Soft Fruit

Speaker: Peter Barwick
Date: 27th October
Year: 2021

Peter & Chairman Liam in conversation before the talk

Peter Barwick has worked in the Horticultural Industry for many years, and was a commercial fruit grower for over 50 years, growing apples, pears, plums and soft fruit. He retired in 2008 after 20 years as director for the orchard and nursery departments at Blackmoor Estate ltd.

Peter started by asking us three question:

  1. What type of soil did we have?
  2. Did weeds grow well?
  3. Common weeds? – Bindweed, dandelion, couch grass, and hopefully not mare’s tail as it is nearly impossible to get rid of.

He stressed the need to start preparing the site 12 months before planting by getting rid of the perennial weeds first (use round-up or similar three times, Spring, Summer and Autumn) and adjusting the pH of the soil by adding lime or ericaceous compost to achieve a pH of 7 to 7.5

Strawberries – take runners off current plants but not if the bed is three years old and they won’t produce fruit if they have the virus. Pot up and over winter in the greenhouse. Plant out in Spring on both sides of a flat topped earth ridge and with the crowns level with the ground. Don’t over water. Vine weevils can be a problem as can Botrytis or grey mould. Put down slug pellets before strawing up the plants.

Raspberries – the roots go out horizontally and sideways

  1. Autumn fruiting – Fruits come on next years canes. Have a framework  with poles 1ft apart and leave the old canes on until the new ones arrive. Keep the rows narrow with strong wire supports and wrap the tops of the canes over the top to make a “rope”.
  2. Summer fruiting – make their fruit on stems that are one year old, as opposed to Autumn fruiting varieties. A summer fruiting raspberry cane only fruit once on each stem, so they should be cut down to ground level after harvesting.

To combat the rows traveling cut down 9 inches from the row in Autumn and clear out debris. Raspberry beetle and grubs can be pests as well as botrytis. Polka Jo is a good variety.

Blackcurrants – plant deep 4 feet apart and prune hard. Prune out black wood when 5/6 years old at ground level and remove surplus shoots. New wood comes up from ground level. The “Ben” series of blackcurrants are compact bushes. Big bud mite can be a problem.

Redcurrants – Can be grown on a “leg” so access underneath to pick the currants is easier, or like blackcurrants. Fruits appear on new wood. Birds can be a problem so a fruit cage is advisable. “Invicta” is a good variety, but buy a mildew resistant strain. Prune to five branches and support the bottom ones. Cut young wood back to two or three buds. Spray for gooseberry saw fly.

Loganberries/blackberries etc, buy thornless varieties. Treat like summer raspberries, tie new canes in to a strong support system and cut out old wood. Botrytis and raspberry beetle are a nuisance.

Blueberries – Not easy to grow, buy in pots and beware vine weevils as they love their fine root system. Use nematodes as a control. Plant in a tub with drainage and in ericaceous compost.  Water from the top but keep the roots damp. Treat like blackcurrants and cut out old wood. “Sunshine blue” is a good variety.

Peter concluded by advising a slow release fertilizer when planting, scatter it around and get it down to the roots. Use a compound fertilizer each March. Keep the plants well watered especially when the fruit starts to colour.

Peter’s talk was very informative and interesting and the audience had many questions of a practical nature.

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