Banburyshire Rambles Photo-Journal,
Thursday 13th June 2019:

“Well I’ll go to the foot of our garden!”

An expedition to the deepest darkest recesses of our small garden, in search of raspberries

OK, rather a short walk, but given my return to work it’s the best I can do right now. Our garden is ‘wild’, yet still productive. It’s full of insects, and birds, and a fox has been sighted every now and then. In early Summer though, it does become a bit of a jungle.

Route: Back door, end of garden, and return.

Metrics: Distance, 15 metres; 15 minutes.

Go to: Banburyshire Rambles Photo-Journal Spring 2019 Index (April-June)

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I’ve been itching to get out for a walk. My return to work has taken a while, and my head still feels rather heavy – so walking has been well down the list of priorities, especially given recent hot weather (which personally, I hate… give me ten degrees of frost any day!). Irrespective of everything else in the world, the raspberries still need picking, and as it’s so beautiful right now I though I’d take my camera on an ‘expedition to the jungle’.

I predict there’s a pie coming!

The first proper pick of raspberries this year. Last year’s crop has almost been emptied from the freezer, so they’re welcome.

A few years ago I bought some rather vigorous raspberry canes and planted them down the wet and shady side of the (north facing) garden. At the time we had more of a proper ‘food’ garden, mostly in containers due to the lack of good soil. It’s a small space, about six metres by five, with poor soil as a result of years of ash and rubble dumping.

I used to top-dress the containers with compost in the Autumn. Just over a decade ago I had a bit of a problem. The plants grew a few inches, then withered, then died. I spread the old compost over the surface of the garden and thought about trying again, but then the likely cause surfaced: Aminopyralid.

After spreading the compost around everything else was pretty sick for a while too… except the grass, and the raspberries.

About five or six years ago the raspberries spread right across the garden, and I left them as they seemed to be doing a good job breaking up the soil; and they were producing a massive crop each year for very little effort. Still not much else grew. Then some of the other coarse weeds came back.

Over recent years our plum tree started to flag, mainly because I think its stock wasn’t suited to the damp, cold, clayey conditions in the plot. Last year we removed it, and I had to spend a lot of time digging the roots out so that suckers didn’t re-emerge.

The result of that, this year, has been a profusion of the most beautiful weeds coming back – the ancient seed-bank buried deep in the soil re-vivified by being brought to the surface. Foxgloves, teasels, thistles, snapdragons, and already there’s a succession of new weeds.

There are bumblebees, large and small, everywhere – feasting on the raspberry and other flowers. Passing the mass of teasels I see, for the first time this year, hoverflies (many of which, I learnt this year, migrate from Europe each spring). Bulbous orb spiders have spun huge webs around the raspberries and teasels, and here and there are various beetles and shield bugs.

OK, not a very conventional garden, but it’s full of life – if only because about every other garden up and down the street has been decked, concreted or mono-cultured as a lawn.

I spend about fifteen minutes, searching through the jungle to find the raspberry plants, and removing the ripest fruits. It produces about a kilo of raspberries. I’ll repeat in a couple of weeks, and carry on doing that until the Autumn – which will produce at least ten to fifteen kilos in total, depending upon the weather (I picked the last crop of last year in the first week of October).

No cherries this year though – the blossoms were frosted earlier in the Spring. The other thing I really miss are nettles, which think I’ll have to reintroduce from the wild so I can re-establish my fresh tea supply.

Clearly the aminopyralid problem has gone now. Time to make the garden a little more formal. For now though I’ll return indoors, put two-thirds of my box of raspberries in the freezer, and cook-up the other third with some apples and semolina to make a luscious pie-filling.