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Growing soft fruit

Published: 21st October, 2015

Soft fruitsNothing captures the taste of summer quite like home grown fruits, especially when they are picked fresh off the bush at their very best. Packed with vitamin C and anti-oxidants, soft fruits such as gooseberries, raspberries, red and black currants are a delicious way of adding to your 5 a day.

Growing your own soft fruits can be done by anyone with outdoor space, even those with small gardens, as these shrubs will happily thrive in a small border or even in pots and planters as long as you keep them very well-watered in summer. And they are generally very easy to grow.

And now is the perfect time to start! Soft fruit plants can be planted any time during the dormant season, between November and March, providing the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.

Planting soft fruit

Soft fruit trees will succeed in most garden soils that are not excessively acid or alkaline (around pH6-7 is ideal), and are best in open sites as they like full sun. They will be happy against a sunny wall or fence where they’ll be sheltered from cold winds. The larger plants such as raspberries will probably need some staking as they grow taller in the summer.

Soft fruit plants need a well-drained but water retentive soil. But they will not tolerate standing in water logged ground so if you do have a heavy soil that does not drain you should consider growing your plants in a raised bed or in planters instead.

Prepare your site by turning over the ground and working in some fertiliser containing nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Do NOT add the fertiliser directly to the planting hole or you may burn the roots of your plant. If your soil is a little heavy incorporate some organic matter too to help break it down.  If you are planting in pots use a loam-based compost such as John Innes No.3.

Having prepared your soil, dig holes for your plants. You should plant them a little deeper than they were planted in the nursery. Remove the soft fruit plants from their pots and if they are slightly root-bound loosen up some of the root ball to encourage them to grow outwards. Add them to the hole, back fill and compress the soil down well. Water well immediately after watering to ensure the root system is well soaked. You can then add a layer of mulch around the stem to protect the roots.

What all these plants have in common is that as they are laden with sugar the birds will love them just as much as you do! So, to protect your precious fruits, you may want to grow them inside fruit cages or at least cover with netting as the flowers begin to change to fruit.

Don’t expect too much return in your first year. You need to be in it for the long-haul – some soft fruits reap a crop for a decade or more. But it is best not to allow them to fruit in their first year so that they can develop strong roots and build up their strength.

Soft fruits are available on a variety of rootstocks which means there is a size to suit every garden. Henry Street Garden Centre sells a great potted range that can be planted all year round – even when the plants are carrying flowers or fruit.



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