Earlier this week I took responsibility for half of the fruit cage at the end of my plot. It was a mess. It’s had about 5 years of neglect, with brambles taking a very firm hold and choking the life out of any of the fruit in there. Now, some things in life require a delicate touch, a well thought out and reasoned, targeted strategy to successfully achieve what you want. And some things require grunt.
This required grunt.
So I armed myself with a pair of secateurs, a pair of loppers, and some think leather gloves and just started chopping. There’s no real secret to how to clear something like this, not that I know of anyway. Just cut and remove. As I went I cut the brambles into roughly foot long lengths to make them easier to handle and less likely to just grab me. What I did find was that they had grown so tall and out of the top of the cage that the canopy had actually suppressed a lot of the growth beneath, which meant that once I had got past the worst of it to get in, it was actually quite quick going.
By the end of the first day I had made pretty good progress:
Around 2/3 of the brambles were down but I hadn’t removed any from the cage so this was about halfway through the job. Just that last 3rd to cut down, and then I somehow had to get all of it out. The following day I got back into it and was able to cut down the rest of the free standing bramble, and with a combination of the rake, a fork and a wheelbarrow was able to dig out all of the chopped bramble and pile it on the bare ground that will later become my orchard, ready for burning on a still evening (I have permission to do this).
So, the cage is clear! Two days of using secateurs to cut my way through all of this has left me with bulging, and frankly quite sore, forearms with quite a few scratches and cuts to boot. I think it’s a small price to pay for the additional land.
I still have to remove what I can from the roof, which is hard because much of the bramble has grown through it, and the roof is not strong enough to take much weight so I have to be careful. But once all of the leaves have died off the impact on the light levels will be minimal. I also managed to uncover a couple of what look like redcurrant bushes. I don’t have much need for redcurrants at the moment but I’ll keep them, they’ve been through enough!
The biggest issue now is the soil. Those brambles have pulled everything of value out of that ground and it’s essentially a starved inorganic dust. Not going to be easy to grow in, so I think for this season I will work to bring it back to life – Dig it over, slap on a thick layer of manure, cover it with black poly and left the manure rot in, let the worms get to it and hopefully smother the brambles that are left. Then this time next year I will hopefully have a healthy, fertile caged area to start off some fruit.
In the mean time I may build some planters and grow strawberries in those, on top of the poly, that way I’m still using the space and the fruit is still protected from the birds.
All in all, I think a good job done.