Some raspberry TLC for nitrogen deficiency

Yellowing leaves on raspberries

Yellowing leaves are a tell-tale sign of a nutrient deficiency

Having looked back at some photos of my Polka raspberries from last year, I think they have been suffering from a nitrogen deficiency. Not surprising, since I barely remembered to water, let alone feed, the raspberry canes all year. The tell-tale yellowing leaves didn’t have much of a trace of brown in them, which would suggest a magnesium deficiency. Rather, the pinkish hue that crept into some of the leaves made me pin the lacklustre foliage and yields on a lack of nitrogen.

Usually, I start the year off by dressing the ground around the shallow raspberry roots with some compost, followed on with fresh grass clippings to release nutrients and retain water. Having failed to do either last year, this year I need a quick fix (poultry poop, free range from friends’ pet-only homes), followed by a liberal mulching of well-rotted garden compost for a slower-release supply of nitrogen.

Raspberry plants

The raspberries looked a little healthier, but still weak, earlier in the season

If there’s a magnesium deficiency there, half a cup of Epsom salts diluted in a watering can should do the trick.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that a little bit of TLC and a boost in the right nutrients will be just the fix I’m looking for, especially as my mum is ready and waiting in the wings to collect lots of the fruit for her cake baking this year. That’s more than enough motivation in itself to get the plants back in working order!

A taste of the tropical in an English garden

Valentina Raspberries

I swore I was going to stick to what I know this year; tried and tested varieties of fruit and veg, minimise and streamline the amount of work needed to tend to my little edible garden. But when I read a couple of reviews about an unusual variety of raspberry, I couldn’t resist. After all, I had some space going in my newest no-dig plot, so why not?

The Valentina raspberry is a floricane variety, and apparently produces apricot-pink fruits abundantly from June. My older Polka raspberries are primocane, so in the past I have had to wait until the heady summer days of late July and August to enjoy the fruits, and it can feel like an eternity. Now, I’ll have a much longer raspberry-laden season to enjoy.

But it wasn’t the consistently high yields, resistance to pests and diseases or frost hardiness of Valentina that caught my attention – it was the promise of a distinct tropical-like flavour. I’m definitely a fan of heritage varieties of fruit and veg, as some newer varieties do seem to have been developed more for their disease resistance and yield, rather than flavour. But a small army of allotment growers have waxed lyrical about Valentina’s ‘taste of the tropical’ and I wanted to see for myself if the fruits live up to the hype.

Valentina Raspberry

© Marshalls Seeds 2017

I bought six Valentina raspberry canes from Marshalls Seeds* and planted them in alongside my Cambridge Favourite strawberry patch, forgetting that eventually I’ll need supports to tie in the new growth… since this is a floricane (summer fruiting) variety and not an easy-as-pie cut-it-all-back-down-to-the-ground-in-winter primocane raspberry. But I’m sure at some point this summer, I’ll cobble something together to ensure that the new growth is supported and ready for next year.

I’m really looking forward to a taste of the tropical from my little corner of England – just a few more weeks and we should be in business.

*I have not been asked to mention/promote/link to Marshalls Seeds!

Kitchen garden in January


It’s not even a month since the Winter Solstice and already I’m noticing that we’re already starting to gain a little more light in the evenings. It’s not much, but it’s definitely a positive!

Last Sunday – despite dreary grey skies and wet ground underfoot, I took the baby and the buggy into the garden at 4pm. Whilst E slept after a being wheeled a few short circuits around the garden, I raked and collected up the last of the leaves for the leaf bin. I worked until just before 5pm, when the light was diminishing rapidly by the minute. Just three weeks ago it would have been impossible to work past 4:30pm… so I can’t complain.

Collecting up the last of the autumn leaves and clearing away last year’s homegrown cosmos flowers were two small but significant jobs that have been lingering on an ever-growing list of Things To Do This January. My Smallest Smallholding may well take a pause in January, but for me it gives me a little breathing space to catch up on a whole host of jobs, before everything kickstarts once again in the spring.

Frosty raspberry leaf backlit by sunshine

Realistically, with a 4 1/2 month in tow, I can only grab snatches of time here and there. To pretend I have hours on hand to potter and preen will do me no favours. So I need to keep the momentum going to keep on top of everything that needs doing.

One thing I’ve learned about parenthood is that I have to work around my new routine. So my To Do List needs to be simple and straightforward. That way, I can tick, tick, tick off the boxes and feel like I’m getting somewhere.

Here’s a few jobs that I’ve lined up for January and February at The Smallest Smallholding:

– Cut down autumn fruiting (primocane) raspberry canes
– Weed & mulch veg plots
– Continue cutting back brambles and pulling up nettles in the overgrown patch
– Plant garlic and winter onions (it’s still relatively warm and February – the coldest month – is still to come)
– Tidy long border
– Plant the last tulip bulbs (eek)
– Prune buddleias, roses and clematis
– Chit potatoes