Whether it's a bleak December or the more mild weather we are becoming used to, you can still spend useful time in the garden. David Coton suggests the jobs that can occupy the shortening days.
Soft fruit was featured in a recent edition of the Great British Garden Revival and David Coton was impressed by Alys Fowler’s enthusiasm for all sorts of berries that can be grown in our gardens.
‘There’s no greater taste of the British summer than freshly picked berries from the garden’
This assertion underpinned a fascinating half hour in which the viewer was shown how easy soft fruit is to grow, it’s year round interest and the huge range that’s available.
Starting off at RHS Rosemoor in Devon, Alys explained that at one time every garden would have soft fruit but now we would rather buy it from the supermarket or pick your own farms.
This is probably because soft fruit has gained a reputation for being difficult to maintain, hard to grow and with a tendency to take up too much space. But this isn’t necessarily so.
Many types of soft fruit can be grown in containers, and they can be attractive plants with all year round interest.
Blueberries for example will crop heavily if they are kept well watered in ericaceous compost. Chokeberries are a ‘super fruit’ packed full of anti-oxidents and Chilean Guava,are both easy to grow in moist well drained multi-purpose compost with the container in a sunny, sheltered position.
If you like using terracotta pots, Alys gave viewers some hints to stop the compost from drying out too quickly - either line the pot with cardboard or an old compost bag.
Alternatively, place the container in a saucer of water and, if you have more than one, group the containers together.
Victoriana Nursery Gardens provided the setting for the viewer to see a huge variety of unusual soft fruit including the Honeyberry and the Boysenberry.
The latter is a cross between a loganberry and a blackberry but, although delicious, there is no chance of finding it in a supermarket as it doesn’t travel well enough.
And if you’re worried about thorns, we saw a thornless Tayberry. ‘Buckingham’. Normally soft fruit with thorns taste better but this variety bucks the trend.
Building a cage to protect your berries can be relatively simple using dowels in the corners of a plot with flexible piping arched over and covered in netting. Make sure the netting is small enough to deter pigeons, other birds and mice but large enough to allow in pollinators.
However, some soft fruit such as gooseberries crop so well that there are more than enough berries to satisfy both the grower and the birds.
By the end of the programme I was convinced that soft fruit is worth growing. It is without doubt easy to grow, it’s hardy, perennial and with a little effort you’ll be rewarded with a lot of berries.
In order to promote and enhance biodiversity and conservation of our wildlife, there's a selection of habitats and boxes you can purchase that are specifically designed to attract various small animals and insects to your garden. Here we look at some of the products available which also make unusual and very engaging gifts.
With warmer weather and an early Easter, the garden centre is busy at the moment with customers stocking up on summer bedding plants - snapdragons, cornflowers, cosmos, verbena, phlox, petunia, As well as filling planters, hanging baskets and borders with colour that will last all summer, there are always plenty of jobs to do in the garden during April and David Coton has these suggestions.
Every gardener must have noticed a decline in the bee population over recent years. Intensive farming that demands the use of toxic chemicals, climate change and parasite infestation have all been put forward as potential causes, it's a worrying trend but one that we can all help to reverse.
As an excellent alternative to conventional products, Trimetals' storage solutions blend top quality manufacture with contemporary style. Their range has now been extended to include two new maintenance free sheds and Robert Hall has all the details.