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Compost & pruning autumn Raspberries
24 Jan

Compost & pruning autumn Raspberries

Posted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg, Seasonal Tips

Making compost

I’ve been busy sorting out my compost heaps, the perfect job to do on a cold day when the ground is frozen and the air chill and little else on the allotment requires attention.  I have two compost heaps on my allotment – one which contains all the green waste material which accumulated as last year progressed and which is now full, so covered and lying dormant. Once the worms and warmth have done their work, I will dig the resulting compost out and spread where required. The other is the ‘active’ heap which I keep topped up with weeds, old plants, leaves and so on, as well as additions of kitchen waste (potato peelings, tea bags, fruit peel and the like – but no discarded dairy or meat products). Under no circumstances add the roots of any pernicious weeds, such as Bindweed. Unless the core of the compost heap reaches a certain temperature, the roots won’t die and you’ll end up with countless minute weed seedlings when you use the compost in due course – a lesson I learnt a few years ago when I discovered a hideous crop of Creeping Buttercup invaded my strawberry bed!

Every garden, large or small, should have a place to make and store compost. Plastic compost bins are just the job for smaller gardens where space is at a premium; discarded timber pallets can be put together to make great containers for compost and manure on allotments. There are countless ‘recipes’ for creating the perfect compost, some of which imply that unless the correct materials are added and the resulting heap treated in a particular way, the outcome will be failure. My secret for making dark, rich, crumbly compost is to ensure you use a good mixture of organic matter and cover the heap with black plastic. No need to turn – let the worms do the work.

The production of good compost can be improved by adding matter to accelerate the decomposition process: grass cuttings and manure will certainly help and many allotment gardeners grow Comfrey, the large bristly leaves and bold stems either added to compost bins or used to make a great liquid feed which is rich in potassium. Tomato plants love it.

Leaf mould

Fallen leaves make wonderful super-fine compost, sometimes referred to as leaf mould. It’s simple to make if you have a ready source of dead leaves: the allotment site which my plot is on has a communal leaf heap, stocked up each autumn by the Council after the leaves have been cleared from the nearby park. I simply pack leaves into old plastic sacks which I then stack in a corner of my plot and forget about. It can take up to two years to create good leaf mould, but if you are impatient, use the partially-rotted leaves as mulch or dig in as a soil improver.

Pruning autumn fruiting Raspberries

Now is the time to cut down the canes of late-fruiting Raspberries, such as ‘Autumn Bliss’ or ‘All Gold’. All you need is a pair of sharp secateurs and simply snip each cane off just above ground level – then burn the old stems to keep warm on these chilly days. Some gardeners I know leave a few Raspberry canes uncut to produce fruit earlier in the year, but in my experience, cutting the canes down completely at this time of year encourages strong growth, in turn producing more vigorous canes and a heavier crop of delicious berries. Once pruned, why not treat your raspberry bed to topdressing of your homemade compost.

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