Thinning the fruit barrier.
Fencing between gardens is often bold and solid but between allotments we usually go for a more relaxed type of fence the purpose is primarily just to specify a boundary but not to keep out the neighbours’ eyes as we all live as one happy family on the allotment, don’t we? A common divider is a low growing fruit hedge –gooseberry is quite a common choice; or to avoid the thorns – black or red currant- these hedges will double up as a fruit supply as well . Since blackcurrant shrubs tend to have a wider framework , many allotmenteers prefer red currants as a boundary between them and their neighbours. A common problem with these bushes as the years pass, is due to their tendency to be classed as totally non-maintenance bushes, after years of neglect the annual crop diminishes to a meagre amount.
I have such a row of bushes (pictured above) planted years ago by my predecessor – every year I intend doing something about it, but being a time consuming job it gets pushed of to the next year. The bushes have grown wide and tall, the brambles have rooted between the currants roots and have left me with a wide bush stealing growing space from my allotment with few currants within reach as they hide under a mass of spiny bramble leaves. This past week I finally decided to take on the challenge.
Armed with a pair of my geared loppers for the thicker branches, secateurs and my new telescopic battery hedgecutter that I recently acquired (see my article last week), I took on the ‘battle of the bramble and currant bushes’. This last piece of equipment was a fantastic scratch saver from the spiny attackers, as I had the advantage of attacking them from a distance without being even slightly scathed through my gloves.
After an hour of hard work the hedge has been successfully thinned to a third of its width, it should also be cut down to half its height but if I were to do that now, I would be cutting off every fruiting possibility, instead I will leave the height for this year and I will remember to prune it after it has fruited. By that time, fruiting spurs will have grown out as side shoots and the pruned taller shoots will also have enough time to produce new fruiting shoots for next year as red currants fruit early in the summer. At least the small amount of fruit I expect this year will now be easily accessible. The only job that still remains is to dig out the roots of the brambles which have now been exposed, it is interesting to see how there are only a few roots for such a mass of growth that enveloped the currant bushes.
I now removed the cut material on the left and prepared it for the next bonfire, I also placed some black sheeting on the area to keep it free from weeds until I have time to manure the area and dig it over for the forthcoming planting.
I have now added a few extra square metres to my allotment at no extra cost!!
Good Gardening to you all