Tag Archive: fertiliser


raspberriesSummer fruiting raspberries are just about coming to the end here at Old School Garden, but Lee Mason of Whetstone has had a disappointing harvest:

‘I planted some ‘Malling Promise’ raspberry canes back in February. They’ve grown pretty well, but the harvest has been disappointing and the new growth looks to be weak. Would a fertiliser feed help?’

Malling Promise canes (and any other summer fruiting raspberries for that matter), planted in February would have benefitted from cutting down in their first season to 100 mm (4 inches) high canes back in March to encourage strong new root development, as well as new canes for fruiting in the following season. In short, Lee, you’ve ‘got a bit ahead of yourself’!  I suggest that you cut down all growth next March. You will lose a season’s cropping, but the sacrifice will be worth it in the long run. Giving the canes a good mulch of organic matter or a general fertiliser like fish, blood and bone should also help, if applied next spring.

Raspberry flavour

Have you been disappointed with the flavour of your raspberries? Sulphate of potash is a good fertiliser to use  to enhance raspberry flavour, but only if the raspberry variety you grow has some natural flavour of it’s own. Varieties like Malling Admiral have little natural flavour, whereas Malling Jewel or Malling Promise are better.

Shrivelled fruit

Are your raspberries shrivelled up? This might be because you’ve been a little too enthusiastic in digging around the canes! Avoid digging over the ground near the roots, as raspberries are surface rooters and don’t like any cultivation anywhere near the canes. This breaks the roots- which can spread out quite a way- and as a result the plants will be unable to cope with the extra stress at fruiting time. If you restrict your cultivation to the use of a Dutch hoe and follow this up with a good deep mulch of organic matter in the spring this will do wonders for the quality of your fruit.

Cut down the canes of autumn fruiting raspberries in early March
Cut down the canes of autumn fruiting raspberries in early March

Pruning Autumn (and Summer) raspberries

The first autumn raspberries are starting to appear here at Old School Garden (earlier than normal probably due to the mild winter and spring). It looks like we’ll have a good harvest. With these, the fruit comes on canes produced in the current season, so after fruiting (which can last into October) the old canes need to be cut back, but when is the best time to do this? Well not immediately after harvesting, apart from damaged or broken canes. It’s best to leave the rest until the following spring (early March), when all the remaining canes can be cut down almost to ground level. This ensures that some protection for the newly emerging canes is provided over winter. In July weak growth can be removed so that only the strongest canes are left for fruiting.

With summer fruiting varieties it’s best to cut down the canes that have fruited immediately after harvesting has finished and to select the strongest new canes and tie these into wire supports to protect them over winter. In spring the tops can be cut back by about 6 inches or alternatively these can be looped over and tied into the top wires.

Old School Gardener

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Old School Gardener

Keep the bird bath topped up in hot weather

Keep the bird bath topped up in hot weather

Well, yesterday was St. Swithin’s day and folk lore decrees that the weather on that day sets the pattern for the next 40, so we can ‘look forward’ to days in the mid to upper 20’s Celsius (and warm nights too):

‘St. Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.’

dost = does
thou = you
nae mair = no more.

And the forecasters seem to be saying this hot weather is likely to continue for the next couple  of weeks at least. So how can we care for the fragile eco systems that are our gardens? It’s all about moisture- using it wisely, keeping it in place in the plants and making sure wildlife has enough to survive. Here are 7 tips that might help:

1. Apply a mulch around plants that are most sensitive to water loss – grass clippings are ideal as they are light reflective (though you might well not have many that are usable in a heat wave- see tip 5 below). Straw is another option.

grass_mulching_tomatoes tiny farm blog

Grass mulching tomatoes from  tiny farm blog

2. Water your garden early morning or late evening (ideally from your own saved rainfall or ‘grey water’ forom the house) – morning is best as the plants need most of their water during the day time when they are growing. Leave a bucket or watering can full of water inside the greenhouse to help keep up humidity and so reduce the rate at which plants lose water through transpiration.

3. Get creative about shading your tenderest plants and crops – use shade netting, cloth, or fleece and maybe even think about using picnic awnings, table parasols and even tent poles with bedsheets!

movable awning

Movable awnings can bea useful shade for tender plants

4. If you need to plant out seedlings try to plant them alongside taller neighbours to help provide some protection, or even better hold off transplanting until the weather is more suitable – you can better care for seedlings in a container if you remember to water and shade them (and pot them into bigger pots if need be).

5. If you haven’t already stopped mowing your lawn then do so and leave at least 5 – 8cms of growth to help conserve moisture.

6. Avoid adding fertiliser to your ground as plants don’t need it in the heat as their growth rate slows.

7. Look after the wildlife – top up ponds, bird baths and drinking bowls for hedgehogs etc. and put out some food for these critters too, as it will be harder for them to find natural food like worms which bury themselves deeper into the ground.

Here’s hoping you and your garden survive the heat – how long before we Brits are hankering after a ‘traditonal’ Summer!

Old School Gardener

lawn - credit RHS

I thought I’d offer to (try to) answer any gardening queries you have as a regular blog feature on Old School Garden. In the comments on my recent review of the blog, several people mentioned the value of the gardening tips I include in some of my posts, so I thought I’d try out something a bit more focused and regular – a sort of ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ (or GQT for the initiated!).

I was prompted to do this by a book I came across the other day, whilst rummaging in my local charity shop (a great place to pick up gardening books, I find). Though about 20 years old it still seems to ‘pack a punch’ so I’m going to use it to kick off the GQT series! It’s called ‘1000 Handy Gardening Hints’ and covers a wide range of topics, so hopefully it should be useful to someone out there in blogland!

topdressThe first question, as you can see, concerns lawns and ‘top dressing’. Here’s my take on what the ‘Handy Hints’ book says, plus a few thoughts of my own:

Top dressing usually means applying a fertiliser, particularly a nitrogenous one, to the surface of soil bearing a crop, usually in concentrations of about 18 grams per square metre. In lawn management top-dressing means the application of suitable ‘bulky material’ to the surface of the lawn at the rate of 1 – 3.5 kg per square metre. The material should  ideally be a made up or ready-made compost (of 6 parts medium grade, lime free sand to 1 part granulated peat or other organic material and 3 parts topsoil). This should be well worked into the lawn by means of a drag brush or ‘lute’ to make the surface smooth.

I remember my Dad (who was the Green Warden at our local Lawn Bowls Club around 50 years ago)  spiking the grass surface before hand to provide some holes into which the top-dressing could be brushed (I also remember helping him to do this as an enthusiastic youngster!). Whilst this fed the grass it also helped to improve aeration and drainage. Top dressing can also help to even out dips in the surface. If you want to get the ‘Bowling Green ‘ effect, now is the ideal time to be applying top-dressing to your lawn!

Here’s a video that you might find helpful.

And you can find out how to make your lawn care more sustainable at Wild About Gardens

So that’s the first session of ‘GQT’ – what did you think?

I’ll try out a regular weekly session, so if you have any questions you’d liked answered then email me and I’ll do my best to feature your question and hopefully provide an answer!

My email address: nbold@btinternet.com, and put ‘GQT question’ in the subject line, please.

Old School Gardener

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