Autumn, ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…’
1st December 2019
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Enjoy growing and eating your own soft fruit? Autumn is the optimum time to plant soft fruit while the earth is still warm and moist. 

It’s easy to imagine you need at least a reasonably sized garden to grow your own fruit, but in fact a small patio, or even a balcony, could be home to a whole host of fruit if you know which ones to choose.  

These include all your old favourites, such as blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries and blackberries, or you can try the new super-fruits - blueberries, gojiberries, honeyberries and jostaberries. 

Try planting our favourite top five soft fruits.


Blackberry and hybrid berries

The fruits of cultivated blackberries and hybrid berries, such as loganberries and boysenberries, are borne on canes in late summer. The hybrids have arisen from crosses between different Rubus species or cultivars.

Before planting, the ground should be well prepared and fertilised. Thornless cultivars are usually less vigorous than prickly ones. Blackberries and hybrid berries are all self-fertile and consequently may be singly grown. They need a sunny or partially shaded, sheltered position.  

Provide support for the canes: walls and fences, with horizontal wires set up at 30cm (12”) intervals. Plant shallowly, spreading out the roots well and firming the soil at the base of the plants.  Space more vigorous cultivars 4-5m (12-15ft) apart, less vigorous ones 2.5-3m (8-10ft) apart. 

After planting, shorten the canes to 22cm (9”). Tie in new growth to wires or weave new growth along wires on more vigorous varieties. The plants fruit on one-year-old wood, so training needs to separate fruiting canes from newly developing ones.  

After cropping, cut out the fruiting canes at ground level. Retain and tie in those canes that have grown during the current season.


Blackcurrant

Prepare the ground well before planting blackcurrants which do well in cool-temperate regions. Remove all weeds from the site and dig in plenty of well-rotted manure. Choose a sunny site, sheltered from cold winds, however, some shade is tolerated. 

Blackcurrants grow in a range of soils, but deep, moisture-retentive soil is most suitable. Avoid wet, poorly drained ground. Planting in late autumn is preferable but blackcurrants may be planted throughout the winter, weather conditions allowing.

Blackcurrants are self-fertile and, when planting, space bushes 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) apart, with the same distance between rows. In spring, apply nitrogen and potassium fertiliser and mulch with well-rotted manure, compost or leaf mould to conserve soil moisture. 

Regular pruning is essential to maintain high yields. Most of the fruit is borne on shoots produced the previous season.  Prune established bushes before late winter by cutting to the base a quarter to one third of two-year-old wood and any other older, weak wood.  Feed and mulch after pruning. 


Jostaberry

Jostaberry is a thornless hybrid cross of a blackcurrant and a gooseberry. It combines the large fruit from a gooseberry and the unique taste and vitamin content of a blackcurrant – very nutritious.  

It’s a very vigorous, upright bush, producing reliable, heavy crops of large, shiny black berries, double the size of normal blackcurrants. Flavour is good and berries are rich in Vitamin C, which makes them excellent for preserves.

They are very resistant to mildew but will require protection against frost. Soak the roots in water for two hours before planting to the same depth of soil as in the pot, then firm in. Mulch the area around the plant but not right up against the stems to preserve moisture and suppress weeds. 

After planting, prune back all the stems to 5cms (2”). In later years, remove 25% of the stems to encourage new growth from the base.


Gooseberry Hinnonmaki Red 

This is a very hardy and vigorous, mid-season, red gooseberry. Produces heavy crops of large, sweet, red berries of excellent quality, fruiting in mid-July. It was specifically bred for hardiness and disease resistance and is particularly resistant to mildew, making it ideal for organic gardeners. 

A slow growing variety, it is ideal for small gardens and an excellent variety for dessert or culinary purposes.  Soak in water for to two hours before planting. 

Pruning is not required after planting but, in subsequent years, prune the new growth on the main branches back by 50% and any side shoots back to 5cms (2”). Mulch yearly to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Water in dry periods and apply Growmore in spring.


Blueberry Bluecrop

This superb, mid-season variety is without doubt the leading commercial blueberry to date. Vigorous upright growth reaches 4-6ft at maturity but can be kept compact by growing in a container.  

The high quality fruit has a good, rich flavour and is borne in medium-large open clusters for easy picking from the end of July. The firm berries are light blue and are ideal for all purposes.  

It has stunning, bronze foliage in the autumn followed by attractive red stems in winter and is frost tolerant.  Prepare area before planting by digging over and mixing organic manure or compost into the topsoil.  Plant as soon as possible after purchase, provided weather conditions are suitable. 

Soak bush for two hours in water and plant to the depth of the soil mark on the stem, tread in firmly and water.  Where the soil is not suitable, plant in a 20-litre container using ericaceous compost.  

It needs no pruning, but mulch yearly with well-rotted compost or manure to retain moisture and suppress weeds.  Blueberries have a very fine, shallow root system making them very susceptible to drying out. Therefore, water throughout the summer to ensure their soil remains moist. A thorough weekly drench should prove sufficient and apply a Growmore type fertiliser in the spring. 

For a wide selection of soft fruit plants ready for planting this autumn, visit Love Plants, the specialist plants centre based in Salop Leisure, Emstrey, Shrewsbury, where friendly and knowledgeable staff are happy to provide advice.


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That's our team, L-R Emma, Louise and Andy. We run thebestof and our sister marketing company, Key 3 Media. With over 40 years' combined marketing experience, we help promote local businesses through our...

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