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Underplanting fruit bushes?

We have created a very deep raised bed in a neglected patch of the garden and awaiting delivery of some blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes to plant in it. I know I won't be able to spare enough time to keep it thoroughly weeded, and can't afford to buy long term mulch like bark. Is there something I can underplant with to give ground cover or will anything like that rob nutrients? 


  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,130
    Maybe clover which would put back some nitrogen but, honestly, chipped bark isn't that expensive so buy some as and when you can - the biggest gauge you can find so it doesn't rot down too fast - and put that down and, in the meantime, lay cardboard to keep down weeds and retain moisture.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,828
    I agree ... mulch with something ... growing stuff under your fruit bushes will store up problems ...  e.g. competition for moisture and nutrients as well as providing homes for pests such as sawfly.  Keep it clear and allow plenty of airflow which will help prevent fungal disease. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,951
    I mulch mine with grass clippings and mowed leaves (preferably mixed together).  Lay lots of newspaper down on top of the soil after you have planted and watered well.. then wet the newspaper until it is completely soaked through.  Mulch with several inches of bagged grass clippings from an untreated lawn.  I use my own, and my neighbor gives me hers.  If you don't have grass, or enough grass, ask around.  In the fall, I remulch again with the leaves/grass mix.. which lasts fine all winter.  If you find weeds growing, just pull back the mulch, lay down more newspaper and start the process again.  Keep them well watered this year, but once they are established a thick mulch will really cut back on watering next summer.  
    Utah, USA.
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,166
    I would lay black plastic (inside out compost bags work quite well) around your fruit bushes, after watering them well,  then just put a layer of bark mulch on top to make it look better - It's about £6-£8 per 100 litre bag around here.
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,130
    Black plastic will not allow rain through to the roots and they'll die of dehydration, especially in a raised bed.   You need a permeable mulch.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 7,882
    edited April 2018
    I have a 4 - 6” deep mulch of pine nuggets (very large ones) in the soft fruit patch. No membrane underneath as I need to be able to dig out the raspberry runners!

    The mulch is highly permeable so all the rain goes straight through to the soil and the surface stays nice and dry for walking on. It does a brilliant job of suppressing weeds and retaining moisture. 2 years on the large nuggets have not rotted and it still looks good. Expense at the outset - but maybe cheaper in the long run?

    Failing that - are there any friendly landscape gardeners / tame tree surgeons near you who need to off load tree shreddings / chippings? Probably won’t last as long - but if they’re free...

    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • ThankthecatThankthecat Posts: 421
    Thanks all for the advice - I had been hoping I could have something a bit prettier and more beneficial to wildlife but sounds like it has to be a mulch! Topbird, I'd never heard of pine nuggets before, have had a google and they look really good but I'm afraid the cost would be prohibitive at the moment. Obelixx I think we will go with the cardboard as my husband can get plenty from work, and then add one bag of bark at a time as and when we can. 
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,391
    Mulching will probably benefit far more wildlife, especially the life in the soil which is the 'plankton' of all land dwelling lifeforms. :)
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,130
    Good plan TTC.  When you do buy bark chippings, do get the biggest you can find.  They are less likely to blow around and, as Tbird and I have found, rot down slowly so are a good investment.   You can always use grass clippings on the cardboard if it looks a bit stark.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,530
    There are plenty of mulches to be had for next to nothing.  Nowhere in the UK is too far from a beach to drive there and back in a day, with a bootful of seaweed.  In the autumn, you can sweep leaves off the street, pile them into a cylinder of wire or plastic mesh and in two years you'll have leafmould.  Nettles growing on waste ground, put gloves on, gather them before they flower, and chop them roughly with scissors. They'll add nitrogen.  Grow some comfrey if you've room, you can pick the lower leaves two or three times a year, they'll add potassium, and the bees will be grateful for the flowers. Find some conifers and gather fallen cones - decorative, and harbour little critters which thrushes and blackbirds will feed on.
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