As I continue with the development of my new veg garden in Somerset (it’s a lot bigger job than I first thought!), I’m starting to consider where I want to position my permanent features such as fruit bushes and canes.
The optimum time for planting fruit bushes is the dormant period between November and February, but November is best as the soil is warmer. If you’re thinking of adding fruit to your plot, now is the perfect time to plan where you want to locate your bushes and how you’d like to grow them.
Over the last ten year of growing, I’d like to think I’ve become more sophisticated. I tend to grow what I need rather than a scattergun approach, and this is definitely the case with fruit. Where I would have once just stuck a load of plants in a basket and accidentally spent loads, I’m more considered and experienced in deciding the optimum amount for my space.
So as I embark on stocking my fruit beds, here’s a blog post about those fruits which form the mainstay of any productive allotment how many plants I’ll be ordering.
There are two types of gooseberry – green or red. Reds can be eaten straight from the bush, but the greens will need some cooking.
I like to stew the green ones with a little bit of sugar and eat with yoghurt, but the reds make incredibly tasty jam. If the jam isn’t your thing, gooseberries freeze really well too.
Once established, the return on a gooseberry bush is very high. I have harvested 6lbs from a single bush in the past, so I reckon one of each colour is ample on most allotments.
The important distinction to make when buying raspberries is whether to go for summer or autumn fruiting canes or indeed both. Polka and Autumn Bliss are excellent later croppers that extend the raspberry season into November.
Personally, I have foregone Summer varieties on my two most recent growing spaces as there are lots of other fruits to enjoy at this time. I like to use space for a healthy row of Autumn croppers, as these are a lovely, sweet bonus as Summer draws to a close.
A dozen canes would be a good number for an allotment, especially as you can take cuttings and propagate extra canes each year.
Up until recently, I never understood why anyone would use valuable growing space for something that is so prolific in the wild. That changed when I was bought some blackberry plants as a present, and now I’m a convert.
Cultivated blackberries are bigger, tastier and juicier, and freeze really well. The plants can be trained upwards, making them a good choice if you’re short on space.
Three plants will soon cover a good size space and yield plenty of big blackberries, as well as providing a useful windbreak for a seating area or to protect delicate veg plants.
Rhubarb is a really low maintenance but high cropping fruit, and one of the first harvests of the new season. Tasting fresh fruit again after a long winter is a spirit-lifting morale booster.
The stems need cooking before eating, and the best and simplest way I’ve found is to bake 2 inch long chunks in honey. Rhubarb also freezes well if you cut into chunks.
Rhubarb comes in crowns, with 3-4 being a good number, to begin with. Crowns can easily be divided and replanted to increase the number of plants each year.
Strawberry plants are incredibly prolific and quick self propagators. Just 10 plants planted out in Spring can easily grow out and fill a bed by the end of Summer. You won’t necessarily get many fruits in your first year, but by the second you’ll be swimming in them.
For anyone looking to experience the difference in the quality of homegrown produce against the shop-bought alternatives, strawberries are the absolute first place to start. For an allotment holder, a big, red, juicy strawb straight from the plant takes some beating in the taste stakes.