Monthly Archives: November 2011

Planting a plum

The Victoria Plum was delivered this week, and today we went down to the plot to plant it.  Plum trees need warmth and sun, so we’ve planted it in the sunniest part of the plot, on the edge of where we plan to lay a second patio (because we need the sun, too).

The soil was already well dug over, and we incorporated some manure that had been rotting down through the summer.  We added some blood, fish and bone as a slow-release fertiliser.  Plum trees need to be supported with a stake for the first 4-5 years of their life. The stake should be 15cm (6in) or so from the main stem. The trunk of the plum was tied to the stake using one of those special rubber ties you can get from B&Q or a garden centre (don’t use wire or anything which could cut into the tree trunk). We’ll need to check the tie for the first couple of years to ensure that growth of the tree trunk has not caused it to become too tight.

Because plum trees have lots of roots near the surface, they will often produce lots of of suckers (mini-trees) for 3 metres (9 foot) around the trunk. Regular cutting of these suckers will keep them under control. A more permanent way is to gently dig away the soil to the point where the sucker joins the main root system. Simply pull the sucker away from the root. This will slow down the production of suckers considerably.

We’ll need to add another application of slow-release fertiliser around the tree in February and mulch with well-rotted manure in the spring.  For the first three years we need to keep the ground around the tree free of any grass or other plants so it doesn’t suffer from competition.  We’ll need to keep it well-watered if there’s a dry spell.

That’s something to bear in mind – this autumn has been quite dry and warmer than average.  We’re still piucking the odd strawberry and raspberry on the plot.

In two year’s time, we hope….

Gariguette Strawberries

In May, we had a short break with friends in Provence.  In the  village of Aiguines near the Gorge du Verdon, I noticed a stall selling the elongated Gariguette  strawberries that are native to this region. The produce was presided over by a weatherbeaten guy in a check shirt playing the mouth organ to himself.  I bought a punnet and we all shared these sweet and delicious fruits, an old and much-valued Provençal variety. They are small, soft and aromatic, reminiscent of wild strawberries. They taste simply fantastic.  The name refers to the garrigue, the distinctive uplands of southern France covered in aromatic shrubs and spring flowers, and loud with the song of nightingales.

After the taste of those Provencal strawberries, R decided that we must try planting some of our own. We ordered sme by mail order, and they arrived yesterday – 15 Gariguette runners, bare-rooted, so they were planted right away.  Some fish blood and bone was raked in before the roots were planted about 15 inches apart.

We have already planted a selection of strawberries on the plot, including some tiny alpine strawberries that have grown in our garden at home for many years.  Alpine strawberries have an exquisite in taste, and are much smaller than common-or-garden varieties.

We had a good crop of strawberries this summer – in fact, with the mild autumn we’ve had, we picked probably the last just a week ago.  No bad cropping for the first season after the move.  But, as one gardening columnist has noted, strawberry production is not absolutely straightforward.  Plants want feeding in spring with potassium sulphate, watering and feeding with tomato fertiliser as the fruits swell, punctilious weeding or mulching, protection from slugs and rain-splash using barley straw or strawberry mats, the removal of old foliage after fruiting, and frequent inspections for pests and diseases. Especially when grown in the open ground they are prone to attack from powdery mildew, botrytis (grey mould), and birds.

Growing strawberries in a light, airy place to minimise the risk of botrytis in wet weather makes sense, as does not planting them in ground from which potatoes have just been dug so that you avoid possible disease. Prevent bird damage by growing them in a fruitcage, under netting, or by hanging CDs on strings to act as bird scarers.

There’s a lot of useful stuff in the RHS book that we’ve just bought, Fruit and Vegetable Gardening by Michael Pollock (Dorling Kindersley).

More raised beds, more plans

Another milestone achieved!  Today I finished assembling the rest of the raised beds on the land that I’ve been clearing of bramble roots and bindweed all summer.  Now we’re planning the next steps:

  • a new patio area over by the fence, which is a real sun-trap
  • next to that, the Victoria plum tree, St Julian, which is due to arrive any time now
  • flower beds
  • a cherry tree
  • a second shed

Beyond the existing shed and the fruit cage, there’s still a section – currently covered in plastic and carpet – that needs digging over and bramble roots removed.  Plety more to do!