Archive for the ‘Fruit Garden’ Category

Pear, Fruit, How To Grow Pears

Feels like we are well and truly into Autumn as the pears are nearly ready!! Forgive my excitement but from the moment the pear blossom appears at the end of April I count the days to harvest time.

The beech and walnut trees have turned and the leaves are falling and the lawn is looking like a beautiful middle eastern carpet with its gorgeous tapestry of browns and beige. Although they look stunning if you leave them on your lawn it will encourage moss. I find the best remedy is to bring out the mower and set it on the highest setting and just mow over the top of them. Great thing about the mower is it picks up the leaves and shreds them at the same time, which is great for producing leaf mould.

Autumn Leaves

But … my success this year has to be the Doyenne du Comice pears. Simply gorgeous.

Doyenne du Comice Pear

Doyenne du Comice Pears have done especially well this year

Last year was a bit of a disaster as the pears all dropped when they were small fruits on the tree. Disappointing to say the least but this year both the Conference and Doyenne du Comice have cropped really well and have reached a good size. It’s at this time of the year we harvest our pears as there is a knack to ripening them to ensure they retain the sweetness and flavour.

The Fruit Orchard
We planted 3 year old bare root trees in 2008 when we planted the orchard and they’ve always produced the most amazing blossom (first of the fruit trees to blossom) but never really delivered much in the way of fruit for the last few years. But this year they’ve done brilliantly!  No special treatment, just plenty of water when the weather was dry.

Juicy Doyenne du Comice Pears

I learned a great tip for ripening home grown pears. I didn’t know but they don’t ripen well on the tree apparently … at least not in the UK. Instead you need to bring them into store in a cool dry place and let them ripen naturally. So I thought I’d give it a go!

We have a covered area in the front of the workshop where it stays dry and fairly frost free. Should do just fine. I’ll also bring a few into the house as I think the heat may ripen them quicker and to be honest I can’t wait much longer!

If you haven’t grown pears before give it a go as they are a bit special. Now I’m off to find a recipe for home grow pears.

Oh and we’d love the hear from anyone that has any recipes for pears and I’d like to make Pear brandy but I wouldn’t know where to start? All ideas most welcome.

Back soon







PS: We hope to have an important announcement in the coming weeks … it will explain why we haven’t been posting for a while.  Exciting times!!!

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I used to think growing fruit and in particular growing raspberry’s was the domain of only the most experienced gardeners. That was until a few years ago when I bought a handful of summer and autumn fruiting bare root plants from my local nursery.  Several years on and they have multiplied and multiplied … and multiplied! I must have over fifty by now which is fine but if they’re to carry on providing us with gorgeous fruit they’ll need thinning out.

We prefer the late summer/autumn fruiting varieties as they are easier to manage and in my experience produce more fruit. Essentially autumn fruiting raspberry’s fruit on this years growth which means you cut them hard back leaving approximately nine inches of stems after the first frost.


The bed they are in at the moment is right outside the poly tunnel and slap bang in the middle of what has become my little back garden nursery. Not exactly the best position although the canes produce absolutely loads of fat gorgeous tasting raspberry’s that seem to go on forever, but they’re going to have to be moved.

This year I’ve decided to move them to a new plot to give me a bit more space for the nursery.  I’ll keep the surplus plants and plant them along the hedge at the bottom of the plot and then anyone walking down the lane can help themselves.


Here’s the new plot … As you can see it’s going to need some work to get it ready. Its not really been used for anything other than as a temporary holding bed for the nursery.Now it will get a new lease of life and provide a permanent home for the razzas .

Preparing the ground for Raspberry’s

To grow healthy raspberry plants that will provide you with plenty of  fruit requires doing a little ground work up front. (Just hold on to the thought of ice cold home made raspberry ice cream on a warm sunny July evening and you’ll be amazed how the work suddenly becomes a lot less painful! )

Do rasberrys need any special treatment?

Two important things to remember about Raspberry’s.

One, they are heavy feeders and two they hate to dry out. They thrive on moisture which if you consider they are mostly composed of water it does kinda make sense. So they need muck or compost … and plenty of it.

Best time to transplant?

I find about now (early – mid March) to be the ideal time. Why? Because we are still having frosts in Hampshire which means the canes are still fairly dormant and the plants will have plenty of time for the roots to settle into the new conditions before they start to bear fruit.


Prepare a planting hole about a foot deep and about 18 inches wide and back fill with well rotted compost and a sprinkling of fish blood and bone. A tip  I picked up from my dad is not to plant the canes to deep. The roots need to breathe so don’t be tempted to heal them in too vigorously. Also if at all possible plant them in full sun and the fruits will be all the more sweeter for it. Oh and one last thing … don’t plant them too close together. After all you want to be able to get to all those gorgeous fruits!



How To Transplant Raspberry Bushes

Apologies for the poor quality of this image .. . I’ll take some better ones next weekend.

Its hard work but well worth it!

A busy weekend moving the Raspberry’s but very satisfying feeling now its done and it feels great to be back doing some serious gardening again!

Hope your weekend was a fruitful as mine. 😉

Best wishes


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Easter in the 2013 gardening calendar is going to be exciting one for us in so many ways and if the weather is kind it’s certainly going to be a busy one!.

They’re predicting cold in most parts of the UK over the weekend so if you’re planning to head into the garden like me it looks like we’re going to need those extra layers.

Here are five jobs we’ll be doing in the garden this Easter weekend.

Job 1. Winter Prune The Grape vine, (Phoenix Vitis vinifera)

I’ve had a grape vine (Phoenix, Vitis vinifera) for 3 years and it always seems to do well, which I think is down to our thin chalky soil.


When it comes to looking after a grape vine I’ve learned over the years to treat em mean and keep em keen.  In other words don’t be afraid to prune your grape vine, unless you have a rambling vine in which case just let it do it’s own thing and thin out the growth later in the year. In my experience the harder you prune a grape vine the more it seems to want to respond.

I train mine as a cordon (I think it’s called the Guyot system) keeping the vine down to 2 main laterals which I run left and right on wires. I keep these laterals to around 10-12 buds max and keep them tied into wires using soft garden string.


As the buds break and grow away I train them up to the wires until there are around 4 nodes or buds per stem.  I then trim the subsequent growth to a minimum of 4 bunches per stem, which ensures all the energy goes into making loads of delicious grapes and not into growing more vine.

Job 2. Put Up Support For The Rasberrys

A couple of weeks ago I transplanted my raspberry  canes into a redundant part of the veg patch in the garden. I usually plant fruit canes in January, but given the cold weather the canes are still dormant, so they should survive the move.

If you don’t want your raspberry canes falling all over the place you’ll need to provide adequate support.  Don’t skimp in this area is my advice if you want an easy life later in the summer. I’ve learnt the hard way and used all sorts of methods from a piece of string tied between bamboo canes, too individually staking each cane (yes I really did stake every single cane).

The best solution I find is to take two or three 8 foot 4 x 4 inch square posts and cement them in a hole at least 18″ deep. Not cheap I know, but it will last much longer.  Then head to the local hardware shop and buy a few screw in wire connectors and some reasonable heavy gauge wire.


Fix the connectors to the inside of each post approximately 2 feet apart and run a length of the wire through the connectors and twist the ends to make a fixing. The secret is to make sure they are nice and tight.

If you’re planning to plant a few canes (or any soft fruit bushes) then my advice is prepare a trench in advice of planting if possible.  I usually dig a trench about a spades width across and a spades depth deep. You don’t need a massive trench as raspberries take up moisture through the fibrous roots that sit just below the surface, so avoid planting them too deep. Also the roots need oxygen so bury them too deep and they are less likely to survive. Bit like us really!

Into the trench goes a barrow load of compost which I fork into the soil.  I then plant the canes until the roots are completely covered. Throw in a sprinkle of fish blood and bone around the roots and heal them in nice and firm. Finally give them a good drink and they’ll do you proud.

Job 3. Pot On Last Years Softwood Cuttings.

For the last 3 years I’ve been learning how to raise plants from cuttings with varying degrees of success. Last year was my best year yet and I’m pleased to say 99% of the cuttings I managed to root have survived (so far) through a cold winter. Always amazes me just how resilient plants really are.

It’s really easy to raise plants from cuttings and anyone that reads my blog on a regular basis will know it’s become a bit of passion of mine. Last year I even managed to sell a few plants which brought in a little extra cash into the household budget.

Softwood Cutings

These are just a few of the plants I raised in 2012 just before they were going to the customer.

You can grow plants like these from softwood cuttings

You can grow plants like these from softwood cuttings

This weekend I’ll be potting up last years cuttings into larger pots so they can grow into great little plants, just as soon as the weather warms up that is!

Job 4. Spring Clean The Wildlife Pond.

If you want your wildlife pond to look like this …


and not like this …

Spring Clean The Wildlife Pond

… then it’s going to need a Spring clean.

I’ve noticed we already have frog spawn in the pond, so probably best to collect it all up in a bucket first and return it when you’re finished.

Basically all I do in the Spring is thin out the oxygenating plants (elodium) and remove as many of the fallen leaves and decaying plants as I can.  It’s important to remove leaves from a pond or they will eventually decompose and give off noxious gasses which will discourage the wildlife from coming to the pond.

I find the best tool for the job is a Spring rake just as long as you take care not to puncture the liner! Alternatively it’s on with the wellies or waders and be prepared to get wet! 🙂

Job 5. Tidy Up The Herbaceous Borders.

One of the most satisfying jobs in the garden at this time of the year in my view is clearing and preparing the herbaceous borders ready for the summer ahead. Nothing too strenuous of course, just a little light pruning on the roses and removing the dead or decaying growth from last years gems. The Lupins have already started which is a sign of great things to come.


One task I have to perform every year (and for most of the season come to that) is to remove as many of the large stones and flints that rise to surface each year. The borders seem to suffer the most as we are on chalk, on top of which is a layer of large flints and stone in this part of Hampshire. Great for trout rivers they tell me, but pain in the bum in the garden.

After I’ve cleared the beds of all debris I mulch with a good layer of well rotted garden compost. Always amazes me where it all goes, but sure enough by the end of the season it will all be consumed by the worms and other insect life and put back in to the soil. Nature is a truly wonderful thing.

Well that’s my weekend in the garden sorted.

I wonder what jobs you’re planning in the garden this Easter weekend?

Have a lovely Easter,

Best wishes,


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Fresh strawberries are such a treat and with Wimbledon around the corner what could be better than a bowl of fat juicy strawberries picked fresh outside your back door accompanied by a glass of Elderflower champagne!

I grow mainly summer fruiting varieties of strawberries like Jubilee and Mara des Bois in the fruit garden but this year I’m growing a few fruit and veg outside the back door mainly for convenience, but also to show you don’t necessarily need a large garden to grow great tasting fresh produce.

Strawberry Pots with a difference

I’m always looking to recycle items wherever possible and I was looking around the garden and came across a few ridge tiles left over from the build. I thought if I stand them on end and find some way of fixing them together they might make cheap and cheerful strawberry planters. They’re nice and tall, which will keep soil born pests off the fruits, and the extra  depth will provide plenty of space for the plants to root into.

They’re quite heavy but once positioned in the gravel they are easily pulled together using garden wire and a pair of pliers. I’m really pleased with the results and the terracotta gives them a lovely natural feel and the gravel sets them off nicely!


Strawberry plants really need full sun if they are to thrive, but will grow just fine in partial sun. I’ve positioned my planters on the edge of the patio which is full sun for most of the day, at least until the sun goes behind the trees.

Planting mix?

I use 50 parts well rotted garden compost and leaf mould, mixed with 50 parts sifted top soil. You can use a mix of John Innes and Ericaceous compost but we’re about building a garden on a budget so I prefer to use what we have available at our disposal if at all possible.

Feed or not to feed?

As a general rule when it comes to feeding plants stick to Potash for fruit and flowers and Nitrogen for green leaves and growth. If you want fat juicy fruits and you’re growing your strawberries in pots I’d recommend feeding during the fruiting season. I start adding potash rich feed to my watering just as soon as the fruits have set. I tend not to feed when they’re not in fruit as it only produces more leaf growth.

Feed can be expensive?

Yes it can but you can use natural occurring potash in the form of wood ash which is free (if you have a wood burner that is) alternatively shop bought tomato feed works really well.

Perfect accompaniment to Strawberries?

For a taste of the countryside and as a perfect accompaniment to a bowl of fresh strawberries and cream why not have a go at making you own home made Elderflower champagne. It’s the perfect time of year, the flowers are everywhere, and if you wait for a sunny day it’s the perfect time to grab a basket and have a go at a little light foraging!

If you fancy having a go at making your own strawberry planters you might want to try your local reclamation yard or builders merchants. They usually have a few ridge tiles lying around or something similar and someone you know is bound to have a couple of strawberry plants to get you started. So have some fun making your own planters, the more unusual the better!

Take care and thanks for reading!



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Late summer fruiting rasberries


Just before we get on to the ‘juicy’ bits, a few kind people have contacted me and asked if I could include a PDF copy of my posts, so they can keep it handy should you need it to refer to at a later date.  Absolutely no problem at all, from now on I plan to add a free copy with each post.  I plan to work my way through all the previous posts, so please bear with me as there are quite a few. 🙂

So here’s today’s free PDF download on How to Grow a Good Crop of Raspberries with my best wishes.


If you have any problems with the download drop me an email to and we will do all we can to  to help.

Anyway, on to the main event!

Late summer fruiting Raspberries, what a treat!

I don’t know about you, but I never get tired of fresh picked home grown Raspberries. The flavour of these freshly picked little gems always seems to be so much better than the supermarket varieties.

I’ve never confessed to being a great gardener, but I do like to have a go, especially when it comes to growing fruit and veg.  I don’t use any special techniques, all I do is try different methods, and then wait to see which one produces the best results. Take my Raspberries as a case in point.

I wandered up the garden at the weekend to weed between the Chrysanthemums, and noticed we had ripe raspberries, which was a bit of a surprise, as I thought they finished fruiting ages ago. What I’d forgotten was, the canes I planted 2 years ago, were both summer and late summer fruiting varieties.  (Labeling is not my strongest point)

When I looked a bit closer and lifted a few of the branches the canes were loaded with fruit, which was fantastic news as we don’t have any other fruit ready for picking anywhere else in the garden. The strawberries are all finished and I don’t have any current bushes or gooseberries for that matter.

The orchard fruits have a few weeks to go before they are ready, apart from the Plums which should be ready sooner, so it’s fantastic that we have some juicy berries for the table.

Of course I had to taste a few, just to make sure they were suitable for the table :).   The variety is ‘Leo’ which is actually a late summer fruiting variety with a gorgeous flavour and the fruits are firm and fleshy.

Secret to a good crop of Raspberries

I’d never grown raspberries until a couple of years ago when I thought I’d give them a go. As I had no real experience I didn’t give them any special treatment, but they only produced a few fruits. Then I read that Raspberries don’t really tolerate chalk as they prefer a slightly acidic soil, which considering my garden is sitting on a layer of chalk, was probably responsible for the  poor crop.

Then, last Spring (April) I had to move my canes as I needed the ground for another project. This time I thought I’d give them a bit more care as I wanted to prove to the family that I could grow fruit on our chalk soil.

I’d read somewhere that Raspberry canes thrive on damp conditions, so I thought I’d give them the same preparation as my runner beans, as they also thrive on moist conditions.

I dug a small trench, about a foot wide and about 8″ deep, and put 2-3 sheets of newspaper at the bottom of the trench. Then, I replaced the chalky soil with a 50/50 mix of topsoil (imported) and well-composted farmyard manure.  (Apparently the newspaper helps to hold the moisture in)

The plants were healed in nice and deep as the roots need to be well below the surface to stop them drying out, then a month later I top dressed the plants with a 4″ layer of general garden compost.

I’m pleased to say the plants have repaid all that effort with healthy looking bushes and best of all, loads of succulent, tasty fat fruits.  I don’t  protect my raspberries from the birds as there’s enough to go round, but if you see any sign of significant bird damage, then I’d have no hesitation in netting my fruit.

Autumn Pruning

I’m going to prune the late fruiting bushes hard back when they have finished, and give them a sprinkling of bone meal around the base of the plant, by way of a thank you for providing us with so many treats this summer.

We also have an early summer fruiting variety, ‘Glen Moy’ which fruits on the previous years growth, so I’ll remove any 2 year old wood from the patch and tie the remaining new canes on to the wires, ready for next year.

If you plan to plant your own canes, then ideally you should plant them this autumn, so they have a chance to get established before they burst into growth next Spring, and if you’re on chalk, or any soil for that matter, take the time to prepare the soil as I did, and you will be eating raspberries throughout the summer.

Next year I’m going to add a couple of redcurrant bushes and maybe a couple of Gooseberry bushes so we have a bit more variety.

If you have space for a few canes then give them a go, not only will they produce gorgeous fruit, but they also make for a  vibrant green summer screen.

Happy Gardening!

Best wishes,



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Conference Pear Blossom

First of the Conference Pear Blossom

First of the Fruit Tree Blossom

Another productive weekend in the garden, mostly spent in the kitchen garden planting two rows of my early pea crop (Kelvedon Wonder), along with a row of quick cropping carrots (Nantes). I also managed to plant a some Boltardy beetroot on modules in the Polytunnel. I saw Monty plant his the same way in last weeks Gardeners World so I thought I’d give it a go.

The first of the fruit trees to blossom in my garden are my two Pear trees, Conference Pear and Doyenne De Comerce, and what a wonderful display they make on a beautiful Spring day! I just hope they manage to hold onto the fruit this year as last year they all dropped off before they had a chance to grow. I’ve absolutely no idea why, so if anyone has any idea why I’d love to know.

Pear Blossom

Pear Blossom

Best wishes,

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Made a start on the soft fruit garden over the weekend

Firstly apologies for not posting for a while but it’s a really busy time at Blackbirds. We have a few projects on the go at the moment, one of which is the Soft Fruit Garden.

What a fantastic weekend! I managed to clear the last of the rubbish from the bottom of our plot and made a start on the second phase of the kitchen garden.

Believe it or not this will be our soft fruit garden

Believe it or not this will be our soft fruit garden

We’re now approaching our third season at Blackbirds and we have some fun projects lined up for the summer.  Ruby and the rest of the girls (our 6 free range chickens) have been moved to a new spot so we can finish off the kitchen garden, although I have to say they seem to spend more time exploring the surrounding fields than anything else.

I’ve decided to divide the left side of the kitchen garden in half, with the front half dedicated to fruit, and  the other half for a modest back garden nursery for growing and selling a few plants. It’s an idea I’ve been working on for a while now, but it’s not happening quite as quickly as I’d hoped.

I spent most of the weekend preparing the fruit patch, marking out a couple of beds approximately 20ft long by 5ft wide. I tend to make my fruit and veg beds fairly narrow to make them easier to manage.

Having first  removed the turfs, I forked over the ground mixing in a good helping of compost, along with a few handfuls of fish blood and bone. This should help get the  seeds and plants off to a good start and as  there has been nothing but grass growing before, the soil should be in pretty good shape.

The Fruit Garden at Blackbirds

My lovely son James helping me out with the heavy digging.

I plan to move  my raspberry canes that I’ve had since we moved in, but I’m not sure if they will provide any fruit this year if I do? Alongside the raspberries I’m going to plant a couple of red currants and blackcurrant bushes, along with a gooseberry and blueberry bush that I was given as a birthday present.  After planting them I’ll add a dressing of potash as I’ve read that fruit bushes respond well to a dose of potash.

I might also plant a few strawberries, but I tend to find they do so much better in the polytunnel. On the subject of the polytunnel John has agreed to install a small solar photovoltaic panel on the roof of my potting shed just powerful enough to  provide electricity to power a couple of lights. That way I’ll be able to stretch the days out a little further and spend even more time in the garden 🙂

Id like to grow a few more exotic fruits but I don’t have much experience with them, so  if you can think of any that will grow in our Hampshire climate do let me know.

Best wishes

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