harvest only enough

This is a bumper summer for soft fruit – the first really good year since the garden began.  Despite the soaring temperatures and almost total lack of rain the currants and berries have produced amazingly well.  One of the blackcurrants was groaning with fruit weighing most of its branches down to the ground and the jostaberries, whitecurrants,  redcurrants and gooseberries were almost as heavily laden.  The raspberries too have been fruiting for weeks and show every sign of continuing.

jostaberry bush

raspberry canes

I really do not like to see fruit in a cage and nor do I think it is necessary. The currants and berries in my garden are all in polycultures with perennial vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit trees.  The raspberries grow along the hedge in various places including just behind the bins!  The plant nearer the front of the picture is leycesteria formosa or Himalayan honeysuckle, which is theoretically edible but actually never produces fruit.

raspberries growing behind bins

I let the raspberries spread where they will, so some canes have come along the hedge level with the first bin and behind where I took the picture and others have gone through the hedge to the roadside verge.  I cut them back when there are too many to get past but never do the normal thing of cutting them one year to fruit the next and tying them into a stake.  They just get on with life and harvest very well always.  At the moment we are getting a bowlful a day.

one day’s raspberries

I know many gardeners use a fruit cage to prevent birds from eating the berries before they can be harvested.  However I have found that generally the birds do not help themselves to very much of the harvest, at least to begin with and actually I am keen that they do have their share of what grows in the garden.  One of my principles for forest gardening is about not taking all the available harvest for ourselves, but instead ensuring that there is some for others who need it – be they friends or neighbours or birds, mice and squirrels.  Accordingly I have left berries behind on every bush that I have picked from for the birds to collect afterwards, apart from the gooseberries that is – and they got there first and stripped the bushes whilst I was away on holiday!  Fair enough, I say.  The birds had had quite a lot of the redcurrants as well whilst I was away – you can see by the gaps on the stalk on the right compared to the full stalk on the left.  Good on them!  I still had a bowlful.

redcurrant stalks

redcurrant harvest

I have made blackcurrant jam and jostaberry jam and my neighbour has made whitecurrant jelly from one of my bushes and we have plenty of frozen blackcurrants and jostaberries as well.

I have also planted bushes specifically for the birds to eat from.  At the moment there is the chokeberry (aronia) that is nearly ripe and later on there will be elderberries and in future years barberry, cotoneaster and pyracantha (the last two being not edible to humans, although barberry is).

chokeberry (aronia)

This garden is more than a partnership, it is a co-operative network.  I may be nominally the gardener, nominally ‘in charge’, but I am learning more and more to defer to what nature knows and what she does best.

Principle: Whether in abundance or not, harvest only enough.

About Anni Kelsey

I love forest gardens and forest gardening, nature, reading and everything good about being alive. I have written two books - the garden of equal delights (2020) - about the principles and practice of forest gardening; and Edible Perennial Gardening (2014) - about growing perennial vegetables in polycultures, which is basically forest gardening concentrating on the lower layers.
This entry was posted in Borderland Garden, Forest Gardening, Polycultures, Principles of forest gardening and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to harvest only enough

  1. forestgardenwales says:

    Reblogged this on Forest Garden Wales.


  2. Carole says:

    I love this approach, Anni. I also don’t net any of our fruit, and we have more than enough raspberries for everyone. Funnily enough, the blackbirds prefer the mahonia berries to my soft fruit. When I snacked on a couple of them, I got a right telling off from Mrs Blackbird, and quite right too! The only fruit where we come into conflict is strawberries. I end up sharing them with the blackbirds. What’s a little hole in the fruit between friends?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Helen says:

    Once we’ve had our full of strawberries, I leave the rest for the birds. Funny thing is, at about the same time they stop foraging – normally. I think this year, with the lack of rain they must have been glad of them.

    Anyway, your garden looks lush… I must get some raspberry canes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bill wright says:

    Sent from AOL Mobile Mail


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