I don’t know why, but soft fruit bushes aren’t something I’ve talked much about on Real Men Sow. On my allotment, I had lots of bushes. There were 3 blackcurrants, 5 gooseberries, a redcurrant, and a loganberry.
Fruit bushes are great things to grow in gardens and on allotments. Initially, the outlay can be quite expensive (especially if you buy 2-year-old plants) but once established the return is high. On my last year on the allotment, I harvested 6lbs of gooseberry from just one bush.
Expensive in the Shops
Soft fruit is pricey in the shops so some good yields will soon recover your costs. The bushes are a long term investment too. They might take two years to fruit properly, but they’ll often live for 2 decades.
You won’t just save money by eating the fruit as it comes, either. Jams cost pennies when using homegrown fruit. Berries freeze well, which shaves good money off shopping winter trips when the fruit is out of season.
Choose a Good Location
Location is important when planting your bushes, as the full sun will give you better fruit. If you have the space, keeping your bushes together is also a good tactic as they’ll be easier to net or build a fruit cage around should the local bird population take a fancy to the berries.
I had plenty of room at the plot, so finding suitable space for my fruit bushes was easy. However, in my garden things are different, and finding likely homes for the new additions has left me scratching my head.
Fruit in a Small Space
Lots of thought is required when planting fruit in a small space. Generally, you only plant them once, so try and pick a good place. There are solutions if space is at a premium though.
I think a well-shaped fruit bush is very attractive, so there is no reason why they can’ be planted in decorative borders and beds. I planted a blackcurrant bush in one of my beds, and it looks handsome. The leaves also give off a gorgeous scent.
Training fruit bushes is a good option for small spaces. I trained my loganberry up the shed at the allotment and I wish I’d done that in my garden with the gooseberries. Instead, I plonked them bang in the middle of my patch, taking up useful space. A fan trained bush, like the gooseberry in the picture below (taken by my dad on a recent trip to Cornwall) is not only a very attractive use of space but an efficient one too.
This method is done over a couple of seasons, but can be done against walls, fences, sheds or even against a custom made support.
When and How to Plant
The optimum time for planting fruit bushes is the dormant period between November and February, but November is best as the soil is warmer.
When planting a bush, I dig a hole big enough to take the root of the plant and add a decent spadeful of organic matter such as compost or manure. There will be an original soil mark on the plant –try not to plant the bush deeper than this mark. Water in and then sprinkle a mulch around the base.
Make sure the plants are weeded well and watered regularly in the first summer. Mulching during this time helps keep moisture in and weeds down.
Although planting time is a few months away, now is the perfect time to plan where you want to locate your bushes and how you’d like to grow them.