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August 2021

Back to Blackcurrants:

I decided to pick all the blackcurrants as some were turning rotten. It was a large crop so I made a 1.5kgs of Blackcurrant Coolie by just adding sugar in a ratio of about 4:1 fruit to caster sugar, bringing it to the boil and simmering for five minutes before cooling and blitzing in a food processor. I split it into five and froze it in containers; it will only keep in the fridge for about a week. The bushes were thinned out at the same time to leave 5-6 strong new branches from which the new fruit will appear next year. The old sections of bush were chopped up, with some spent and thinned raspberry canes (see below) for use in the composter. The bushes were then fed with the first of the composter’s produce (far right).

Autumn Raspberries:

The Autumn Raspberries are growing thick and fast so it’s time to thin them out to allow sunlight into the patch and to promote the growth ofbigger berries. It’s best to get down on a knee protector and take out the thinner, weaker stems at base level. That way you won’t cut out any canes that you want to keep.


Most composters are black single skinned bins or home made affairs. This is generally fine but the compost can heat up rapidly, then cool down and/or dry out, which stops the breakdown of the organic matter. It will then need mixing and turning with new material and can take two or more years to fully break down.

I recently invested in a Hotbin (, which is an insulated polystyrene composter. I feed it all our kitchen trimmings, shredded documents and receipts and mulched wood clippings (including the blackcurrant bushes) in the ratio of about 1 to 1/2 to 1/5 by volume of each component. When up to a sustained operating temperature of 50-70 degrees centigrade it can also accept chicken and fish bones. However, I don’t do this just in case the temperature falls and the accumulated waste attracts rats which, incidentally, can crew through just about anything. Above is the first wheelbarrow load of compost from the bottom half of the bin that has taken about four months to produce. I used it to feed the raspberries, blackcurrants and blackberries. There is no risk of propagating viruses from the old canes due the high temperatures the Hotbin reaches. Excess liquid, called Leachate, is drained from the base and used as liquid feed. Composting is a really good way of reducing your waste footprint and saves you money on plant feed and soil improvement.


Normally fruit trees shed young fruit to keep the balance of tree and fruit growth even, this is sometimes referred to as the “June Drop”. However, occasionally you have to step in and help the process.This young Grenadier Apple is overcropping. Too much energy is going into fruit production and stunting its growth. All that heavy fruit can also break the branches of the tree. This is especially prevalent with plum trees. Here I have thinned out all the crowded, damaged and smaller fruits to help it along.


Tomatoes naturally like becoming excessively bushy. All that green growth detracts from tomato production. I’m trying to create 6-8 strong lateral stems whilst stopping the plants from growing excessively tall by pinching out the tops.

The base junction of the branches often produce angled side shoots. These also need to be removed. Now that the plants are flowering, feed them once a week with a liquid feed, or use the free Leachate from your composter.

Finally, get out in the good weather and pick the fruit and vegetables, especially the courgettes, young beetroot and beans. You’ve earned it!

Angus is a Senior First Officer and Resilient Pilot Mentor with a passion in Wellbeing, CRM and TEM. This is the eight in a series of blogs from Angus, to read more click here. To find out more about Angus, and our other pilot mentors, please visit our 'supported' page

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