Planning a Soft Fruit Garden
If you are lucky enough to be able to create a new soft fruit garden, it is most important before you do anything to sit down and consider all the factors involved.
PLAN FOR A LARGE FRUIT GARDEN
The positioning of any large garden plot, be it for soft fruit, vegetables or ornamentals must inevitably be a compromise between the different requirements of each individual type of plant being grown. However, I would stress what I consider to be the most important factor for the soft fruit garden: the closer that your site can come to facing the sun whilst also offering adequate shelter from cold winds, the better. For grapevines, Kiwi fruit, Cape gooseberries and, some protective structure in the shape either of a greenhouse or cold frame is very desirable but I accept that it may not be possible to integrate this fully into the remainder of the area in the way that I have indicated on the above plan. For the greenhouse in particular, the value of proximity to a building should perhaps weigh most heavily in your planning.
Another problem that should not be ignored is that of access, particularly in such a large area. It is important to lay an infrastructure of pathways so that you don’t have to clamber through one planted area to reach another. Paths and gateways should be wide enough to allow wheelbarrows to pass through and if, like me, you prefer to have walkways of grass in some parts of the fruit garden, do be sure that they are wide enough for your lawnmower!
PLAN FOR A SMALL FRUIT GARDEN
Special considerations apply to a small fruit garden. Your choice of varieties is paramount, for you will simply not be able to indulge in the luxury of early, mid-season and later fruiting types of soft fruit. Select those with the longest cropping period or, conversely, those that freeze most satisfactorily in order to obtain value and use from your produce over the longest possible period.
If your garden is very small and your space very limited, there is of course no reason why even a small collection of fruit such as those I have shown in my plan couldn’t be split up, with raspberries, for instance, in one spot and blackcurrants in another. The obvious drawback to this approach is that you will be unlikely to be able to provide proper protection from the birds. Simply throwing lightweight plastic netting over the plants will offer a degree of protection but is scarcely likely to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your garden.
Ultimately, therefore, you may have to compromise between the possibility of losing a proportion of your crop and not being able to grow your chosen selection of soft fruit plants.