Question: I bought a dwarf raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’. It cropped quite well last year but I’m unsure how to care for it. Does it need pruning like summer raspberries or just cutting down lake the autumn variety? It is growing in a large pot at present.
Answer: This is a newish dwarf (three foot) variety designed to be pot grown. It’s quite productive when well fed and watered, will suffer if under watered, and will be happier if moved into a big tub rather than kept in a large pot. The old spent cans can be removed once fruited, leaving new canes to replace them. These are not supposed to need thinning but a judicious thin is sensible as plants that are congested with much soft growth make the berries more prone to rot in wet years.
These new ‘patio’ sorts are excellent for early crops under cover – bring the plants into a cool light place during late winter and they will crop a month or more earlier land be safe from the birds and can then go back out once finished. (Raspberries must be kept cool under cover, not getting hot and dry or they will become infested by red spider mite; too dank and dark and they may suffer grey mould).
Growing by the sea
Question: We bought a holiday chalet near the sea last year and this year I’d like to plant up some fruit bushes and small fruit trees. It’s fairly sheltered and sunny at the front, partial shade at the back. Can you recommend anything, please?
Answer: The major drawback here lies in not being around forever while they’re creating to water young plants. An early fall planting as soon as the ground moistens after summer might be the greatest time so they can put down roots before drier spring and summer weather. You can find watering bags for young trees before you go house to fill and they’ll seep water around the plants. Dressings of products including mycorrhizal fungi will also help prolong root systems for better uptake of water and minerals. Near the coast, wind could be a problem, therefore I’d plant anything in a more windy place in spring, so roots can anchor before winter winds. You might be aiming for a small forest garden of edible plants, so comprehending the microclimates of the small plot will be vital. Figs will thrive in hot, sunny spots but do restrict their roots beneath the ground so they are fruitful rather than leafy.
Against a sunny wall or fence, you might get away with an apricot such as ‘Tomcot’ or ‘Flavorcot’ with honeyberry growing underneath. On the shadier side, gooseberries, black, red and white currants will grow. You might be tempted by apples on dwarfing rootstocks but remember their roots may not be vigorous enough to cope with absence and possibly lack of shelter. Upright cordons on semi-dwarfing stock secured to strong stakes and summer pruned would be a better option and you’ll be able to fit several varieties in a small space for pollination and set.