Friday, August 6, 2010

Summer Pudding

The Japanese talk about a rice stomach that nothing else can fill. We have always had 'pudding seats' and I think that was what swung the idea to plant gooseberries: gooseberry pie. I'm getting ahead of myself because this is a blackcurrant for which there are only three things I need to know: blackcurrant cordial, blackcurrant-pie-the-all-time-family-favourite-pudding, and blackcurrant crumble. Make that four: summer pudding.
These are the self same currants that missed a year's pruning and consequently gave me a lot of grief, zillions of tiny currants that nobody could be bothered picking properly and in the end we left the lions share to the birds. Such tiny thorns on the rose bush of gardening are a marvellous agent for change and sure enough, I remembered the pain sufficiently to prune and prune hard.

There are three years growth here and I wonder if you can make out the difference. It's very easy on site because the oldest growth is thicker, darker and has many side shoots. Take all of these out straight away with loppers. The next layer are strong shoots with evidence of last years berry crop and normally I would take all of these out with secaturs, the wood is softer and thinner. The remaining branches are the new growth from last year that will fruit this year. Leave seven of them.

In the end, the new growth was so spindly that I picked out the strongest seven two year olds and next year we will get back to fruiting on year old wood. There is more than one way to prune blackcurrants and this method does not fit the text books. However we have 75 bushes which cuts us some slack in production. This is virtually the only care they get, apart from mowing the grass between the rows and the grass around them is sprayed once a year. (I have seen a companion planting with comfrey work very well as a weed suppressant and nutrient package.)

Can you see there is a crown at the base from which all the shoots come up and to which the branches are cut back? There will always be a bud or two left at the bottom which will come away this year for next. I should think the harsh pruning gives us less fruit but they are large, shiny and beautiful and command the respect they deserve.

I squeezed those gooseberries into the little red car on Thursday for a long drive home and what great plants they turned out to be underneath the wrappers. That tangle that looks like straw is a mass of roots and a bucket or two of compost and a peck of wood ash later, however much a peck may be, they are ready for spring. The potash in the woodash encourages fruiting rather than leafy growth and they like it.

Final picture, the triangle of three, the circle of ash defines them. They are on the south side of the fruit trees, don't need full sun and replace the red hot poker that I took out in Autumn.
I'll give the final word to Mole from Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows who is discovering the 'joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning'.
'Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said 'Bother!'and 'O blow!' and also 'Hang spring-cleaning!' and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel...till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.' Posted by Picasa


  1. Oh haruh for spring - I bet you long for it where you are more than we pamper pusses up here do. Lucky family to be served such lovely desserts - we get no such treats here. And three cheers for spring without the cleaning.

  2. One of the yummiest puddings I ever had in my whole life was a gooseberry fool. Ha ha I just thought about how punctuation could change that sentence to mean something completely different and rather insulting "One of the yummiest puddings I ever had in my whole life was a gooseberry, fool!"
    Anyway it was delicious and I love really sour fruits for just that kind of pudding.
    I am SO looking forward to seeing your garden when we come down in Sept!

  3. I don't think I've ever eaten a gooseberry, I'm always tempted to plant some here especially after reading british gardening books, but I've never heard of anyone having much success with them in our climate. I do however want to plant some blackcurrants in my deciduous orchard - next year I think. Your pruning looks great (and 75 would take a long time!). I think harder is better for small fruit, although I do muse sometimes that I seem to like chopping back things rather too much sometimes - had to restrain myself this year on the roses :) Doing my raspberries at the moment.

  4. I had completely forgotten what a very fine writer Kenneth Grahame is. Makes me want to go back and reread. THe fruit trees look great also