Growing Soft Fruit – Growing Berries, etc.
Growing soft fruit is extremely valuable in the kitchen garden, and you can produce a high yield in a small area.
The biggest problem with all soft fruit is birds, so it is well worth investing in a fruit cage to protect them. The exception here iswhich, being low-growing, can easily be protected by laying netting over the plants at fruiting time.
Strawberries are exceptional in one other respect. All other soft fruit is planted in the dormant season between November and March, while strawberries are best planted in August or in spring.
Avoid planting and growing soft fruit on a site prone to late frosts, or on badly drained. Incorporate plenty of manure or compost before planting.
Blackberries, Loganberries and Hybrid Berries
Growing berries, such as these, is always best if they are grown trained up a fence or wall, or on wires. Loganberries prefer a warmer soil than blackberries, so a south-facing position is ideal.
Plant 3m (10 ft) apart, though the less vigorous thornless cultivars can be planted 1.8m (6 ft) apart. After planting, cut the old stem back to 23cm (9 in) and mulch heavily with manure or compost.
The training wires should be run at 90cm (3 ft), 1.2m (4 ft) and 1.5m (5 ft) from soil level.
After the first year, tie in the shoots so that the older canes are kept separate from the new ones. Cut out the old stems after fruiting and tie in the new ones.
Mulch annually with manure or compost and apply 70g per sq m (2oz per sq yd) of sulphate of ammonia in spring.
When growing berries such as blackcurrants, you should plant the blackcurrant bushes in rows 1.8m (6 ft) apart with 1.2m (4 ft) between plants. Ensure they are firmed well and that the crown of the plant is just below soil level. After planting, cut back all the shoots to within 2.5 – 5cm (1 – 2 in) of the soil. Mulch with well-rotted manure or compost, or peat.
After fruiting, cut out all fruited wood to within 2.5 – 5cm (1 – 2 in) of the soil. This will leave only the current season’s wood, which will fruit the following year. Also remove any weak shoots.
Mulch every year with manure and apply a balanced fertilizer at the rate of 100g per sq m (3oz per sq yd) in March.
Gooseberries are usually grown on a short stem, in much the same way as redcurrants.
Plant in rows 1.8m (6 ft) apart with 1.2m (4 ft) between bushes. Do not plant too deeply.
Prune as you would for redcurrants, but with droop varieties cut back to an upward-facing bud. The laterals should be pruned back to five or six leaves in July and not shortened to 2.5cm (1 in) until winter.
Mulch well with manure or compost annually. In spring, apply sulphate of potash at 35g per sq m (1oz per sq yd).
Plant raspberry bushes in rows 1.8m (6 ft) apart with 38cm (1-1/4 ft) between plants. As raspberries are subject to virus diseases, always plant certified stock.
When growing berries such as raspberries, you should ensure that before planting, posts are erected and wires used for tying-in the canes. They should be about 1.5m (5 ft) high, with wires 60cm (2 ft), (1m (3-1/2 ft) and 1.5m (15 ft) from the ground. After planting, cut the canes down to about 23cm (9in) from the ground.
After fruiting, cut down those canes that have borne fruit to within 2.5 – 5cm (1 – 2 in) from the ground. Select the strongest new canes and tie them in to the wires about 30cm (1 ft) apart, removing the weaker growths. In the early spring, tip long canes to within 15cm (16 in) of the top wire.
Autumn-fruiting varieties should have all canes cut down to within 2.5 – 5cm (1-1/2 – 2 in) of the ground in February.
Apply a heavy mulch of manure or compost annually. Feed with sulphate of potash at 35g per sq m (1 oz per sq yd ) every March.
Redcurrants and Whitecurrants
Unlike blackcurrants, redcurrants and whitecurrants these are grown on a short stem. They should not therefore be planted so deeply. Set them in rows 1.5m (5 ft) apart with 1.2m (4 ft) between plants.
In winter, cut the main branches of two-year-old bushes back by about half. Subsequently, shorten branches by about half and cut back laterals to about 2.5cm (1 in), to form fruiting spurs. When the branches have reached the required height, cut back the year’s growth to about 2.5cm ((1in). In later years, remove some old wood regularly.
Mulch with well-rotted manure or compost each spring, after applying 70g per sq m (2oz per sq yd) of a high potash fertilizer such as a proprietary tomato feed.
Plant rhubarb on well-manured ground on an open, sunny site, in February or March. Set the crowns 75 – 90cm (2-1/2 – 3 ft) apart.
Apply a liberal mulch of well-rotted manure or compost each spring after a dressing of a general fertilizer such as Growmore at 135g per sq m (4oz per sq yd ).
Do not pull any stems in the first year. In the second and subsequent years, pull stems when they are fully developed but before they become old and stringy, and always leave three or four leaves on the plant in order to avoid loss of vigour.
Strawberries are not gross feeders, so most garden soils are suitable. They will, however, crop better in a sunny position.
Plant only certified stock, as strawberries are subject to virus diseases. For plants to fruit the following year they should be planted in July or August. Planting can be delayed until the spring, but in this caseshould be removed to build up a strong plant for fruiting the following year. Plant in rows 60cm (2 ft) apart with 45cm (1-1/2 ft) between plants. It is important to plant so that the crown is above soil level, otherwise rotting may ensue.
The plants are normally set out in beds of four or five rows and left for three years. Alternatively, they can be grown in rows in theto crop for a single season.
Keep well watered and weed-free, and as fruits begin to swell mulch underneath with clean straw, black plastic or proprietary strawberry mats. Do not apply the mulch too early.
After fruiting, cut off the leaves to within about 10cm (4 in) of the crown, remove anyand take off the mulch. Lightly fork between plants and apply sulphate of potash at 20g per sq m (1/2oz per sq yd) between the rows.
Growing Under Cloches
Early crops can be obtained if plants are covered with cloches, the polythene tunnel type being particularly useful. Plants need a cold period to initiate flowers, so do not cover before January or February.
When plants are in flower, the rows of cloches should be ventilated to allow pollinating insects to enter, and to reduce the temperature.