Ear to the Ground with Steve Blacksmith: Absolute bliss - tasty berries still to be had, if you go looking

Autumn berries
Autumn berries

Berries are lovely for puddings. Actually, they can be used for wines, soft drinks, jams and chutneys as well, but most will get used for desserts.

The ultimate has to be classic Pavlova, which is delicious with its meringue, but I look forward to plain raspberries in a dish, slightly sweetened and simmered briefly, served warm with hot custard.

This really brings out the strong raspberry flavour and aroma.

Fruiting is nearly over by October, but a few, like the Autumn-fruiting varieties of raspberries and late blackberries can still be found in the garden and along rural footpaths. The picture shows autumn-fruiting raspberry variety Autumn Bliss on October 4.

If anything, these autumn-fruiting types are easier to look after than summer-fruiting ones.

When it comes to pruning, they just have to be cut down completely to ground level, or just above, in winter when many of the leaves have fallen.

Then when the new shoots grow in spring, they just need containing between sticks and string.

Summer fruiting varieties, which start producing in June, need to have one-year old stems that have stood over the winter.

After fruiting, these (now two year-old) canes need pruning out leaving the fresh crop of new canes to be tied carefully to post and wire supports; (two horizontal wires – one about 2ft (60cm) and the top one about 5ft (150cm).

Not everyone seems to be able to distinguish between the two year old and the one year old canes.

I knew an allotment gardener with hands so calloused from a long life of gardening without gloves that he could pull out the old, fruited stems without cutting them with secateurs.

He waited till the winter when they had got brittle. They have a sprinkling of fine spines, but he was tough enough for them.

He used to get the award for best allotment in Calderdale sometimes (Norman Crabtree) and as mine was next to his, I would brag that mine was next to the best allotment (this made him grumble terribly, but he loved a good grumble).

When tying-in the new canes to stand the winter, it is worth doing them individually.

The fruit will be better spaced next summer.

Always use natural string, as synthetic stuff is non bio-degradable, and it is easier, when doing the annual pruning just to slit each string loop with a knife and let it fall to the ground.

Cut the tallest new ones you are retaining (they may need thinning out) uniformly about four to six inches above the top wire (ten to 15 cm) then they won’t lash about in the winter wind.

A mulch of well-rotted compost is all they need in the way of fertilising, but they need it every year, and plenty of it.

If the soil is deep and moist, your raspberry row will reward you well even if it’s in light shade; always assuming you can get them before the blackbirds.