Growing Soft Fruit Varieties
Soft fruit grows on canes and bushes. Whilst it is necessary to set aside an area of the garden for some, such as blackcurrants and gooseberries, a row of raspberry canes can prove useful as a screen of medium height, and blackberries and loganberries can be even more useful, for they will clothe a fence or wall, and are not unattractive garden plants.
Recommended varieties to look for:
‘George Cave’ — good flavour fruit with a red flush. Ripens July-August.
‘Worcester Pearmain’ — crimson fruit; pick only when ripe. Ripens July-August.
‘Ellison’s Orange’ — juicy fruit but does not keep. Ripens September-October.
‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ — the old favourite. Ripens November-December.
‘Laxton’s Superb’ — sweet, juicy fruit. Ripens January onwards.
Dessert and cooking apples
‘James Grieve’ — crisp, yellow fruits with red stripe. Ripens September-October.
‘Blenheim Orange’ — excellent flavour. Ripens November-December.
‘Bramley’s Seedling’ — another old favourite, with a high vitamin content. Ripens November-December.
‘Arthur Turner’ — beautifulas well as good apples. Ripens September-October.
‘Beurre Hardy’ — tender fruit with excellent flavour. Ripens October-November. ‘Conference’ — familiar long fruits with russet skin. Ripens October-November. ‘Doyenne du Cornice’ — large pale yellow fruits, deliciously juicy. Superb flavour. Ripens October-November.
‘William’s Bon Chretien’ — long yellow fruits; a reliable cropper. Ripens August-September.
‘Czar’ — cooking plum that is easy to grow. Ripens in August.
‘Coe’s Golden Drop’ — delicious, large, juicy fruits; dessert. Ripens late September.
‘Victoria’ — popular and familiar variety for dessert or cooking. Ripens September.
Popular types of fruit include:
‘Himalayan Giant’; ‘Oregon Thornless’ — a variety with no thorns that produces heavy crops of sweet tasting fruit.
Blackberries and the hybrid varieties will grow almost anywhere against a support, particularly in the form of a fence or wall, or even a pergola. Plant at any time from October to March with a space of 10 to 12ft between plants, and 6 to 9ft between the thornless varieties.
Prune the canes to 9in above ground level if this has not already been done; new shoots will appear and these should be tied in to the support to form a an shape. As the plant matures, allow new canes to grow-, upright in the centre of the plant. Fruiting canes that have already been trained to fan out should be cut back after the fruit has been picked, and the new young growth can then be fanned out from the centre to take its place.
Although blackberries grow wild in this country — even in some gardens — the cultivated varieties produce more fruit. There are a number of close relatives of the blackberry that are interesting to grow and rather more unusual.
The loganberry is supposed to be a cross between the blackberry and the raspberry; it produces nice large fruit with a popular, distinctive taste. The thornless Boysenberry is becoming increasingly common in this country, having been introduced from America. The fruit is large and purplish black in colour, with a superb flavour, and is produced in abundance.
The Japanese Wineberry is smaller than a raspberry, and makes a more decorative garden plant. Berries are yellow, turning red when ripe, with a deliciously sweet taste.
A valuable source of vitamin C as well as a tasty fruit.
Giant’; ‘Baldwin’; ‘Boskoop ‘Wellington XXX’.
Position should ideally be sunny, but partial shade is tolerated. Protection from wind is important, and a rich, well manured or compostedis required.
Plant the bushes any time from October to March, although autumn is ideal. Allow a space of 5 to 6ft each way between plants (about 5 plants is sufficient for a family of four). After planting cut all the shoots down to 1 to 2 in above soil level, to encourage new growth from below the ground. These will bear fruit in the second summer after planting. When the bushes are established, prune by removing the oldest branches, the aim being to encourage as much new growth to emerge as possible, for this will produce the best crop. Keep blackcurrants well watered and apply a proprietary general fertiliser in February.
Gooseberries are not difficult to grow. Their requirements are similar to those of redcurrants, and they can be grown close by.
‘Careless’ — cooking; ‘Leveller’ — dessert; ‘Whinham’s Industry ‘ — red fruit for dessert or cooking.
Gooseberries should ideally be planted in full sunlight, but as with other soft fruits a degree of shade is tolerated. Shelter from wind is required.
Prepare the soil by adding peat, manure or compost and also sulphate of potash at the rate of 1oz per sq. yd. Plant bushes allowing a space of 5 to 6ft between plants each way. Cordon gooseberries are a good idea where space is restricted, as these can be planted at only 1ft spaces.
Plants are prey to damage from birds, particularly bullfinches, who like to eat the buds in winter. They should therefore be covered with a fruit net during winter months if possible. Prune bushes to form a framework of strong, upright growing branches, but keep the lower part of the stem clear of growth. If any suckers should appear from below ground level, pull these right out. When the plants are established, prune in March, cutting the main shoots back by one half of their length.
It is well worthwhile growing raspberries, for they are not difficult and produce an abundant crop once the plants are established. The soft, melting fruit is delicious eaten freshly picked and surplus quantities can be bottled, frozen, used as flavouring or for jam making.
Summer fruiting — ‘Mailing Jewel’; ‘Mailing Promise’; ‘Glen Clova’.
Autumn fruiting — ‘September’; ‘Zeva’ — fruits right through to November.
Well drained, as waterlogging can kill the plants. Finally, raspberries should be provided with shelter from wind, which can damage plants by causing them to pull out at the roots.
Raspberries are easily obtainable in the form of canes from garden centres or specialist nurseries, and can be planted at any time from late October to March, although autumn is the best time. The ground should be well dug, incorporating compost, peat or manure and it is important to ensure that the ground is free from weeds.
Before planting, bang a stake into the ground at either end of the row where the canes are to grow, and stretch lengths of wire between the stakes to provide support (the stakes should be 5ft tall above the ground). Plant canes firmly, allowing 18in between plants and 5 to 6ft between rows.
After planting, prune the canes if this has not already been done, by cutting them down to 6 to 12in above soil level. Keep plants moist. At the end of the first summer after planting, cut the old canes down to the ground and leave the new canes that have formed to grow on; these will fruit the following summer.
When the plants are established, prune when all the fruit has been picked, for summer fruiting varieties. Cut down all the old canes that have fruited and leave the six strongest new canes to form the crop for the following year; these should be tied to the wires as they grow.
Pruning of autumn fruiting raspberries is a different process. The young canes that form during the summer should be left all through the winter, and all should then be cut down to ground level at the end of February.
Before planting raspberries dig deeply, adding compost.
Raspberries need plenty of moisture as the fruits begin to swell.
Raspberries prefer an open, sunny position in the garden, but they will tolerate partial shade. They should be planted well away from the roots of trees, as their root system is rather shallow and sparse and may become starved of food and moisture. The soil should be
‘Laxton’s Nol’;’Red Lake’.
Prepare the ground and plant as for blackcurrants. Pruning is a different process. When the bush has been planted, cut off each branch to 3 or 4in, just above an outward pointing bud; this will encourage new, fruit bearing shoots. When the plant is established, prune in winter by cutting back the side shoots, leaving two or three buds, and cutting about 6in off the main, leading shoots.
Redcurrants are particular favourites of birds, and it will be necessary to protect the plants by covering them with a fruit net in winter and in summer when the fruit is forming, although this should be removed when the bushes are in flower.
The part of the rhubarb plant that we eat is, of course, the stem rather than the fruit, and plants are generally treated more like a permanent vegetable crop. Buy crowns, in the form of large roots with several buds, and plant them 2-1/2ft apart each way in autumn or early spring. Plants appreciate a rich soil in an open position away from trees, and should be watered well in the first season after planting, and thereafter in dry weather.
The stems will not be ready for picking until the second spring after planting. When you pick, give the stems a gentle twist. Feed plants occasionally with a general liquid fertiliser in summer and remove flower stems as they appear.