A berry silly decision; or how we killed our fruit bushes

Or, plant in haste, repent at leisure. As part of our whirlwind first dormant period on our smallholding, we planted more than 120 raspberry canes and more than 30 fruit bushes up in our new orchard. Amongst them were redcurrants, blackcurrants, white currants and many gooseberries. The idea was sound in principle. We would lure friends and family over for lunch and then make them sing for their supper by planting a row or two. How quaint, we thought smugly, we can give them from from “their” plants. However, it wasn’t to be. The grass grew like, well, weeds, in the orchard when we weren’t looking and one day we suddenly realised that the plants had been swallowed up by the grass and we couldn’t see them any more! The move, plus a huge landscaping project plus a new baby all proved too much and our poor bushes paid the price. They were starved of water and nutrients by the choking grasses and by the time we finally found someone to top the paddock for us (terminology I had to learn: to essentially cut the grass with a tractor), they were more or less dead. Then came a blistering summer with no water supply up at the orchard and our trees simply had to take priority when we were heaving buckets of water up to the orchard on a wagon. We’ve had a grand total of seven raspberries from one particularly tenacious cane, and a few strands of redcurrants that the local birds decided to relieve us of. In short, in our rush to get them bushes established so that we didn’t lose a growing season, we wasted quite a lot of plants. We’ve now thought it through and have decided to create a fruit bush border in the kitchen garden. We’ll plant directly into the soil rather than into one of our raised beds so that they can establish well and this time we’ll have learnt our lesson, we’ll make sure the plants we plant are not surrounded by weeds and have irrigation set up and ready. It’s a shame to be planting new plants a full year later, as our first harvest next year won’t be great, but it’s surely better to admit when you’re wrong and to start again. So, raspberries et al, take two!

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A dead raspberry cane, in front of many rows of dead raspberry canes

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We farm a three acre smallholding in Hampshire, England, having fled London in pursuit of the good life for our little family. We mess about with an assorted menagerie and try to be as self-sufficient as possible in meat and fruit and vegetables whilst enjoying our plot and an outdoors lifestyle with our son. I am the luckiest person that I know.

4 thoughts on “A berry silly decision; or how we killed our fruit bushes

  1. I can’t believe you have achieved so much with a new baby so I don’t think you should beat yourselves up! We put grass clippings around our canes to act as a mulch. It’s also nice and soft when you are picking!

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    1. Hah, you’re kind. To be honest it was a silly thing to do. We should have lived here for a year first to work out how everything flowed for us, but I was just so excited by the idea of space at last!

      Thankyou for the mulch tip!

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