Growing soft berries in the garden or on your vegetable plot is beneficial in so many ways; these days you get a crop in the first year of planting on account of the superior varieties and breeding in the fruit-growing industry. The taste of soft fruit plucked straight from the plant – whether strawberries, raspberries or tree fruit like mulberries is at its peak. Also the methods for end-of- season pruning is relatively straight-forward for year-on-year harvests.
See these handy hints when planting and caring for soft fruit. For more information on individual fruits, see the relevant growing guide.
Soft Fruit will grow well in most soil types but ideally should be grown in well-drained, loamy soil that is not too heavy. Dig over the soil in the planting area before planting to relieve any compaction and introduce oxygen to the soil. Dig in some manure, bulky compost or granular fertiliser.
For containerised fruit, tease out some of the roots so you encourage them to penetrate the surrounding soil rather than spiral round the original rootball.
On receipt of berry plants such as strawberries and raspberries, you can get them off to a really good start by hydrating the roots prior to planting. Fill a large bucket with water and insert bare-roots for up to half an hour. This is a good job to do while you’re collecting your tools and preparing the bed or containers for planting.
For containerised fruit plants, water the rootball thoroughly. Water first until there is a reservoir of water at the top of the container. Let the water absorb into the soil. Repeat this until you see water escaping from the holes at the bottom of the container.
Berry plants appreciate a sunny site. Most will do well in light shade however, if sunny sites are limited. Certain situations are definitely disadvantageous– those that are exposed to strong winds. Not only can the wind snap growing stems, the wind also accelerates the rate of transpiration – where the plants lose water. If windy sites are the only option, consider growing a hedge nearby which buffers and filters prevailing winds.
Frost pockets are particularly risky too, where damage by frost can effect flowers, and therefore fruit. If you are growing berry plants in fruit cages, cover the cages in a double layer of horticultural fleece if frost is forecasted.
Avoiding pests and diseases
If you have visitors to the fruit and vegetable garden such as crows or muntjac you might want to consider protecting your crops. They’ll love your harvests as much as you will. Fruit cages are a great measure to keep mammals and birds out – they also make good structures which you can hang horticultural fleece over.
To avoid diseases, avoid replacing one type of berry plant with the same type. If you remove old and diseased raspberry canes for instance, grow boysenberries or strawberries in their place, and not raspberries.
Keep for plants well pruned so that they are well-aerated and oxygen can pass freely through the branches. Plants with overcrowded stems are prone to succumbing to diseases that favour this overcrowded environment.