Cane fruits FAQs

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We have got an ‘Oregon Thornless’ blackberry which for three years has fruited well but which now is a mass of tangled growth. What should we do with it?

Like all blackberries the ‘Oregon Thornless’ throws up long and strong new growths each year. It is these that bear the fruit the following season. When fruit-picking has finished, start clearing away the old canes. As yours are tangled up it is a job to do carefully and a bit at a time. Avoid damaging the new young canes— you will need at least six of the strongest for tying in to the support wires.

Instead of swelling and ripening, many of our ‘Mailing Promise’ raspberries shrivel and dry up. We have given them good treatment, with always plenty of compost as a mulch after the winter digging. What more can we do?

You must avoid cultivating the soil anywhere near the plants in future. Raspberries are surface-rooting, and the roots spread out quite a long way. If these are broken the plants are unable to cope with the extra stress at fruiting time. Restrict your cultivations to the use of a Dutch hoe, then your mulching will work wonders.

We are disappointed with our ‘Mailing Admiral’ raspberries: the berries are wonderful to look at but they have little or no flavour. Is there anything we can do to improve them?

It is often suggested that an application of sulphate of potash will enhance fruit flavour—but that is true only if the variety has some natural flavour of its own. Unfortunately, ‘Mailing Admiral’ has little flavour compared with, say, ‘Mailing Jewel’ or ‘Mailing Promise’. Without doubt, ‘Mailing Jewel’ is still the best raspberry for flavour.

In February we planted a row of ‘Mailing Promise’ canes. They grew fairly well, but in July the crop was very disappointing and now the new growth is inclined to be weak. Would a fertiliser feed help? ‘Mailing Promise’ canes (and any other summer-fruiting raspberry) planted in February should have been cut down to 100 mm (4 in) in March. This treatment encourages strong root systems and new cane growth for fruiting the following season. Failure to do this has left your new canes weak. Cut all growth down next March. You will lose a season’s cropping but the sacrifice will be worthwhile in the long run. Make an application of Growmore fertiliser next spring.

We have a south-east-facing fence which is 12 m (40 ft) long and about 1.8 m (6 ft) high. Would it be suitable for growing loganberries, and if so how many should be planted?

Loganberries trained either on or in front of the fence should do well. Two plants would be sufficient; this would allow each one 3 m (10 ft) of growing space on either side. You would need three strands of horizontal wiring spaced about 450 mm (18 in) apart, into which the canes could be tied.

I would like to put raspberries on the bench in the local show, and if possible win a prize with them. What is the best variety for this purpose?

The most beautiful looking raspberry is ‘Mailing Delight’. Well-grown fruits of this variety could win you a first at any show. They are nearly as large as loganberries, but sadly lack that really good raspberry flavour. Plant only a few canes of ‘Mailing Delight’, and fill the rest of the row with a good-flavoured variety such as ‘Mailing Jewel’. 158

Would you recommend cutting down the canes of my autumn-fruiting raspberries immediately after harvesting?

The short answer is ‘no’. Fruiting usually finishes towards the end of October, and that is the time to tidy up by removing any broken or damaged canes. The rest of the pruning should be done early in March, when all the canes can be cut down almost to ground level. In July remove all weak growth, so that only strong canes are left for fruiting in August and September.

We plan to plant a few autumn-fruiting raspberries and would appreciate your advice on suitable varieties.

At present there are only four suitable autumn varieties, as follows. ‘Zeva’ is the easiest to manage, and its canes are strong enough to stand without support; it produces the largest berries, and its flavour is good. ‘September’ always requires thinning early in the season, and even the strongest canes need support; its medium-sized berries have an excellent flavour. ‘Heritage’ berries are small and their flavour is only fair, but the fruit is firm and very suitable for freezing. ‘Fall Gold’, true to its name, produces golden raspberries of excellent flavour, but it is inclined to be a poor cropper and is subject to mildew on its fruit.

We are puzzled (but relieved!) that the blackbirds are not interested in our September raspberries—although they will strip our row of ‘Mailing Promise’ unless it is netted. Can you explain this?

This has surprised many gardeners. Apparently when blackbirds are given the opportunity, they are selective feeders; in the autumn they seem to prefer, if available, the fruits of the hedgerows to our cultivated fruits. Another reason may be that the damage in summer is done mainly by fledglings, which have grown up by autumn.

I have seen advertisements for Japanese wineberries. Before ordering any I would like to know whether or not they are a proposition for a garden where space is at a premium.

Japanese wineberries require a lot of space, plus posts and wires for supporting the fruiting canes. Compared with other cane fruits the crop yields are only moderate. The berries are a very attractive bright red, are carried in fairly large trusses, and their flavour is unique, if slightly acid. The colourful canes are extremely prickly, and die-back appears to be a frequent problem. Nevertheless the plants are, I think, worth experimenting with for those who have space to spare.

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