There is nothing nicer than picking jewel-like soft fruit from your own bushes, and an ultra-fresh, sun-warmed raspberry is one of summer’s taste sensations, but soft fruits can also be frozen for a taste of summer all year long, and are good for juicy desserts and preserves.
Soft fruit bushes such as red, black and whitecurrants, gooseberries, are reliable and plentiful croppers that need little attention. Blackberries, loganberries and raspberries need a little more work, but are well worth the effort. None of them suffer too much damage if the weather is bad when they flower, and even if you only have room for one or two bushes, you will be amazed at how much fruit they can produce – regularly around 4.5kg (10lb) from each one, whilst a blackberry can produce a whopping 13.6kg (30lb) of fruit per plant in a good year.
Currants can even be grown in pots on the patio, although full sun is by no means essential. More important is a rich, moist soil, especially for raspberries. Blackberries and loganberries will tolerate poorer soil. Weed and dig your soft fruit bed thoroughly and enrich with garden compost or other organic matter before planting
To plant blackberries, currants and gooseberries, dig the hole larger and deeper than the root ball, and work a forkful of garden compost mixed with bone meal into the base. Spread out the roots of the plant in the hole and backfill with soil, firming in with your feet.
Currants and gooseberries: these grow at a similar rate so can be planted together. Space plants about 1.5m-2m (5ft-6ft) apart, allowing plenty of room for them to fill out. Some experts advise cutting all shoots of blackcurrant bushes back to 5cm (2in) above the ground after planting to make the growth stronger, others say treat them as white and redcurrants or gooseberries and leave them unpruned. When the plants have been settled for one or two years, prune out about a third of weak or tangled shoots every winter to keep the plants open and cup-shaped.
Blackberries and loganberries: as these are less a bush than a series of long, arching shoots, plant them against a shed, wall or fence on which are stretched horizontal wires. Trim new plants down to around 30cm (12in). As new shoots appear, train them along the wires. Fruit will grow on the first year’s stems in the second year, and new shoots will spring from the base. Weave these into the centre of the plant until fruiting has finished. After harvesting the berries, cut down to the ground the canes on which they grew, leaving the fresh young shoots, trained along the wires, to bear next year’s crop. To make the job easier there are some thornless varieties available
There are some varieties of fruit trees, such as the plum and cherry, that can be grown as bushes.