The circle of life - recycle old plants and bring in the new

06 August 2018 | Posted in Food by The Marshalls Family

 Raspberry hero

  • Want sun-ripened soft fruit in the summer?
  • Looking for how to get the best from your plants?
  • Looking to spruce up your plot?

Replace old canes of raspberries, currants, gooseberries and old strawberry plants when you’ve inherited an allotment plot or if your existing the bushes are out of control. This is to keep your crops healthy and fresh once again and to get you maximum harvests in the quickest time.

So get your hands on the tools you need (see below) and we’ll walk you through the process of tackling tired plants and getting in some new blood.

Here are the gardening tools for the job

A pair of secateurs
Digging spade
Digging fork
A pair of gloves
A trug/ old large plant pot
A compost heap/bin

Sort your fruit out (raspberries, currants, gooseberries)

Either give your plants a haircut or replace your current stock. Here are two methods:

The haircut option:

  • When less than 20% stems are old and tired
  • You need: a pair of secateurs, trug to put in cut stems
  • Time taken: 30 minutes

Raspberry cut stemsAre your plants raspberry plants with long thin stems towering and arching over? If the stems are dark drown, thick and gnarly they are likely to be very old. If there is just about 10-20% of stems like this consider just cutting these stems back and leaving young, green and fresh stems to grow on.

Chop the long stems up into small pencil-length pieces and put them on the compost heap. The smaller the stem sections, the quicker they take to rot down.

Avoid putting diseased stems on the compost heap. The disease spores can rest in the compost heap and come to life again when the compost is spread onto the garden later down the line. Put diseased stems into general waste, cutting them up to reduce volume.

The replacement option:

  • When more than 20% stems are old and tired
  • You need: a pair of secateurs, garden fork, trug, trowel, spade
  • Time taken: 60 minutes

Raspberry young plantCut back all stems so plants are easier to lift up from the ground. Chop up the cut stems and put on the compost bin as advised above.

With your spade dig around the roots of your old raspberries and lift them out of the soil. Shake off any soil that comes up with the roots to make chopping the roots up easier and keeping as much soil for the bed and not in the compost heap with the stems and roots. (Soil in the compost heap will slow the rotting process as it inhibits the heat build-up needed to start the composting process.)

Add a 50 litre bag of fresh rich compost or organic manure to the bed where your fruit plants were. A 50 litre bag should suffice for a 6m by 1m area. Dig it into the existing soil and let it settle for a few days before planting your new raspberry plants (or canes as they are called in the home-growing world).

At planting time gives your plants a drink. If your plants are bare-root canes pop them in a bucket of water to cover the roots. I add a drop of seaweed concentrate in the water at this point to give the roots an initial boost before they go in the ground.

Create a wide yet shallow planting hole for your new plants just deep enough to cover the roots. Add a little Bone Meal Root Building Fertiliser to help the roots establish over the coming winter. High in phosphorus this formula favours root development while the top plant of the plant is dormant over winter.

Space new raspberry plants about 60cm (24in) apart to give them time to spread. If planting in a row, I build a make-shift cradle around them using canes and string to tie the stems onto as they grow once the spring begins.

Give your new plants a good watering after planting.

See more on caring for raspberry plants       

Sort your fruit out (strawberries)

Raspberry Strawberry potsStrawberries have roughly a three to four year life-span for productive fruit in the garden. After three years they naturally start to produce more side shoots (runners) rather than flowering and fruiting stems.

These side shoots make great new plants incidentally and you may wish to cut the runners from the centre of the plant and pop them in new pots. They overwinter in the pots putting down more roots, ready to go in bigger pots or the ground next spring.

If you are short of time dig up the old strawberry plants and pop these in the compost bin. Replace with new plants from autumn. Dig shallow holes with a trowel and sprinkle a little pre-planting Concentrated Soft Fruit Feed in each to boost the roots before the winter sets in.

Position strawberry plants 20cm (8in) apart if you grow them directly in the flower bed or three plants to a 30cm (12in) diameter basket or 35cm (14in) container.

Raspberry StrawberryGive your newly-planted strawberries a good initial watering. 

In the first year one strawberry plant may produce up to half a punnet and in the following years, up to a full punnet every year.

See more on beginners’ guide to strawberries

See more on facts and care advice for strawberry plants

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