Bountiful Berries in 2017
In recent years, there has been a trend for berries appearing earlier on plants and hedgerows. Climate change is certainly behind the early fruiting but this year, a warm, dry spring followed by a wet summer has resulted in both early berries and bountiful berries.
All of which has been great news for foragers and wild birds. Blackberries were ripe for picking in early July when brambles were already laden down by an abnormally large amount of fruit. However, the early fruiting has also meant that the berry season was almost over before September even began.
Those setting out for the countryside with their pots to pick autumn fruit will have been surprised to find that this year there was little available. The fruit arrived three to five weeks early but the picking season has also ended early.
There is an old superstition that you shouldn't eat blackberries beyond Michaelmas (29th September) anyway. After this time, legend has it that the devil will have marked them! This is an old wives’ tale which explains a natural phenomenon. The damper weather in September causes toxic moulds to take hold of blackberries so it is definitely best to get your picking in early!
Wild Birds and Blackberries
The impressive number of juicy blackberries available this year has proved to be a major boon for lovers of homemade jam but also for many species of bird. Warblers, orioles, tanagers, thrashers, mockingbirds, catbirds, turkeys, robins and other thrushes all love to tuck into ripe blackberries. Which means that brambles are an excellent choice is you would like to plant a bird friendly garden.
Blackberries grow vigorously almost anywhere but can quickly become an almost Impenetrable thicket of thorny stems. However, if you find the idea of a massive thorny bush taking over your garden a little off-putting, cultivars are now available which grow erect and don’t have thorns. If you want to enjoy the fruit yourself, you will need netting to protect the berries as birds will be keen to devour such a nutritious and easily accessible meal.
Any Berries are Good Berries
You don’t have to confine your planting to blackberries either. Any berries are an excellent inclusion, whether they are edible for humans or not. Berries provide valuable autumn and winter nutrition for garden birds when insects are in short supply and also bring a rainbow of colour to your garden at times when flowers are scarce.
The Circle of Life
Just as berries are important for birds, the birds are also crucial for the berries. In eating the juicy flesh, birds gain the nutrients they need but also spread the seeds of the plant to promote new growth. Nature has a way of creating perfect circles of life which ensure that both flora and fauna prosper. Unfortunately, urbanisation and intensive agriculture has seen many brambles and berries disappear from the countryside. But we can all contribute to the renewal process by planting berries in our gardens.