Fruit

One of the things we find worth growing is fruit. Not only does it provide us with fresh fruit, but we manage to freeze enough to keep us going through the winter. Crumbles, summer puddings and then through the winter porridge or muesli with de-frozen fruit.

The great thing with fruit is once they are going they keep producing- I have had some now for 12 years and still producing well.

If I had to choose just 3 it would be raspberries, blueberries in pots and rhubarb.

The earliest crop is Rhubarb- we had some mid-March this year and still picking now. Pretty easy to grow- but do not cut hard the first year and then moderately the second. Loves rich soil- so make sure you feed it- we use farmyard manure. You can force it using a rhubarb forcer- they look great in the garden and the shoots are then sweet and tender-but forcers are quite expensive. Luckily we had one left in the garden when we bought the house. To be honest no need- most of our rhubarb is not forced. I bake it in the oven cut into chunks with ginger and sugar- but a crumble is also a delight.

After that we get gooseberries. Easy to grow, the green ones are quite sharp but, on my biodynamic gardening course last year, I came across the red ones- sweet and can be eaten off the bush. I planted some last November so will see how they go- Hinnonmaki Red. I got mine from Ashbridge. They tend to fruit later than the green ones.

Raspberries are easy- they spread through runners and can be a bit invasive- I dig the runners out if they spread too far from where I want them and then give to friends. There are summer and autumn- to be honest I have never got the hang of the summer v autumn types. Or mine have inter-mingled. Personally I think it is how you cut them down. So we cut ares right down every year ( January). I think if you leave some of the years' new shoots you will get an earlier crop-but we start getting ours end July which is fine and they carry on until October. They do not like to dry out, so worth watering in very dry spells.

The above are all okay without netting- blackbirds will steal the lower raspberries they can reach from the ground but other than that no real issue.

We have a small cage with Blueberries in it. They need netting- birds will strip the lot overnight otherwise. Such an easy fruit to grow and one of the best in terms of the cost to buy in a supermarket just needs acidic soil. I bought in in Ericaceous compost to start the raised bed they are in, then every winter cover them with conifer and cut off christmas tree branches. Works well and keeps the weeds down as well. I feed with an organic ericaceous feed.

When we first got two blueberry bush we grew them in pots which I covered with netting when the fruits were forming. That worked well, they were on the patio by the house so were easy to pop out and pick

Red, White and black currants all need netting. I would avoid the white currants- mine have disappeared and emerged as red currants. I guess you could if you kept them well apart to stop cross pollination. They need pruning in the autumn and we feed them with organic seaweed liquid and organic chicken manure pellets a couple of times a year. I have covered the soil with some goat manure from a neighbour to try and keep weeding down to a minimum.They need light pruning over winter to keep the air circulating and remove old branches.

Strawberries are quite easy to grow. I do not put straw under them, but many do to keep the fruits above the soil. They reproduce by suckers- just make sure the suckers are rooted and then cut off from the parent. You can grow these in beds, pots or hanging baskets. Make sure air can circulate the plants, otherwise there is a risk of grey mould which flourishes in damp or humid conditions. The wild strawberries you can get, spread easily and have lovely small fruits. They can take over though!

This spring we planted a couple new fruit plants I have not grown before- Honey berry's, a Bosenberry and a thornless blackberry. I have had enough off walking hedgerows picking blackberries and getting scratched ! The Honey berry is a fruit form of honeysuckle- meant to be have delicious fruits and the Bosenberry is a cross of a blackberry, raspberry, dewberry and loganberry. The bosenberry was raved about in a newspaper so giving it a try.

We have Apple trees, Pear trees and a Damson. I buy ours from a specialist Welsh fruit nursery- Ian Storrock and Sons as they have some old and rare welsh heritage trees. They are pretty straight forward to look after. If a frost threatens while they are in flower I do mist spray them with valerian essence stirred into water- it heat the air around the tree. Some commercial organic commercial growers do the same- it is a biodynamic method. If they get Grey mould we spray with Horestail (Equisetum Arvense). The horsetail is boiled in water to make a tea and then diluted in water. It is good for treating any fungal diseases. Many vineyards spray it on the vines to prevent fungal diseases.

Walcott Nurseries in Gloucestershire have organic fruit trees and some rare Gloucestershire plums. The end size of the tree depends on the rootstock they are grown on. So you can select most on dwarf root stocks which will grow a maximum of 2m, semi-dwarf which grow to 3m or so, moderate which will grow 3.2-3.5 m and vigorous which will be 4m plus.

Depending on the variety you buy you may need 2 trees for pollination. Check whether they state self-fertile or if they need a pollinator either have 2 of the same variety or in the same Group- fruit trees are put into Groups for each type-so Apply has 3 Groups for example. A good nursery will help, but it is easier than maybe it sounds. If you only have room for one tree self -fertile would be best, though obviously fruit trees can be pollinated by neighbouring gardens.

Asparagus

A great crop that goes on for years- if you have the space. We started picking 2 weeks ago and should carry on for 4 more-hopefully.

I planted the bed when we bought the house- 14 years ago now. I bought 1 year old crowns, so cut nothing for the the year after planting, a few the year after that and then harvested good numbers each year (4 year old crowns by then) from them on. I plant a couple of new rows every 5 years or so. We had the space luckily so could spare the ground for what is a short harvest of 5-6 weeks . Always the same crowns produce first without fail- which always slightly surprises me.

I covered the bed with goat compost from a neighbour opposite who has 2 goats. Did a good job as a mulch- I had little weeding to do in March compared to previous years when the bed would have been covered with weeds.

I feed the bed with Organic liquid seaweed. I have covered with seaweed from the beach in previous years- but gather this is not strictly legal so buy the liquid now.

Grapes

I have a vine but it is not going to keep us in wine!

I do enjoy drinking wine and tend to buy from a few specialist resellers- mainly Organic.

Vintage Roots sell organic and biodynamic wines. Many vineyards now use biodynamic methods- but the wines are more expensive than the organic wines so I buy them- for a special occasion.

Novel Wines in Bristol have stock of a wine I had been looking for - from Georgia. Georgia is one(if not) the oldest wine producing regions in the world. They have an old method of making wine in a qvevri. Lebanon also has an old wine making tradition in the Bekka valley- Chateau Musar is the best known. Novel have good priced Georgian wines.

The best supplier for good priced every day wines I have is based in Portugal- Portugal Vineyards. Good wines at fantastic prices- we are talking Portuguese prices and they do sell organic wines- look under Bio. Delivery though can be a bit longer that the 5 days they say- 14 days seems average to the UK.

Finally my daughter Emily is now doing a mindfulness session on Instagram at 8.30 am weekdays. You can find it here.

 

 


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