I’ve always focussed on growing veg, with the addition of a few haphazardly sown raspberry canes and some neglected strawberry plants. So this year, with a brand new plot, my resolution is to spend more time on fruit.
There are so many great reasons to grow fruit:
- Most fruits are perennial, which means plant once, pick for years to come.
- Soft fruits like raspberries and blueberries are really expensive to buy in shops, so you’ll save a fortune by growing your own.
- Soft fruit doesn’t last long once picked, which means by the time you get it past the checkout it’s already past its best. Not so if you can pick it outside your back door.
- Most soft fruits are really easy to grow. (Unlike certain veg. I’m looking at you, aubergines.)
- The taste. I mean, what would you rather eat: a bowl full of strawberries, or a handful of kale?
If you only grow one fruit, my suggestion would be raspberries; and for ultimate lack of effort, go for an autumn variety. As the name suggests, autumn raspberries produce fruit in the autumn while summer ones produce berries in the summer. Both are simple to grow, but autumn ones are the easiest of all. Tempted?
All you need to know about growing your own raspberries:
- Buy some bare-root canes either online or from a garden centre. Don’t worry if they look like a bunch of dead sticks – they’re supposed to. The best time for this is March.
- Soak the canes (still in the pot) in a bucket of water for two hours.
- Remove the cluster of canes from the pot and gently separate into individual canes, gently teasing out the roots.
- Plants the canes in a row, approx 50 cm apart and to the depth of the soil mark on each cane. (Don’t plant if the soil is frozen or waterlogged.) Fill in the holes and firm around the base of the cane. If you’re short on space, some varieties can also be grown in containers.
- Autumn canes won’t need any support, but summer raspberries will need some sort of frame. A good method is to erect two 2 metre posts, one at each end of the row. Stretch some wire horizontally between the posts, at two or three different heights. When the shoots reach the wire, gently tie them on using string or twine.
- Wait for your plants to grow. Shoots will emerge from the ground around the base of the original cane. (Don’t expect anything to appear on the original cane itself.) Keep weeded and watered.
- With summer raspberries, you may need to protect the fruit from birds with netting. By autumn, the birds don’t seem interested, so you shouldn’t need to bother.
Varieties to try
For summer fruiting raspberries, Tulameen produce large, sweet berries and are my favourite for taste. This year I’m also trying Octavia for the first time, which are said to be even better. They produce fruit in August which means they should be ready just as the Tulameen are finishing. Glen Ample are another popular variety with high yield.
For autumn fruiting varieties, Autumn Bliss are a popular and reliable favourite. I also love All Gold, which have a lovely flavour and are golden in colour.
Autumn Raspberries: simply cut the canes back to ground level after fruiting, in winter.
Summer Raspberries: these produce fruit on canes which are one year old, which means you only cut down the canes which have fruited that year. Leave the rest and tie them on to the existing supports, as they will produce fruit the following year.
Next week: blueberries.