Month by Month Care for Growing Soft Fruit


Inspect soft fruit regularly for symptoms of pests and diseases. Refer to main entries for specific diagnosis and treatment.


◙ Mail-order bare-rooted plants continue to arrive. They must be planted promptly or heeled in. Container-grown plants can be dealt with when convenient.

◙ Continue planting raspberries. They produce their best crops in full sun, and should ideally be planted in rows running north-south. Add bone meal to the planting trench. Water well, mulch and cut back to just above a bud, about 25cm (10 in) above soil level.

◙ Plant two-year-old, container-grown blueberries, and other acid-soil fruits in acid, humus-rich soil or in containers of ericaceous compost.

◙ Most established soft fruit should now be fed with sulphate of potash at a rate of 34g per square metre (1oz per square yard). This is suitable for raspberries, blackcurrants, blackberries and hybrid berries, gooseberries, red and white currants.

◙ This is the last chance to apply a tar oil winter wash to dormant fruit canes and bushes.



◙ Raspberry planting should be completed as soon as possible. Established primocane raspberries can be cut to soil level. New canes will appear in a few weeks.

◙ Formative and regular pruning of gooseberries, and red and white currants can be carried out now.

◙ Cut out the fruited shoots of well-established grapevines to the junc- tion with the rod.

◙ Grapes can be propagated by taking ‘vine eyes’ – 2cm-(¾ in) long pieces of stem including a bud. These are pushed into a mixture of 3:1 sand and soil-based potting medium and placed in a heated propagator.

◙ Check for the symptoms of big bud mite on blackcurrants – remove and burn any affected shoots, then spray with benomyl.



early spring growth showing on the old canes and at the base of the plants◙ Feed grapevines using general fertilizer, such as Growmore or fish, blood and bone at a rate of 34g per square metre (1 oz per square yard).

◙ The same regime is suitable for most soft fruit, including Kiwi fruit, raspberries, blackberries and hybrid berries, blackcurrants and gooseberries. Follow by a mulch of well rotted compost.

◙ Symptoms of iron deficiency, to which raspberries are particularly prone, can be remedied by applying sequestered iron, following the manufacturer’s recommendations.

◙ Feed blueberries with sulphate of potash and sulphate of ammonia, both at a rate of 17g per square metre (½ oz per square yard). Mulch with coniferous sawdust. Also mulch cranberries with lime-free sand, and water with collected rainwater.

◙ Feed strawberries with sulphate of potash at a rate of 17g per square metre (1/2oz per square yard). For an early crop of strawberries, cover established plants with cloches.

◙ Alpine strawberry seeds can be sown now.



◙ Cape gooseberries, raised from seed in warmth, can be planted out in 20cm (8in) pots of soil-based compost in a greenhouse, with a minimum temperature of about 7°C (45° F).

◙ Sow melon seeds on edge, at 21°C (70°F), in soil-based sowing compost, grow on until they have four true eaves. Then plant in enriched greenhouse borders, or harden off for at (east 10 days before planting out in a cold frame or cloche.

◙ Plant Kiwi fruit in a sheltered position. Male and female plants will be needed for pollination. Do not allow established plants to dry out.

◙ Strawberries can be planted from now until late summer to crop the following year. Prepare the planting site a week ahead with Growmore or fish, blood and bone at a rate of 68g per square metre (2oz per square yard), and rake in.

◙ Strawberries under cloches need ventilation on sunny days.



◙ Prepare outdoor beds for Cape gooseberries by raking in a general fertilizer about a week before planting. The plants, raised from seed in

warmth, can be planted in a sheltered position once all risk of frost is past. Tie in carefully, and feed when the first fruit has set.

◙ Tie in melon shoots, training and pinching out. The flowers must be pollinated by hand, use a soft brush.

◙ The first protected strawberries are ready to pick. As fruitlets form on outdoor plants, place either straw, bracken or strawberry mats underneath to lift them slightly off the soil.

◙ Keep a watch for aphids, and spray before they really become a problem, using a soap-based spray in the evening, when there should be no pollinating insects present, or a synthetic insecticide such as pirimicarb, which is almost entirely specific to aphids.

◙ Keep a watch for caterpillars and spray with a contact insecticide or remove them by hand, using gloves, if you can bear to.



◙ Feed melons once a week when the fruit begin to swell, using liquid fertilizer with a high potash content. Sudden wilting may occur if the plants have been grown for several years in the same greenhouse bed.

◙ Water grapevines generously all summer, and apply a liquid feed with a high potash content every couple of weeks. Dessert grapes are thinned out using round-ended scissors, so the individual fruits have room to swell. Look out for mildew and botrytis, particularly on greenhouse vines.

◙ Established Kiwi fruit are coming into flower. Even with male and female plants present, fruit set will be improved if you help nature along by transferring pollen from the male to female flowers with a soft brush. Do not allow the plants to dry out at this stage.

◙ Perennial weeds among raspberries are best dealt with using a weedkiller containing glyphosate, as hoeing will damage the shallow roots.

◙ Fruit grown in containers will need extra feeding. Apply a liquid tomato or similar potash-rich feed every two weeks.

◙ Runners are forming on established strawberry plants but propagating from them entails the risk of spreading disease.



◙ Pick ripe fruit regularly. Tie in fast-growing canes.

◙ Water regularly in dry periods, preferably not in the heat of the day, when drips on leaves could cause scorching and most of the water will evaporate very quickly.

◙ Fungus diseases are common at this time of year. Mildew and botrytis grey mould can be controlled with sulphur or a systemic fungicide, such as benomyl, thiophanate-methyl or carbendazim. Some types of fruit can be damaged by sulphur.

◙ Keep a look out for the symptoms of virus, and continue to control aphids which can transmit them. If symptoms are severe, there is no alternative but to uproot and destroy affected plants by burning them completely. Never try to propagate from plants showing signs of virus. Replant on a fresh site if possible, and use only certified stock.

◙ Hot dry conditions favour red spider mite, particularly under glass. Chemical control is almost impossible, but they dislike damp conditions, so you could try misting plants with water. If all else fails, you may have to destroy the plants and start again with a new variety.



◙ As summer-fruiting raspberries are picked, cut out the spent fruited canes and start to tie in new ones, choosing the best placed. Hoe or pull out those that are not required.

◙ Pliable canes, such as those of blackberries, can be tip-layered, by pegging a shoot tip down into a shallow hole. Rooting should occur within nine months.

◙ Gooseberries and red and white currants can be given their summer pruning about now, preferably about six weeks after midsummer.

◙ Cut back foliage of perennial strawberries once the last fruit have been picked. If the crop has been disappointing, feed with sulphate of potash at a rate of 17g per square metre (1/2oz per square yard).



◙ Clear up fallen leaves regularly. They can harbour pests and fungal spores.

◙ Plant Kiwi fruit now to give the plants a chance of establishing before winter. In particularly cold areas delay until mid-spring. Harvest fruit from established plants before the first frosts. They will continue to ripen indoors.

◙ Prune blackberries and hybrid berries by cutting off the old canes at soil level once they have fruited. New canes can then be retrained in their place, according to the method you are following.

◙ Blackcurrants can be pruned from fruit maturity until mid-winter. If done now, the fruit can be harvested from the cut branches. Blueberries are pruned in the same way. Each year cut between a quarter and a third of all shoots back to just above ground level, starting with the oldest. This ensures a regular supply of new shoots.

◙ A new fruit garden can be planned and prepared during autumn. Order bare-rooted plants from specialist nurseries once you have decided on the varieties you want.



◙ Apply an organic mulch around bushes and canes when the soil is damp to help retain moisture and protect the roots against the frosts and cold of winter.

◙ Autumn cultivation can be carried out for new fruit gardens. Thorough digging, removing perennial weeds, correcting drainage, and incorporating plenty of well rotted organic matter should all be completed before the first plants arrive in early winter. Construct support structures and fruit cages while the ground is soft enough to drive in stakes.



◙ Make sure that fruit cages and nets are in good repair. In winter, when food supplies are running low, birds may resort to stripping your fruit bushes of buds.

◙ Cut down perennial Cape gooseberries grown in the greenhouse. Seeds for greenhouse plants can be sown at this time of year.

◙ Complete pruning of blackberries and hybrid berries



◙ Apply tar oil winter wash to dormant plants to control aphids and other overwintering pests.

◙ 1nspect your fruit garden regularly. Check ties and supports after high winds and make repairs as necessary. Cut out obviously damaged shoots immediately.

◙ Take hardwood cuttings of sound, healthy plants before all the leaves have fallen. They should form roots within a year.

◙ Bare-rooted raspberries, blackberries, hybrid berries, and red and white currants establish well if planted in winter – either now or, if the soil is frozen or waterlogged, during the next couple of months. Blackcurrants and gooseberries, however, should be planted before mid-winter, as they start into growth relatively early.

◙ Grapevines are best planted at this time, when fully dormant. Add plenty of well-rotted organic matter to the planting hole, and a light dressing of bone meal.

17. May 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Fruit & Veg, Plant Care, Soft Fruit | Tags: , | Comments Off on Month by Month Care for Growing Soft Fruit


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: