Right about the time we replaced the potatoes with blackberries, I got the urge to plant lots of raspberries and blueberries. In other words I was driven into a berry-frenzy. I just wanted to plant berries everywhere, and cannibalise every unused little space for berries. It turns out from a diagnosis I got more than a year later that at that time I already had a disease for which berries of all types are part of its natural cure. Amazing how the body knows what it needs.
Anyway, behind our greenhouse and next to the shed was an unutilised piece of ground. OK, it wasn’t quite “open” – we first had to remove a clump of olive trees which were in the wrong place, and it was quite a challenge getting their roots grinded out in the small space behind the little fence that separates the edge of the vegetable patch from the front yard. In the end, we removed the fence (carefully), got the tree stumps grinded out and then put the fence back about a meter further from where it was in order to gain a bit more space. In the gap now formed between the fence and the shed we put in a little garden gate using some left-over posts we had. I remember at the time we still questioned the value of putting a gate there. It was my first ever gate job and I still miss-measured the posts horribly, but to this day, it hasn’t bothered us really. The little gate works and I can get a wheelbarrow through it without scraping my knuckle skins off. So, in that way Berry Corner was created.
All along the greenhouse and all along the shed I created beds where we could easily control the growth of the raspberries, and where they wouldn’t interfere with any other fruits or vegetables. I added drip irrigation – initially off the same system that was already feeding our very large vegetable patch. I also put in untreated cedar posts with some guiding wires to stake the raspberries to. The beds contained nothing fancy, just blood and bone, slightly acidic organic mushroom compost and some pine bark mulch to try and get it to an even lower Ph. Berries love it when the Ph is well below 6!
Then we planted a wild collection of raspberries – Golden, Purple, Chilliwack, Heritage, Autumn Bliss – all inter-mixed.
That first summer we already got a good harvest from some of the shoots. Raspberry lane became a favourite foraging place for the children, especially Micaela loved it! However, some of the shoots didn’t bear at all…
During the winter I cut the shoots back to about half a meter. The second year we did not have such great growth – in fact, we had less growth than in the first year. Some of the shoots and their leaves became yellow, and we all thought we had the deadly Phytophthora root rot, which is easy to get in our non-draining clay soil. I watered them less and the problem seemed to worsen, so I took a wild shot and increased their watering – I even watered then twice on the days I was around. A lot of the shoots recovered and we got a generous second bearing of berries which lasted very late into autumn. But again, it was the same shoots that bore fruit as the previous year. I’ll have to speak to those problem cases!
I have since reengineered their irrigation, using an old battery-operated watering station we used way back when the vegetable patch still had separate irrigation off the shed tanks. Luckily I kept the watering station for all those years. So the greenhouse and all the berries are now on their own separate irrigation sectors. Removing that load from the vegetable patch irrigation was a good move as well, as the vegetable “system” was getting way too big for the pump to cope with.
And that little gate we wondered about? Well besides being a very convenient shortcut for foraging trips to Berry Corner, that time I re-engineered the long vegetable box, it saved me endless long trips with heavy wheelbarrows around the shed to get mushroom compost into the “moved” box, which lies just behind berry corner and the greenhouse.
- When your body calls for certain foods, it’s telling you something. Listen to it!
- The rot vs watering was a good lesson in diagnosing and dealing with an assumed pest. One shouldn’t just assume anything!
- We don’t have such a big property, but even on our scale convenient and efficient access can make such a big difference. Saving a 200m walk-around with a 100l wheelbarrow filled with wet compost over 40 trips makes a big difference to your energy levels and the time spent on the job!
- Sometimes it’s a tough choice whether to hoard stuff or get rid of it. However in so many cases, it pays to keep useful stuff. Like with the little battery-operated watering station, when we linked the vegetable patch to the “main” tanks, I never thought I would use it again, and now it’s fulfilling a crucial role, not just for the raspberries, but also for the greenhouse and the Blueberries. The trick is to create storage in a way that does not become a rubbish dump and remains easily accessible!