Pink Lemonade Blueberry

If you like something a bit different, and enjoy experimenting with new varieties of fruit and veg, then you’ll like this. I recently posted about bringing a taste of the exotic to my little English cottage garden potager patch, with my Valentina raspberries. And now I’ve added another interesting and unusual variety into the mix; a Pink Lemonade blueberry. I got mine from Marshalls Seeds but you can get them easily online pretty much anywhere!

Pink Lemonade Blueberry

© Marshalls Seeds 2017

Apparently this variety of blueberry is much sweeter than its blue-hued counterparts, and flowers with delicate pinkish to white blooms in spring. The hardy plant then produces a large crop of bright pink berries mid-summer, followed by a steady harvest through to early autumn.

Sounds good to me.

If you know blueberries, then you know that they need ericaceous soil and love full sun. Whilst there’s not a lot I can do about the abundance of lack of sunlight in summer, I can control soil conditions. We might have sandy soil in this part of Mid Bedfordshire, but it’s not really acidic enough (between pH 4.0 – 5.5) for these fruit bushes to thrive planted out in the borders. So I’ll be starting my Pink Lemonade blueberry plant off in a large well-draining container (the plant could grow up to 4-5ft) with ericaceous soil, and giving it a regular top up with diluted tomato feed each month. In spring, a liberal mulch of leafmould will also help to keep the plant balanced, fed and healthy.

Apparently Pink Lemonade blueberry plants are self-pollinating, which means they’ll produce fruit with just one plant. That’s all I’ve got for now, but if I choose to buy one or more blueberry plants, it’s said I’ll get a bigger, better crop. To be honest, I’ve got about three years until the plants will produce those juicy, jewelled berries, so I’ve got time to grow my blueberry collection before then. Perhaps a couple of heritage varieties will do…

*This is not a sponsored post. I have not been asked to mention/promote/link to Marshalls Seeds!

Into the swing of spring – strawberries recovering

Cambridge Favourite strawberry plants

Despite the late, late frosts last month, I’m pleased to see that my tatty strawberry patch is recovering nicely! I picked out the damaged black-eyed strawberry flowers, and crossed everything that the remaining buds weren’t damaged. And although some of the Cambridge Favourite strawberry flowers have opened with black centres, it seems most are A-OK. Phew!

I’ve decided to help my strawberries along a bit this year. Last year I was terrible, neglecting to water or tend to the plants until they pretty much shrivelled up in protest. This year, I’ve started as I intend to go on, giving the plants a little more TLC in the hope that they will flourish… and I’ll get to enjoy a decent crop of fresh, ripe, sun-soaked(!) strawberries.

Growing a successful strawberry crop

Firstly, I can tell you that I will NOT be putting out any kind of slug pellet or slug trap. I’m a live and let live kind of gardener. The only “pellets” I would consider are the wool pellets, but current budget dictates that we’ll have to rely on other wildlife keeping slug numbers at a manageable level! We incur a few losses, but I think we’ve got a good balance here and we don’t have a massive slug or snail problem at all.

Let there be light
It’s said that the best, sweetest tasting strawberries are those that have been sun-soaked. It’s serendipitous that my no-dig strawberry patch gets sun from early morning through to late afternoon. So it’s up to the flighty British summer to sweeten those fruits now.

Mulching & weeding
As we’re currently experiencing some much-needed downpours, the setting fruits will need lifting off the (well-draining) soil, so a mulch of straw should do the trick. You can protect your fledgling fruits from birds with well-pegged down, tight and VISIBLE netting (add CDs or streaming ribbons to aid visibility), or if you’ve a few pennies and saved away, build a fruit cage (again, ensure the netting is visible to wildlife).

This year, with no budget for any kind of fruit cage, I shall be counting on the good grace of my feathered friends, and the fact that there are bird feeders all over the garden… e

Mulching and regular weeding will also encourage healthy, vigorous growth, and the plants can be fed an organic liquid potash (potassium rich) feed (like tomato feed). Organic liquid seaweed feed might also help too, but watch the nitrogen content… you want it to be low. It’s also been suggested that homemade dilute liquid comfrey can help boost flavour of the fruits (1 part comfrey liquid to 15 parts water).

I’ve got a general organic kelp mix that I’ve been feeding weekly all over the veg patches, flower borders and fruit cages. The trick is to NOT overfeed or overwater your plants – just a little helping hand can do wonders.

Frost damaged strawberries

Strawberry Flower Frost Damage

All was going pretty well in the strawberry patch… until the frosts hit. A bitter easterly wind knocked around Bedfordshire throughout the week, and after one particularly chilly night, we awoke to a significant ground frost.

Ground frosts have been few and far between over the last couple of winters, and although April also had some exceptionally warm days, I should have known better than to be lulled into a false sense of security. Despite my neighbours wrapping their espalier trees in yards and yards of cost fleece, I paid little attention to the sky, the wind, and the weather forecasts, and took absolutely no action in protecting my plants.

Needless to say, we’ve lost a number of strawberry flowers with their burgeoning fruits. The black centres in the image below showcases my disastrous start to the growing season. Where the blank, black eye sits, there should be a sunny yellow centre, which will ultimately bear the jewel-like red fruits as the days lengthen into the heady heat-filled haze of summer.

I’ve had to pinch out the damaged flowers, and luckily the undamaged blooms have started appearing. Fingers crossed that we’ll have a decent harvest for my little strawberry patch this year.

Strawberry flower black frost damage

My strawberries weren’t the only victims of the snap frost. Two nasturtiums and five bean plants that I’d hastily planted out under the blazing azure skies during an earlier mini heatwave were also reduced to limp, frost-burned specimens. Thankfully, I have plenty more of each plant waiting in the wings, protected in the greenhouse. Back-ups. Lesson: always have a contingency. (And keep an eye on the weather forecast).

By some stroke of luck, only one of my recently-planted Valentina raspberry canes seem to have endured any kind of frost damage. Whether the cane recovers, we’ll have to wait and see.

There’s an adage floating around that tender plants shouldn’t be planted out until after the Chelsea Flower Show. I suppose this is generally when most gardens in the UK are safe from frosts, but after a sunny weekend, and whilst bombarded with images on social media of what everyone else has potted up and planted out, it’s all too easy to be swept up in this non-existent race to grow, grow, grow. I should know by now that slow and steady is the way to go.

Of course, it’s also worth adding that had I got my rear end in gear and got my polytunnel up in the last three years, I might have been writing about a completely different picture entirely. Slowly, slowly… ?