23.JANUARY

It was a dull and grey day today but fortunately no wind so I was able to finish the pea netting door on the two new fruit cages.

I finished the transplanting yesterday so I just had to create the door and check if the blackcurrant cuttings I took late autumn started rooting. I’m delighted to say they did so I have got about five new blackcurrant bushes. They grow quickly so I’m sure within a few years we’ll have a great harvest.

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I kept enough room for these cuttings to fit in the smaller cage so both are now full. The door is secured so all I have to do is to wait and water it from time to time. 

Doing this also helped me to create a bit of space in the original large fruit cage. I had too many currant bushes there, including two jostaberries and a white currant. I moved them to  the new net cages and it all looks much better.

18. JANUARY

There are going to be some changes on the farm this year.

As a very first structure I built was a polytunnel – nothing special, a metal frame and a green plastic cover. It was quite big, it was as long as the width of one plot. It was fine for the first few years but then things started going wrong. First of all the zip on the door broke and very soon small holes were appearing in the plastic. I didn’t give up because the frame was sound so I just pulled the plastic cover off and instead of that covered it with green netting. It has been working very well all this time, I have been growing vegetables there every year, rotating the crops regularly.

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A new idea came to me this year – to enlarge my soft fruit area. The fruit cage is full but I have decided to use this tunnel to put my blackcurrants there. To make it accessible for the bees and other pollinators I’ve taken the fine mesh off that was the door and will install a new door made out of pea netting.

All I had to do today was to dig it over, spread a few sacks of compost over and next time I can move the bushes. 

There will be a couple of new ones there, two chuckleberry bushes,and the blackcurrants. The two new bushes will be delivered on Thursday together with a new apple tree.

After I’ve done this I’ll just have one more net cage to sort out and all these structures will be ready.

The next task are strawberry beds. I have started already, all I need to do is to move some plants from another net cage (an old greenhouse covered with fine netting) complete one new bed and then just thin out and weed the others.

The net covered greenhouse will be used to grow broccoli as I never grew broccoli there yet.

PERFECTION

The last path to be filled with wood chip is ready, the edges are built with planks of wood from a dismantled fencing panel so today I could concentrate on the fruit cage. I’ve had this cage now for a good number of years and it needed sorting out. Some of the blackcurrant bushes were getting too old, they had to go. Blueberries are a super food, I like them and we put them on our porridge every morning so I bought a few new bushes. Early and late varieties and planted them in the cage. I already had some of them there.  Now I have two standard red gooseberries, a redcurrant, two white currants and a jostaberry. That is only a cutting, I haven’t had any fruit from it so I live in hope.

I’m always amazed how well the weeds grow – even though I thought I managed to pull them all out, they came back. I cleared them again. That done, I wanted to put pieces of wood all along the bottom. The netting is buried in the soil and pinned down but this is for extra security, in case some little bird or a mouse should find a gap to get in.

Spring is here, I just hope my Asian pear tree isn’t bursting into flower too soon – we might get some late frosts.

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BLACKCURRANTS

There are four blackcurrant bushes in my fruitcage and because of that I have a decent harvest. The first year on the allotment none of my fruit bushes were covered and the result was that the birds had a wonderful feast and I couldn’t make any jam!

This is the result from the first picking, the next lot made some very tasty jelly. That’s much easier to make as I didn’t have to take the berries off the stalks etc – I simply boiled it all and just used the juice.

FRUIT

The soft fruit on the allotment is well organised and ready for the spring.

Raspberries have been planted on a separate plot, in double rows and the paths between the rows lined with a membrane to (try) to stop the weeds from invading. It has been great, I had hardly any weeds there! The canes are contained in the rows by some wire and that is holding them back, all this makes picking them much easier.

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Rhubarb crowns are resting , if next year’s harvest is as good as this one was I’ll be happy. There are three young fruit trees beside the rhubarb – a plum, a pear and a cooking apple. All had some fruit this year so I’m hoping for much more next year.

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A large part of one plot is taken by a fruit cage, this is a must on our site as we have a large number of pigeons and they would strip the fruit off before we know it is there. I found out the hard way during my first year there – I had a red currant bush in the middle of one plot, an obviously mature one and very soon I started noticing some currants, they were just turning pink. Next day – nothing! That drove me to getting the fruit cage and moving all fruit bushes there – red, white and black currants, gooseberries, fourberries and blueberries. It was worth the effort, the harvest was great this year. All the fruit is either frozen, eaten fresh or made into jams.

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Last but not least are the strawberries. It is quite amazing how much can be harvested from jus three beds. When I first started gardening on my plot I was given enough plants to make one bed – the original plants multiplied and this summer I had 30 kg of sweet juicy strawberries. Delicious!

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