Planning the Plot: The Fruit Cage

Following on from Monday’s post about the newly built strawberry cage I thought I would share the other plans for fruit on the allotment. I would quite like to have a variety of soft fruit available on the allotment as it’s not something I buy from shops very often due to the price. I object to paying two, three or even four pounds for 100 grams of watery, tasteless fruit that’s often been frozen and shipped in from abroad.

Aside from trying to get better value for money I can’t deny that there is something quite nostalgic about picking your own fruit. I remember numerous summers spent with my Granddad in strawberry fields and between rows of raspberries picking our own fruit, taking the punnet to pay at the end and being adamant you hadn’t eaten any extra despite having lips so red they would have made Marilyn jealous.

So alongside strawberries I will be growing:

fruit cage

Gooseberries: I’m going to get off to a good start by saying that I don’t really like gooseberries, but these came with the plot and it seems a shame to waste such productive bushes. Most harvests will be going to my mother, who does like them.

Redcurrants: These have been specially requested by my other half, seeing as he is my chauffeur to the garden centre I suppose he should be allowed to pick one fruit.

Blackcurrants: I can’t really remember ever having a blackcurrant that wasn’t in Ribena but I read an article recently about how blackcurrants trump blueberries when it comes to their “superfood” powers, plus I live with a man who loves a pudding in any shape or form so I can’t see any going to waste.

Raspberries: Our plot came with some raspberries that I think might be summer fruiting, they’re being treated that way at least. I want to supplement these with some autumn fruiting canes as well.

Blackberries: I love blackberries and although I’ve read that their bushes can be a bit of a bully I’m willing to try training one or two just for the reward of the fruit.

Grapes: The position of the fruit cage means that the longest side is south-facing and in my mind this is just begging to be the home of a grape vine. I love grapes but need to do some research about which varieties won’t be troubled by being outdoors in northern Britain.

Building Project: Raised and Caged Strawberry Bed

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Strawberries have been my favourite fruit since I was little and I cannot envisage this changing any time soon. This is more than likely because their arrival heralds in turn the arrival of my birthday, a day that I am fond of purely for narcissistic reasons (it is for this same reason that I love Wimbledon and become fanatical about tennis for two weeks each year). Being the highest fruit on my list of favourites it was only natural that one of the first building projects on the allotment was to build a shrine of safety for them.

When we got the plot last June there was already a good crop of strawberries ripening in amongst the weeds and we managed to harvest a decent amount before the pigeons realised they were there. One of the drawbacks of tackling the weeds was exposing the fruit to all the beady eyed birds that frequent our allotments. The allotment site in general is bordered by trees along two sides and there is a small strip of more robust woodland just to the north of us. This makes for lovely scenery but does mean that pigeons congregate in the trees eyeing up our produce in a way that is reminiscent of vultures following a parched beast through the desert. Our neighbour even warned us that they have been known to purposefully sit on, and weigh down, netting over fruit and veg in order to try and reach their prize.

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Our allotments at 7am, woodland in the distance

In order to protect this year’s strawberry crop I constructed a raised bed with attached cage to keep the birds away. The cage is 6” x 6” and I can comfortably reach all but the very middle for weeding and other maintenance tasks, fortunately I have an assistant who is a whole foot taller than me and who can be easily bribed with ale to help out, should the need arise. The cage lids are hinged on a central support and lay flush on the surface of the other side so that I don’t risk bashing my head every single time I need to weed, mulch or harvest. The whole thing is secured with chicken wire. The holes in the chicken wire are probably not small enough to keep rodents out, which I only considered once the thing was built, but we’ll have to cross the bridge if we come to it.

One half of the bed is currently filled with 9 strawberry plants which were a gift from a friend. They were labelled as Cambridge Favourite which is a mid-season variety. I want to get some late season plants to fill out the other side of the bed so we can keep munching on them for as long as possible.

All in all I am quite pleased with my first foray into DIY. Hopefully the multiple times I hammered my own thumb will all seem worth it once June 29th comes around I can enjoy a home grown bowl of my favourite fruit on my favourite day. It will most certainly be a happy birthday to me.