This week in the garden It’s time to plan ahead and think about our soft fruit production for 2018. This week we’ll be spending time working with our soft fruits bushes. There are a large number of these in the front part of the woodland area where we have white, red and black currants, gooseberry, Josterberry and Wosterberry bushes.

Currant bushes need to be pruned every winter between November and March to encourage strong new shoots for the following season’s fruit. We can also remove any damaged or poorly placed stems, (i.e. stems that are running along the ground or crossing other stems.)

The general rule for pruning these bushes it not to remove more than a third, (we can choose to remove less!). We aim to open up the bushes so that there is good air flow between the stems as this reduces the risk of mildew later in the season. Mildew likes damp conditions with still air which can easily be created where bushes have not been pruned regularly and the stems have become very over crowded.

We’ll be cutting back fruited branches to a strong bud. Currant bushes do fruit on new growth but they fruit best on last year’s wood and this is useful to keep in mind when pruning.

In case you are wondering why we are doing the pruning now and not nearer to March you will find the answer on the bushes. Look closely and you will notice that some buds are already showing the first signs of green, indicating they are nearly ready to open. Spring is on its way.

The other fruit we will be looking at this week are our raspberries. There are two types, summer flowering and autumn flowering. The simplest ones to prune are the autumn flowering varieties whose canes need to be cut to the ground in the autumn when they have finished fruiting. (Ours kept going into December!) New canes grow from the base in the spring and they fruit on this year’s growth. (We are a little late with this, but better late than never.)

The summer fruiting raspberries are slightly more complicated to prune because they only fruit on last year’s wood so we need to distinguish between new canes (that will produce fruit next year) and old canes that need to be cut to the ground once they have fruited.

If the pruning is done in early autumn it is usually possible to see the colour difference between the old and new canes with old canes appearing significantly darker, and new canes appearing greenish. Once the canes have fruited they can be cut to the ground. As with the autumn flowering raspberries new canes emerge from the base the following spring. When weeding or hoeing around the base of raspberries it is important to remember that they are shallow rooted and newly emerging canes can be easily damaged by the hoe.

Next week we will be looking at the blackberry bushes, and for pruning purposes they are the same as summer raspberries, they fruit on last year’s wood.

Other garden jobs this week – Removing duck weed from the pond, Refreshing our sales stand in the upper greenhouse and making it look attractive, There are some tulip bulbs that somehow got forgotten about before Christmas. We’ll be planting these near the front gate borders. Around the garden there are some plants that have been damaged by the cold weather and have been frosted. We will be cutting these back. The Gorgeous Group will meet on Sunday at 10.00. We’ll be cleaning up and netting the East side of the lower greenhouse as well as netting the roof in preparation for the gourds.