It’s time to up the pace in the summer garden

Redcurrants need just a small space, but they should provide masses of fruit for years to come. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Redcurrants need just a small space, but they should provide masses of fruit for years to come. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
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We are into the busiest time of year in the garden, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Early vegetable crops are maturing, soft fruits are flowing, and ornamental features demand constant attention.

That’s normal, but now we need to step up apace, pruning those that have just performed in preparation for next year and propagating others for the future.

When you consider that a well-maintained red or blackcurrant bush only takes up one square metre of space and can produce at least 10lbs of fruit annually for years, it’s worth growing. Granted, the currants can be slightly tart and don’t feature regularly in our desserts, but they excel in jams, jellies and pies.

We have two blackcurrant plants that have seen 15 summers’ service yet remain productive, thanks to regular feeding, mulching and annual pruning, which comes straight after the fruit has been picked.

You could prune any time from leaf-fall to spring, but I prefer to act when the strigs that have just carried the fruit are still visible. They identify the stems that need to be removed, leaving young growth time to develop over summer.

If you buy pot-grown blackcurrant bushes at garden centres, plant them a good 5cm deeper than they were in the container. This encourages strong new stems from below soil level year-on-year, thus extending the plant’s life-span.

Propagation could not be easier. In autumn take stem cuttings from unfruited new wood, up to 30cm long. Make a slit trench in the open garden and push them upright into it, leaving a quarter showing, then make firm and leave the rest to nature.

Wallflower, sweet William, forget-me-not, teasel, woad, honesty and foxglove can all be found in this garden every year.

Some sow themselves, others need a helping hand, but one thing they have in common is being biennials. They germinate one year, develop a basal rosette of leaves, and flower the following year.

We can rely on the latter four to get on with reproduction themselves, but the wallflower, sweet William and forget-me-not need a helping hand, either sowing in pots or open garden.

This is a suitable time to do it, allowing for germination, initial growth and transplanting into autumn beds.

I take the simple route, forking over a spare patch on a raised vegetable bed that has recently received a general fertiliser. Treading it firmly, then raking and making drills 30cm apart ,is followed by sowing.