A time of ripening is already upon us

Raspberry Joan J.
Raspberry Joan J.

Autumn fruits in the countryside, parks and gardens are at their best right now.

I recently mentioned a feasting order in relation to birds eating different fruits and it’s also noticeable that they show preferences within a single plant family.

Howgate Wonder apple.

Howgate Wonder apple.

Poor rosa rugosa is first on the menu as the hips soften rapidly and attract the attention of blackbirds.

The flagon-shaped hips of Rosa moyesii are next, followed by those of R. rubrifolia. Although they’ve just started on ripened dessert apples, we can rest assured the ornamental crabs are safe a while longer. John Downie and Butterball are absolutely stunning right now. The former has ovoid, orange and red fruits, some five centimetres long, and the latter offers slightly smaller golden fruits that appear in great clusters. Both can be used for crab-apple jelly. Autumn raspberries are so reliant upon good weather at the time of ripening. The combination of cooler days and wet conditions can ruin a crop but given favourable climes, the intensity of flavour and volume of fruit can make it so worthwhile.

This said, we’re enjoying Joan J at present.

When this fruit is a household favourite, the best plan is to create a bed with early and late fruiting types, using the freezer as back-up in July-August, just in case the late crop underperforms. This is a good time to be buying and planting raspberry canes which you’ll find bare-rooted and tied in bundles at the garden centre.

Ornamental crab apple malus Butterball.

Ornamental crab apple malus Butterball.

Traditionally, there’s a choice of summer or autumn fruiting. Whichever is chosen, make sure the selected planting site does get sunlight at some part of the day and clear it of all weeds.

Dig in any organic or composted material you can find and decide on a support system. Will the plants be grown in rows with wires or planted around a central post to which they can be loosely tied? Growing autumn raspberries could not be simpler.

Cut all the canes to ground level at the beginning of each year and the resultant growth will fruit in September-October.

Summer cropping types should have all spent fruiting canes removed as soon as the crop is picked.

You then tie in the strongest young stems for the following year.

The downside of planting bare-rooted summer raspberry canes now has always been that you have had to wait two summers to gather the first decent crop.

However, the development of the primocane cutting, grown in a pot, has made it possible to plant in spring and collect fruits just weeks later.

Compare respective prices and the waiting period, then decide which is best for you.