Gardener’s Introduction to Growing Soft Fruit
One of the first features that I created in my present garden was the soft fruit area; and I really think that it is the last that I would part with. But as gardeners are sometimes still confused over which fruit are ‘soft’ and which not, I will start with a brief explanation.
Most fruit, when they are ripe, are pretty soft, otherwise they would be unpalatable. I suppose that a more practical division, therefore, might be between those fruit that grow on trees and those fruit that grow on bushes and canes. So you would have apples, pears, plums and their kind, known as top fruit, on the one hand and currants, gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and their kin, called soft fruit, on the other. This is a more useful grouping and it becomes even more meaningful when it is borne in mind that the bush and cane fruits are shorter-lived than the tree types. So we can then, with justification, add the even shorter-lived or annual fruits such as, and Cape gooseberries. It still leaves a couple of oddities: two that are certainly long-lived but which produce fruit that I feel are fairly close in flavour and use to conventional ‘soft fruits’, the grape and the Chinese gooseberry or Kiwi fruit.
SELF-FERTILE SOFT FRUIT PLANTS
Something else of practical value is shared by almost all soft fruits, and in this they differ from most top fruits: they are self-fertile. This means that only one plant or, more usually in practice, only one variety, is needed to obtain a crop. So there is my more or less logical list of soft fruit, and I believe all are fairly easy, and some very easy, to grow. It’s true that not every one of them can be grown in all gardens because of site or conditions, but I don’t believe there is any garden that can’t manage some of them. And this is true even of small plots, for the odd soft fruit plant can be fitted into very little space and even if it won’t give you fruit for more than a few helpings, they will certainly be splendid, fresh helpings.