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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Plough Field Allotments at Amerton

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By Mrs FM

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Fashioned Fruit

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Alan J Hartley



Soft Fruit Harvest.

With the long dry spell I thought my Early Raspberries were going to be no use. They looked very hard, small and dry until we had a bit of rain at the start of July and then suddenly they swelled and turned colour. I am delighted to say that I have been able to pick several Punnets of lovely, ripe, juicy fruits already with the prospect of more to come for a week, or two, until the “Lates,” take over and replace them.
I didn’t realise, but my Black Raspberries must also be “Earlies,” because I have been carefully picking those as well. I say carefully picking, because the Thorns on the tall, arching, canes, are every bit as vicious as those on some of the Black Berries that they must be related to. The ordinary “Early Raspberries,” on the other hand are Thornless and quite pleasant to pick. Like the “Early,” red Raspberries though, the Canes on the Black Raspberries need tying in to restrain them, or else they will flop everywhere. Admittedly, the berries are on the small side in the same way that Alpine Strawberries are smaller than regular Strawberries, but they are tasty and give a different colour to a fruit salad.

My 2 Thornless Blackberries are flowering nicely at the time of writing this, but the fruit will be a little while yet as they will not be ready until nearer to the Autumn. However, I also appear to have what appears to be an “Early,” Thorned Blackberry. Last year I decided to remove all of the Thorned bushes that I had, especially the big one that was by my Compost Heap and making a nuisance of itself with its vicious thorns. However, I had recently planted a very small, thorny variety called Karaka Black in an “out of the way spot,” and decided to leave it in. Now that it has grown a bit, and started to fruit, I am pleased that it is there. The Blackberry has been covered with enormous, long, juicy berries that are a delight to eat. I have said it before and this just proves it, different varieties of fruit will fruit at different times. Often this is different to the traditional fruiting times, so it does pay to look carefully at labels before buying. You can very easily spread out harvesting by careful selection of certain varieties.

Having said that no sooner had I got into picking my Raspberries and Blackberry, but one of my Black Currant bushes was ready, along with the Red Currants, and the Gooseberries on my Red Gooseberry, were turning a rich red and starting to soften. I am sure that there is normally a short interval between all of the different things ripening, but everything seems to be a bit mixed up this year with some things holding back and others seeming to be ready a bit earlier than normal.

The Figs are growing and swelling on my different trees, but they definitely will be a few weeks yet as September is the usual time for picking. Last Winter I planted a couple of different varieties that I had grown from Cuttings. One, Ice Crystal, has, as its name suggests, large, fancy leaves that are reminiscent of an Ice Crystal and it is only an ornamental variety, but the variegated tree “Panachee,” is supposed to have edible Figs on it, although, I was never able to pick any in the past, from its parent tree, that was in my mothers garden.

Elsewhere my large Aronia bush is covered with Berries that are still very unripe, but I guess they will not be too long now and I will have to wait for several years yet before I will be able to pick from my, still small, Strawberry Tree, or Arbutus Unedo.
A few weeks ago the first of my soft fruit bushes to produce ripe Berries was my Honey Berry on which I was delighted to see masses of little, dark, but ripe berries. However, before I could pick them the Black Bird had the lot!

The tiny Mulberry Tree that I bought last Winter was early to fruit as well, because it produced a few tasty, ripe berries, a couple of weeks ago, so I will expect more from that next year. Hopefully, I will be able plant it in the ground this coming Winter, in the spot where I am going to remove the Green Gage from and then the Mulberry should romp away.
Probably the last of the Soft Fruit will come right at the end of the season from my Cape Gooseberries and I may even be picking the yellowy/orange, tangy, little berries right up until Christmas, as indeed I have in the past.

It is getting a bit late to be picking my Rhubarb, but one of the TV Gardeners had an idea to extend harvesting time a little by stripping off all of the older, tougher leaves and stems from the plants leaving just the Crowns and then encourage new growth by feeding them well. If the Plants aren’t fed, this exercise will drain the plants of all of their energy as most varieties should now be building up reserves for next year. However it will still only produce a Flush of new leaves and stems before they quickly start to go “Tough,” and “Woody again.”

Apart from my different Fruit Bushes that produce what is called “Soft Fruit,” I have several different Vines that in theory should also produce “Soft Fruit.” Apart from the obvious Grape Vines that many people grow, I have 2 Kiwi Vines that should yield those tangy, soft and green fleshed fruits. Some varieties need 2 plants for pollination, but “Jenny,” one of the more common ones, is self fertile. The smaller fruiting “Issai,” that I have as well, is also supposed to be Self Fertile, but up until now I have not had any fruit from either Vine.
When I planted my Sausage, or Chocolate Vine, (Akebia Quinata,) I didn’t realise that that was supposed to have two plants to give better fruit production, so although I get loads of flowers I haven’t had any fruit from that either.

On the other hand my Schisandra Chinensis, or Magnolia Vine also commonly called the “Five Flavour Berry,” as it is claimed that the fruits exhibit all five of the taste characteristics; - Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and Spicy, was covered in berries the other year, but as with the Aronia, the birds beat me to them ! !

I also have a little row of Cinnamon vines that look very good with their new supports and new path running in front of them. The Latin name for them is Dioscorea Batatas, but as with many plants their name appears to have been changed and they are often called Apios Americanum. The common name of Cinnamon Vine comes from the strong scent of Cinnamon that is given off by their flowers. However, it is not berries they produce, but it is their large tuber that grows in the ground which is the edible part of the plant. It takes a few years to develop to a harvestable size here in the UK, but in its country of origin it grows much quicker. The unfortunate thing about the tuber though, is that, large as it is, it grows straight down making it difficult to harvest bearing in mind that you could easily be digging down a couple of feet, or more to get it out. The flowers on the common variety are White, but they do come in different colours with other varieties. It has glossy heart shaped leaves that along with the flowers make this an interesting vine to grow regardless of whether you harvest the vines tuber, or not. The vine can be invasive in warmer climates as it produces small, ball shaped, tubules on its stems that will germinate in the right conditions when they fall to the ground. Here in the UK though, it is too cold for them to survive outside and they need greenhouse conditions if you are going to propagate them. Although, the cold winters will take the top growth, the tubers themselves will survive and when conditions are right in late Spring, they will re-shoot just like any herbaceous plant.


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