Yesterday I went to the allotment to prune my Autumn Fruiting Raspberries. Raspberries are possibly one of the few reasons why I want to keep my allotment. This year we picked a total of 17kgs of fruit, about half of which are presently sat in the freezer, the rest having been eaten as they ripened.
Accidentally, I’ve got two different varieties Polka (which grows quite tall) and another which is a lot shorter and less productive. Polka is excellent, producing sweet tasting, firm, large fruit over a relatively long season. I’ve always cut them down to the ground and got a single crop. However, this year (if you look carefully at the picture) you’ll see that half of them I’ve left about two feet tall (that 60cm to those who don’t do imperial measures). The idea is (so I’ve read) that, being “primocane”, the plants should provide an early crop if not cut right down. We’ll see.
The reason that I’ve cut them down before is that the allotment is very open and gales blow across. I’ve read that, being shallow rooted, raspberries are likely to rock and get weakened. I don’t know and again we’ll see.
My major problem is couch grass. The allotment suffers from this pernicious weed and I’ve never found a sensible way of getting rid of it. So my perennial beds (raspberries and other fruit) gradually get more and more “infected” to the point where I have to dig everything up and start again. I did this last year with my Summer Raspberries but at the end of the year, despite digging through the bed and pulling out as much of the couch grass as I could, it’s still badly infected and, the only solution I’ve found is to grow sweetcorn. This seems tough enough to overwhelm the couch grass and is well enough spaced that I can hoe between the plants on a regular basis killing the couch grass. The problem is that one bed of Sweetcorn is more than enough for us (54 cobs this year and we’ve got loads in the freezer) so growing multiple beds of sweetcorn to get rid of couch grass isn’t a solution.
If you look at the picture, you’ll see that the Autumn Raspberry bed looks quite bad (even after pulling quite a lot out) and I have no doubt that it will only get worse.