Unwins Seeds

How to Grow Soft Fruit

How to Grow Soft FruitSoft fruit (which includes raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, currants etc...) can be grown by everyone, even those with smaller gardens and there are varieties which are very ornamental as well as productive. They can be grown in a mixed border or in pots on the patio, and love growing against a sunny wall or fence. So, even if you do not have a big garden, you can still grow your own fruit.

Where to grow

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 dig in some manure or granular fertiliser.

What to do upon receipt of your soft fruit

Potted plants


Remove from packaging and position in a sheltered spot. Make sure water can drain freely from the bottom of the pot and give the plant a generous watering. The potted plant can then be allowed to rest for a few days before planting. Whilst the plant is resting, make sure it keeps moist but not saturated.

Bare roots

On receipt, unpack the plants immediately. In all cases, aim to plant as soon as possible to reduce the possibility of the roots starting to dry out. Allowing the roots to de-hydrate before planting is probably the single most likely cause of plants failing to re-establish.

If you can’t plant straightaway – because the ground is very wet, or frozen for example – store the plants in an unheated building such as a shed or garage, making sure the roots are moistened and loosely covered with a sack or compost. Alternatively, dig a hole in a sheltered position and ‘heel in’ the roots temporarily. 


For any type of bare root plant, soak the roots in a bucket of water for a couple of hours before planting. Dig a hole wide enough and deep enough to take all the roots without them being doubled up.

Plant bare root Strawberries and Rhubarb with the very top of the growing crown set level with the soil surface. Back-fill the planting hole and press down the soil firmly. Water after planting.

Canes and bare root bushes, such as Raspberries, Currants, Gooseberries and Jostaberries need to be planted slightly deeper than they were at the nursery. The nursery soil mark should be visible, but if not, just make sure the entire root ball is under soil, along with about 1cm of the stem. After planting, press the soil down around the plant and water in.

Remove the root ball of container grown Berries, such as Blackberries, Blueberries, Tayberries, Cranberries, Boysenberries and Loganberries from the pot. If it doesn’t budge straight away, turn the plant upside-down with your palm over the opening of the pot, and give it edge of the pot a tap on a hard surface. Re-plant in a hole that is just deeper than the height of the root ball.  Back fill any gaps and level off with the soil that was initially removed, firm in and water thoroughly. If planting Blueberries or Cranberries in open ground, the soil must be lime free; if growing in a patio container, use only ericaceous compost.


Positions and spacings 


Blackberry & Boysenberry  Plant in well-drained but moisture retentive soil in full sun or partial shade.  Grow on wires against a fence or wall, or as single plants up a post.  Space at least 6ft/2m apart.  Cut back to 10in/25cm straight after planting to promote fresh growth from the base.


Blueberry Plant 3ft/1m apart in a sheltered position in free-draining ericaceous soil in full sun/partial shade. 


Cranberry  Best grown in a container or raised bed lined with plastic which has been pierced so that water is retained but not allowed to stagnate.  Incorporate plenty of moss peat when planting and water regularly with soft (rain) water.  Space about 1ft/30cm apart.


Currants Plant in moisture retentive soil in an open position in full sun or partial shade.  Avoid planting in a position where the bushes might catch a late spring frost which will damage any emerging leaves and new growth.  Space currant bushes 3-4ft/1-1.25m apart, Jostaberries 6ft/2m apart.  After planting, cut blackcurrants down to 3-4in/8-10cm above ground level, and cut the stems of red and white currants and Jostaberry back by about half.


Gooseberry & Jostaberry Plant in deep, well-drained but moisture retentive soil in full sun or partial shade.  Avoid planting in shallow soil which dries out in summer as this will result in poor sized fruit.  Also avoid sites liable to catch late spring frosts.  Space bushes 4ft/1.25m apart.  Cut stems back by about half after planting.  This is very important for successful establishment.


Raspberry & Tayberry Plant in deep, rich well-drained but moisture retentive soil in a sunny or partially shaded position. Space canes 15-18in/40-45cm apart. Allow 4-6ft/1.25-2m between rows of floricane (summer-fruiting) varieties and at least 6ft/2m between rows of primocane (autumn-fruiting) varieties. Dig the planting hole deep enough so that the root sits in the soil with the previous soil mark just below the soil surface, back fill and firm in. Cut back Regular canes to 2in/5cm above soil level after planting. Keep well watered until canes get established and add an annual top dress of balanced fertiliser in spring. Do not hoe in the planting area to remove weeds. Pick weeds by hand. The growing shoots of the Raspberry plant grow from underneath the soil. Hoeing could chop off these growing shoots resulting in canes dying. We cannot be expected to replace free-of-charge any raspberry canes which fail to grow satisfactorily through customer neglect.



Unlike Regular Canes, Long Cane plants must NOT be cut back after planting.  The canes should be left intact as supplied.  They will then develop fruit-bearing side shoots at the top of each cane which will flower and produce fruit for picking in the first season after planting at the same time as new growth (next year’s fruiting wood) is thrown up from the root stock. 

N.B. In subsequent seasons, treat as Regular Canes.


Rhubarb plant about 21/2-3ft/75-90cm apart in an open, sunny position in moisture retentive soil that has been enriched with well-rotted manure or organic matter prior to planting. 


Strawberries Plant in an open, sunny position in soil which is rich in humus. Set plants 18in/45cm apart in rows 30in/75cm apart.  After planting, water thoroughly.  If no rainfall occurs during the first few weeks after they have been planted, water regularly to keep the soil moist until plants re-establish. 


Pruning and aftercare 


Blackberry & Boysenberry During autumn or winter each year remove canes that have fruited to ground level and train and tie in the new growth that has grown up from the base during the summer. 

In late spring cut out the tips of the leading canes to promote the growth of extra fruiting laterals.


Blueberry & Cranberry In winter, cut out any damaged or dead branches.  It is also recommended that each year a few old stems that have borne fruit are cut hard back to promote new growth in the following spring.  


Currants Blackcurrants fruit on new woodso aim to remove athird of the old wood each year, taking out at or near ground level the oldest branches (those with the darkest wood).  Unlike Blackcurrants, Red and White currants fruit on two year old wood so require only that the leading shoots are shortened by about half each year to encourage branching.  If and when the bush becomes crowded, remove the occasional branch to open it up to allow air to circulate more freely.  


Gooseberry & Jostaberry Aim to build up a well-shaped bush by annually cutting out crossing branches from the centre in the spring before bud break.  Also cut out any diseased or damaged wood. 


Raspberry & Tayberry Floricane (summer-fruiting) varieties fruit on canes produced in the previous year.  After fruiting, cut out the old, fruited wood in autumn/winter and tie in the new growths to the support.  Primocane (autumn-fruiting) varieties fruit on canes produced in the current year.  After cropping, these should be cut down to ground level to promote the growth of new canes.  Allow primocane raspberry beds to spread up to 2.5ft/0.75m wide but dig out any canes which start to grow between the rows.


Rhubarb Can be left to its own devices most of the time. Over the years the crown may begin to spread. To keep it producing healthy growth for long it will need to be divided, which can be done during winter-time (at a time when the ground isn’t frozen). This is done by digging up either the whole clump or a section of it, cutting it into smaller pieces with a space, and then re-planting each bit in an area with a bit more space.


Strawberry Once new growth starts in the spring, remove the old foliage but take care not to damage the growing crown.  Replace with fresh, certified stock in a new bed in a different part of the plot every 3-4 years.


Feeding and watering


An application of a high potash fertiliser at the rate suggested on the pack will increase yields.  Avoid fertilisers high in nitrogen as these will tend to promote too much soft, leafy growth.


All soft fruit needs plenty of moisture, particularly round about flowering time which is when the fruit start to form.  In dry spells it is recommended that the crop is watered every 10 days or so.  N.B. Check for any current local watering restrictions before doing this.  An occasional heavy watering is better than little and often as this does not get down far enough and encourages shallow rooting.

About fruit plants:


Succulent, flavoursome Strawberries epitomise the traditional British summer but many of the supermarket varieties don't come close to the flavour, juiciness or fragrance of your own sun-ripened, freshly-picked fruit. Our hand-graded runners will crop prolifically for at least 3 years but, of course, the first year's crop is smaller.

Each plant will give around 1.5 lb of fruit in its second year. Our vigorous runners are lifted from healthy mother beds stocked with high grade parent plants and are certified by Defra. Hand grading before packing ensures that only the best are selected at the correct time to plant. Allow 15-18in between plants.


Our canes are derived from mother plants raised in the laboratory to guarantee freedom from diseases. Inspected and certified by the Ministry, canes are supplied bare-rooted and ready to plant about 15" apart, with 6' between rows. Canes will remain productive for 8-12 years and will crop for up to six weeks. Typically, for summer fruiting varieties, 12 canes will give up to 50lb of fruit when established. Important - Before planting the canes soak their roots in a bucket of water for 24 hours and keep well watered until they re-establish.

Floricane Raspberries flower and fruit on old wood (wood that developed in the previous growing season) and fruit earlier than Primocane varieties which will flower and produce fruit on new wood (first year canes). Floricane Raspberries offered as ‘Long Cane' are plants that have shown exceptional vigour whilst growing in the nursery beds. When they are lifted they are individually hand selected and graded and are not trimmed back as they would be if they were going to be sold as ‘Regular' canes.

On re-planting, instead of cutting them hard back to about 12-15in/30-40cm, Long Cane Raspberries should be left intact. They will then develop fruit bearing side shoots at the top of each cane which will flower and produce fruit for picking in their first season after planting at the same time as new growth (next year's fruiting wood) is thrown up from the root stock. In effect, what you are achieving is virtual ‘primocane' performance from a ‘floricane' variety in its first season after planting. N.B. In subsequent seasons, it needs treating as a Regular Cane.


Extremely easy to grow, blackberries will clamber over a large trellis, tall fence or north facing wall. Supplied as one-year old plants in 2 litre containers. Plant 8-12ft apart. Typically blackberries will produce 10lbs of fruit per plant per season and will crop for many years. N.B. Even thornless blackberries occasionally produce the odd thorn.


All currants are perfect for pies, jams, jellies and winemaking and serving fresh too. Supplied as a one-year old bare rooted bushes grown from certified stock. Plant approximately 4ft apart. They will start  producing good crops from the second year and will go on for at least 10 years or more.


We supply bare-rooted two-year old bushes on a sturdy leg with at least two strong breaks. They will establish well and begin fruiting in the second year producing 5-6lbs per bush and will go on to crop for at least 10 years. Allow for planting 6ft apart with 4ft between the rows.


For the first ‘fruit' of the season, once established this traditional favourite can be forced as early as late February. We offer good sized hand selected root divisions raised in Yorkshire, the home of rhubarb! Delivery mid November.

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