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Gardeners Year for Organic Fruit and Veg

Gardeners Year for Organic Fruit and Veg

Book Cover

‘Organic Fruit and Vegetable Gardeners Year, The A Seasonal Guide to Growing What You Eat’ by Graham Clarke

Yesterdays Gardeners Question Time on radio 4 featured many questions on this subject. The main advice that appealed to me was to concentrate on growing more fruit. (We all more likely to take the advice we want to hear.)

Gardeners Tips on Organic Fruit Growing

Organic Principles
Organics should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animals and humans as one.
Organic growing is based on ecological systems and cycles that are worked with and sustained.
Organic gardening should be done in a precautionary manner to protect the health and well being of current and future generations.
Organics promotes the concept of fairness with regard to common environment and life opportunities.

Soil Fertility

Chemical fertility is the availability in the soil of all the elements, nutrients, ions,   traces and inorganic chemicals that plants need to grow.
Biological fertility includes micro organisms that help nutrient recycling’ including fungi, bacteria and protozoa that clean up bacteria. It also covers macro organisms such as arthropods that break down organic matter in the early stages of decomposition, worms that help drainage and aeration and nematodes that help in various ways but   occasionally act as pests.
Physical fertility is the mix of sand, silt and clay that makes up the soil and determines texture, ability to hold water and sustain life.

Weed Management

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Berry Fruit Cages

Berry Fruit Cages

You have grown some bush fruit in an organic garden and as the berries ripen all the birds you have fed through winter decide to feast on your well grown crops. What a good job you protected them in a fruit cage!

red currant

If you do not have a fruit cage yet, you can buy a Two Wests Standard 6′ High Fruit Cage 6′ x 12′ Cage from Amazon.

Blackcurrant and Jostaberry
Blackcurrants prefer a cool, clay-loam soil which is not too acidic pH 6.5.
They are gross feeders and like a rich fertile soil.
Blackcurrants are shallow rooting and require irrigation or good watering when dry.
Protection from frost may be needed for early flowering varieties.

Redcurrant and Whitecurrant

A potash rich, moist, well drained soil with a pH 6.0 is optimum.

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Skimmia for Buds and Berries

Skimmia for Buds and Berries

Variegated Skimmia Magic Marlot

Skimmia is a slow growing, aromatic, evergreen shrub with a compact habit. Skimmia Japonica grows in a dome shape with leathery leaves and the flowers can be followed by red or black berries. Skimmia laureola has dark green leaves which smell when crushed. The flowers on this variety are clustered on the end of the shoots.

How and Where Can I Grow Skimmias?

  • They are tolerant of shade and seaside conditions though some cultivars do not like an alkaline soil.
  • The flowerbuds look like pink flowers (above) and slowly develop during late autumn before finally opening to reveal the small white flowers in late winter.
  • Most Skimmias are single sex plants therefore, if you want berries (below), you will have to grow both male and female plants.
  • Skimmias are slow growing and should not need pruning
  • Plants are hardy and would fit in too a low maintenance area
  • Skimmias can be grown in containers

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Berberis Decidious or Evergreen

Berberis Decidious or Evergreen


Your Berberis may loose their leaves or remain evergreen through winter. This purple leaved variety, Berberis Thunbergii has turned from very dark to red coloured leaves and after another frost they will be gone. The red berries wont last long either as they are feeding small birds which have already thinned them out. The spines will remain as a deterrent to unwanted intruders and fresh new leaves will reappear in spring.

Best evergreen varieties include Berberis candidula x carmine, Berberis dawinii (flowering orange see below) or one of the hybrid Berberis stenophylia.
Berberis and bee

Best for red or blue-black berries, include Berberis aggreata, Barbarossa, Micrantha, Berberis microphylla and Berberis buxifolia. Berberis vulgaris which used to be eaten in Victorian times plus Berberis heterophylla and Berberis darwinii are all worth considering for cooking or eating dried.

Best yellow flowered Berberis Dictyophylla, Berberis Koreana and Berberis darwinii.
Chose other Berberis varieties

With literally hundreds of species and varieties to select from you can experiment with a Berberis that is just right for your location. Many varieties are extremely prickly so be warned


Book Cover

Trees and Shrubs For Birds

Trees and Shrubs For Birds

Birds need food, cover and nesting sites to survive in your garden. A good perching point will help birds feel and be safe and good leaf cover will help in bad weather.

The more varied you make your garden the better for wild life, lawns, hedges, ponds and varied habitats all help. Avoid planting too many non-native species and choose a selection of trees and shrubs to provide insects and berries for bird food.


Berberis have spiny branches for cover and berries or fruit. Berberis wilsoniae is ideal for small gardens or you could try B. thunderbergii, vulgaris, gagrepainii or dawinii.

The Cotoneaster family produce many berries. Do not bother planting Cotoneaster conspicuax decora as birds will not eat the berries. Pyracantha Firethorn is very popular with birds and most gardeners.

Hedge shrubs like Hawthorn and Holly and Privet provide safe cover for small birds. Yew’s red berries feed thrushes.

Buddleia globosa the Butterfly bush attract large quantities of insects which in turn feed birds.

Trees for Perching

Birch supports insects including caterpillars as do Goat Willow Salix caprea.

Rowan mountain Ash Sorbus aucuparia is a avian favourite.

Bird Cherry and Wild Cherry produce early fruit and are well sought after by birds.

Conifers appeal to Siskins and Tits. Try Larch Larix decidua or Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris.


Honeysuckle bears red fruit and also provide nesting sites. Lonicera periclymenum or L.caprifolium are suitable species to grow and you get the scent thrown in.

Hedera helix or the common ivy is excellent cover, attracts insects and Thrushes, Pigeons and Robins like the fruit.

Virginia creeper are vigorous growers providing nesting and roosting cover.

Rambling Brambles, Rubus fruticosus are popular in dry weather for the juicy berries particularly for finches.

Other Plants

Good seed setters including Cornflower, Forget-me-not and Michaelmas daisy provide food over the growing months.

Sunflower seeds are popular for extra protein. Wallflowers can also be left to seed.

Unfortunately for gardeners many weeds are popular with birds including chickweed, dandelion, sowthistle and groundsel.

Lawns attract small flies and the soil provides worms for Starlings, Thrushes and Robins.

Sources of further plant selections
Wild Life Trust
Getting birds in your garden from Garden Products


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