Soils and Berries in Coolup

All fruit trees need a constant and adequate supply of nutrients to sustain growth and yield a worthwhile harvest. Good nutrition comes from preparing the soil before planting and then a maintenance programme of looking after the soil over the years as the plant grows. In this article I have chosen to discuss a few berries and how they have been challenging in my region, growing in pure Bassendean white sands.

Most of my fruit trees are in 100L pots. It’s not the most effective method for producing bundles of fruit, but because I intend to downsize to a few acres in the near future and I regularly work away from home in regional and remote Western Australia, I can then easily take them to my new property with established plants ready–to-go.

The Rare Fruit Club has a great strategy in growing and learning about the types of fruit trees we can establish in our gardens in Metropolitan Perth and country Western Australia. Growing our own fruit brings a special satisfaction to gardening, and in our own social environment we can grow and eat produce that is different from fruit sold at the Duopoly stores as we know exactly what their exposure to most chemicals or additives may have been. In addition, our fruit has a better flavour and there are no transport kilometres to reach us from the back garden or paddock to our kitchen table.

As backyard gardeners we take pride in how we go about growing our fruit, but do we know what our soil pH is or what our soil is made up of and what it can produce? Too many gardeners tend to feed the plant and not the soil. Many people seem to visit a Nursery and plop the new tree into some type of hole, add a few handfuls of whatever and sometimes put the irrigation on. Do you as members make up your own compost or soil? How do you go about producing or growing a fruit tree with colourful blossom and mobs of fruit?

Although most of Perth is situated on Bassendean type sands which are probably the poorest agricultural or horticultural soils in the world, we can nevertheless grow fruit trees very productively here with appropriate management.

All fruit trees require a constant supply of nutrients to sustain growth and give you a great harvest. Good nutrition is essential. Soil nutrients can come from several sources. Organic or inorganic fertilisers can be used, and it’s your choice what you grow on your patch as some species are more demanding than others. Manures, compost, mulch and fertilisers can make up your tree requirements and it’s up to you how you apply it. Check your soil pH and add your lime or dolomite as these two are very different - lime contains calcium only and dolomite has both calcium and magnesium. Add powdered sulphur if you have calcareous and/or alkaline sands. Add mature animal manures and compost, inorganic minerals and what you believe is the best fertiliser for your soils and in particular your fruit trees.

So please - feed the soil and not the plant.

The Berries in my garden?

When planting berries or brambles it’s very important to make sure the intended area is grass and weed free. This is because berries don’t like competition with weeds; most plants don’t as well. Also if you do have weeds around your brambles, dealing with the prickly bushes can lead to grief. (OUCH!)

I dig my planting holes, put in about 100mm of well-composted sheep or chicken manure, blood and bone with added nutrients, a pinch of boron, a handful each of dolomite, potash and potato manure E and then mix thru the soil. Next I cover all this with 50mm of sand or compost and plant my berry plants on top. When filled in, I sprinkle round a handful of dolomite and blood and bone, water it all in, spread wheat straw around as a mulch, feed them with sea weed or fish emulsion as a tonic to minimise transplant shock, and finally sit back and watch them grow. I’ve grown brambles at 1metre spacing and 2-3 plants per hole. They must also have a support to climb on - wire or wood is OK.

It’s fun to experiment, so give the following brambles a go.

Youngberries
I’ve been growing youngberries for some years; they always produce well if adequately watered and fed with good compost. I planted these in a hole with well-rotted chicken manure, straw and compost and they have produced good yields. The fruit is delicious fresh off the vine or cooked and has a slight tart flavour.

Marionberries
My marionberries this year were great until the silver eyes penetrated the bird netting and took my favourite fruit away. The Marri tree or Corymbia calophyla has just started to flower and the silver eyes will be chasing the nectar from these trees. Marionberries are sweeter than youngberries, and are good fresh. The birds only left me with 1 punnet this year.

Raspberries
I have two raspberry canes which have fruited but suspect my soil is not suited to them. Nearby in Dwellingup they are commercially grown and that’s where we have been getting our fruit.

Blackberries
My young blackberry plants are Waldo. They produce thornless canes and this year was the first time I let them fruit. I’d always believed marionberries were my best canes till these blackberries fruited and now they're the favourite. The birds have left me a few, with about 2.5 punnets harvested.

Other berries in my garden.

Macriberry
I pulled the fruit off as it was the first time they had flowered. These plants can grow up to 3 metres high.

Gooseberries
These are almost too happy in my soil, and if left they would become feral as plants pop up everywhere. We make jam from them and they are excellent fresh as well.

Jostaberry
Grown in a pot and not performing very well. Needs TLC and to go into the ground.

Mulberry
Gee, these do so well - feed the whole family, the neighbours and birds and still some to fall on the ground and be fought over by my chooks. I have three varieties.

John Bodycoat

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