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!

Holding on for spring

Bunch of daffodils

Finally, there’s a warmth on the breeze. The world is waking earlier and earlier, and all over the garden the daffodils are singing, shoots are shooting, bulbs are popping their greeny growth above the soil and the forget me nots are sprouting up in every corner and crevice, ready to bloom.

And I’m not ready! E is now six and a half months old, and whilst we’re getting into a routine of sorts, I’m still finding it so hard to eke out a spare moment here and there. My seed packets were purchased in earnest in the darker months of winter, but there’s been no sowing, no planting, no potting on at all. My social media feeds are full of pictures of greenhouses bursting to the brim with seed module trays, sprouting onion sets and the lanky but lush growth of sweet peas.

But my garlic is still in packets, the potatoes are solemnly chitting on the windowsill and I have an abundance of spring flowers just waiting to be potted up to brighten the steps outside the kitchen door.

Hell, I even have trees and raspberry canes waiting to go in the ground. That is not good! Argh!

I really need to get a grip. Just an hour here and there should do it, but I’ve been so busy, and so full of cold. So I’m asking – as much as I want spring to arrive, could she please, please just hang on for a week or two whilst I (pardon my French) get my shit together.

I’ll do better, I promise…

Polyanthus, daffodils ready for potting on

In the meantime, look at these pretty little polyanthus primroses! These, along with the dwarf daffs and irises, will adorn the steps by kitchen door to create a little bit of spring cheer.

dwarf iris

I tend to opt for a more muted colour palette when it comes to polyanthus, steering away from the vivid purples, reds and bright yellows in favour of warm and soothing hues. And once the plants and bulbs have finished, I pop them out under the deciduous fruit trees, to help create a bigger and better spring display each year.

 

Dwarf daffodils in spring

Tete a tete daffodils emerging under the fruit trees each spring

The tete-a-tete daffodils now spring up in a carpet under the damson, followed by some later-flowering and paler-coloured varieties, as well as primroses, polyanthus, cowslips and oxlip. A couple of years ago I added some english bluebells, but have yet to see them flower. Here’s hoping.

Primroses and daffodils

Spring pots from previous seasons; warmer, serene colour schemes more in tune with nature

And here’s hoping to a spare hour and and there in the next fortnight.