Birds are notoriously fond of soft fruit and many gardeners take the precaution of growing blackcurrants and raspberries etc under netting or in fruit cages. A few years ago I planted two blackcurrant bushes in the combined shade of a fence, a wall, an apple tree and a (now removed) goat willow tree. Over the past two years I have planted spare summer fruiting raspberries from other parts of the garden next to the currants and at different times put in an eleagnus for nitrogen fixing, sweet cicely for early spring flowers and leaves to cook with fruit, pyracantha for berries for the birds and prickly hedge / edge. Nettles and honeysuckle arrived on their own. Nettles are left for mineral accumulation and the honeysuckle with flowers climbing skywards is looking really lovely. The different plants intermingle, look attractive, provide food and great habitat for wildlife. Before I heard of forest gardening it was hard to grow anything in this corner.
In a spirit of enquiry I have left the blackcurrants and raspberries entirely alone to see what happened. Therefore I have not followed the standard advice for summer fruiting raspberries which is to cut down fruiting stems at the end of the summer and to secure the plants to a support of some kind. They are growing in rich, damp soil and have loved it. They grow tall and then – because of a lack of support – they tend to droop downwards and spread themselves on top of whatever is nearby.
I did not anticipate it but this seems to have been advantageous in hiding the berries from birds, as the pictures below illustrate. One blackcurrant bush (not photographed in time) grows just clear of the drooping raspberry canes and once the fruit started to ripen the birds spied it and stripped it in no time. I do not begrudge the birds and other wildlife a share in the garden, but I want some too so I picked what I could see of the blackcurrants on the adjacent bush when they were still a bit under ripe in order to get there first. They were pretty acidic, but went down okay with my breakfast porridge.
Eventually the raspberries began to ripen – only really getting going when the sun came out about ten days ago after weeks of gloom and rain. As they are growing spread-eagled across other plants they are nearly horizontal and are bearing their fruit hanging downwards like edible jewels. I was scrambling underneath them to pick them when I found that they were cloaking several more branches worth of succulent and properly ripe blackcurrants!
Life has been hectic recently and there was not time to pick them then and I also wanted to see if they would be able to remain unnoticed for a few more days. Well, I have just been out to gather them and they did indeed escape the birds’ attention. I am delighted that non-intervention seems to have been just the right way of protecting the crop.
From a person’s and bird’s eye view there are raspberries here (although I have picked most of them at this point), but nothing else:
Drawing them aside a little a few blackcurrants come peeking through:
But in fact several branches loaded like this one were there all along: