Sunday, 16 October 2016

Berry propagation

Cranberry runner forming roots
Berries do wonderfully well here in Scotland. They like the acidic soil where we are, they like a bit of cold winter weather and being generously watered throughout the year. And, unlike fruit trees, most berries start giving a decent crop very quickly: strawberries in their first year, gooseberries and raspberries in their second, currants in their third. Another nice thing about berries is that you pick them over a good month or two, as they don't all ripen at once.

Blueberries: an early-spring job
Since they do so well, we've decided to concentrate on berries for our fruit supply (while we wait for a decent crop from our fruit trees) and expand our stock from our existing plants.

A lot of berry propagation is by way of hardwood cuttings: this works for red, white and blackcurrants, cranberries, blueberries, gooseberries and blackberries (the latter two can also be propagated by layering). Apart from blueberries, where cuttings are best taken around March time, all other berry cuttings should be taken now, in the autumn.

Our Early Black cranberries have put out a lot of runners which, obligingly, formed roots - a good starting point for the cranberry cuttings. I took 36 cranberry cuttings, which was pretty easy and quick to do. Even if only a handful make it, this will be an amazing cost saving.

The latest strawberry bed
Strawberries are easy to propagate from runners. Their yield tapers off dramatically after the third year, so it's recommended to replace plants thereafter (and even sooner for perpetual varieties). To keep track of the age of our strawberry plants, we've decided to set up a rotation with three beds of roughly the same size. Each year, in late summer, we take runners and start a new bed so now we have three: one that will have to be completely replaced after next summer, one in its prime and one just starting out. Totally emptying a strawberry bed after three years also makes it easier to dig in fresh fertiliser and dig out unwanted interlopers like couch grass (grr). 

Strawberry runner putting out roots

Potted up runner
Because strawberries are prone to slug damage, all of our strawberry beds are either raised beds or surrounded by stone chips to deter gastropods. Growing them in a container would also work.

To make new plants from runners, select a healthy-looking specimen from a healthy-looking mother plant. This can be done from July onwards. The runner may already be forming roots, even in the air. Pick the one closest to the mother plant if a row of them has formed. Pot it up and securely pin down the link to the mother plant with a paper clip. Leave it for at least four weeks to make sure it is well rooted, then cut the umbilical cord. It is now ready to be transplanted.

The raspberries have made it
all the way into the herb bed
Potting up a dozen or so runners that way is extremely straightforward and should be enough to start a fresh bed. There shouldn't be any need to buy strawberry plants ever again - unless you want a different variety.

One berry that you won't need to actively propagate is the raspberry. It will do all the work itself. It's more a question of stopping them from taking over...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments and questions are welcome.
If you've tried something after reading about it here, or have suggestions, please tell us about it!