Autumn is the optimum time to plant containerised or bare-rooted plants, trees and fruit while the earth is moist and still warm. This is the right time to buy soft fruit bushes and canes; and dream about picking your own soft fruit next summer!
It’s easy to imagine you need at least a reasonably sized garden to grow your own fruit, but in fact a small garden, patio, or even a balcony could be home to a whole host of fruit planted in the ground or in pots, if you know which ones to choose. These include all your old favourites such as blackcurrants, gooseberries, blueberries and raspberries. Or you can try the new super-fruits; goji berries, honeyberries and jostaberries.
Here are our top tips to start growing your own super fruits this autumn.
- Goji berry
Originating in the Himalayan highlands. It is thought to be one of the most powerful, nutritional and anti-ageing foods. The attractive red berries have a mild sweet liquorice flavour and contain more vitamin C than an orange! The fruit is also rich in anti-oxidants and trace elements. The plants are hardy and, once established, will tolerate wind, salt-laden lair (such as coastal gardens) and drought. They are moderately easy to grow, highly prolific and self-polinating.
Goji berries are deciduous, fruiting shrubs that grow to 3m (10ft) in height and 4m (13ft) in the ground in full sun, although they will tolerate light shade. When planting into the ground or in raised beds space them 2m (6.5ft) apart, dig a hole, 50cm deep and wide, plant at the same level as it was in the original container and firm in. Apply a mulch of well-rotted compost or manure at a depth of 5-7cms (2-3ins), don’t let the mulch touch the stem’s as it will cause them to rot. Water during dry periods and apply a top dressing of Grow more in the spring at a rate of 70g/sqm (2oz/sqyd). They need minimal pruning but if you need to prune do it early spring when the plant breaks into growth, although they will recover from hard pruning.
For maximum fruiting, it is best to train plants against a wall or fence, tying the lax stems on to wires. Wear gloves for protection against spines. Flowers and fruit are formed on the stems that grew in the previous year, so pruning aims to encourage the production of this wood. Prune lightly in early spring, removing dead and badly placed shoots. If necessary, cut overlong stems back to a well-placed branch and remove some of the oldest wood. Renovate shrubs in early spring, reducing the plant to a low framework of branches or cutting close to the base. This is will cause vigourous re-growth, and will initially reduce fruiting.
If you are planting a Goji berry in a pot choose a container with good drainage holes, and use John Innes No 2 potting compost with added grit or sharp sand. Apply a liquid fertiliser (such as tomato feed) fortnightly during the growing season. To restrict growth on plants in containers, cut new growth back by up to half after fruiting in the summer (however, this will reduce the yield next year).
Plants begin to fruit after two-to-three years. Harvest berries from late summer until the first frosts. Only fully ripe fruit are edible. Fruit can turn black when handled so consider harvesting by shaking the berries gently from the plant onto a sheet placed beneath the bush.
Watch out for aphids and netting may be necessary to protect the fruit from birds. The bushes sucker freely and may need to be controlled.
Native to Siberia and therefore very hardy down to -40 degrees Celsius, this edible member of the honeysuckle family is the latest super-fruit on the market. The large elliptical berries are a similar colour and taste to blueberries with a slight after taste of honey. The fruit is very high in antioxidants, loaded with vitamin C and retains flavour and form when frozen.
For the best results plant two or in groups as this will increase the pollination rate and fruit production. Honeyberries do not mind acidic or alkaline soil so make a great alternative for those who struggle to grow blueberries. Plant in full sun to help improve fruit yield as the sun will ripen the wood aswell as the fruit. They will grow up to 1.2m (4ft) in height and spread. They flower late winter to early spring when there is little pollinating insect activity so hand pollination with a small paintbrush may help.
When planting, improve the soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted compost or manure. If you are planting into the ground or into raised beds dig a hole 50cm deep and wide, leave one metre between plants; plant at the same level as it was in the container and firm in. Mulch with well-rotted compost or manure to a depth of 5-7cm (2-3ins), don’t let the mulch touch the stems. Water during dry periods and apply a top dressing of blood, fish and bone or Growmore in the spring.
If you are planting a Gojiberry in a pot choose a container with good drainage holes, and use John Innes No 2 potting compost with added grit or sharp sand. Apply a liquid fertiliser (such as tomato feed) fortnightly after the flowers appear.
Young plants only need dead, diseased and damaged growth removing during the first three years. Pruning should be done on established plants early to mid-summer after harvesting; thin out any overcrowded shoots by removing several branches down to the base to encourage new strong shoots.
Is a thorn less hybrid cross of a blackcurrant and a gooseberry. It combines the large fruit from a gooseberry and the unique taste and vitamin content of a blackcurrant – very nutritious. Very vigorous, upright bush maximum height and spread 1.5m (5ft), producing reliable heavy crops of large shiny black berries – double the size of normal blackcurrants. Flavour is good and berries are rich in Vitamin C – excellent for preserves.
It grows well in cool, temperate regions, because it flowers early it may need frost protection on exposed sites. Plant in a sunny spot, sheltered from cold winds; it will tolerate some shade. Jostaberries are happy in alkaline soil 6.5-7pH and are self -fertile; they are ready for harvest late summer.
When planting improve the soil by digging in plenty of well rotted compost or manure, soak the roots in water for two hours before planting to the same depth of soil as in original container. Plant 1.2 – 1.5m (4-5ft) apart and the same difference between rows then firm in. Mulch the area around the plant but not right up against the stems to preserve moisture and suppress weeds. After planting prune back all the stems to 5cms (2”) just above an outward facing bud, in later years remove 25% of the stems to encourage new growth from the base.
Apply mulch in the spring with well-rotted manure at a depth of 5-7cms (2-3ins) and feed with a balanced fertiliser, rich with nitrogen and potassium at the rate of 35g/sqm (1oz/sqyd). Water in dry conditions but not as fruit ripens or the fruit may split. You may need to net bushes to protect the fruit from birds.
- Gooseberry Hinnonmaki Red.
This is a very hardy and vigorous mid-season, red gooseberry, producing heavy crops of large, sweet, red berries of excellent quality, fruiting in mid-July. The maximum height and spread will be 1m (3ft). It was specifically bred for hardiness and disease resistance and is particularly resistant to mildew making it ideal for organic gardeners. It is an excellent variety for dessert or culinary purposes. It is also a slow growing variety so is ideal for small gardens. Gooseberries are very productive plants when grown in pots, you can get plenty of fruit in a small space; plant in a pot 30cm (1ft) in diameter.
Gooseberries are best grown in a sunny, sheltered spot; they need cool conditions. If summer temperatures are high adequate shade should be given; they will still fruit in the shade but less so. Leave space around the pot, as gooseberries are susceptible to powdery mildew – caused by overcrowding and poor air circulation aswell as insufficient watering. Keep well watered in dry weather and watch out for saw fly as the catapillars will strip the leaves very quickly.
Soak in water for to 2 hours before planting, plant 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) apart in the ground to the same depth of soil as in the original container, firm in. Mulch the area around the plant but not right up against the stems to preserve moisture and suppress weeds. Pruning is not required after planting but in subsequent years prune the new growth on the main branches back by 50% and any side shoots back to 5cms (2”). Net to protect buds from birds and if attacked prune at bud burst to a new bud, keeping the centre of the plant open.
Mulch yearly with well rotted compost or manure to retain moisture and suppress weeds, water in dry periods. They require high potassium levels but avoid feeding the plants with too much nitrogen because this can cause sappy growth, which will be prone to gooseberry mildew. Apply a well-balanced granular fertiliser like Growmore, 100g/sqm (3.5/sqft) in late winter/early spring.
- Blueberry Bluecrop.
This superb mid-season variety is without doubt the leading commercial blueberry to date. Vigorous upright growth reaching 4-6ft at maturity but can be kept compact by growing in a container. The high quality fruit has a good rich flavour and is borne in medium-large open clusters for easy picking from the end of July. The firm berries are light blue in colour and are ideal for all purposes. It has stunning bronze foliage in the autumn followed by attractive red stems in winter. It is frost tolerant.
Plant as soon as possible after purchase, provided weather conditions are suitable. Soak bush for 2 hours in water and plant to the depth of the soil mark on the stem. Plant 1.5m (5ft) apart, tread in firmly and water. Blueberries need acidic soil (4-5.5pH), if the soil is alkaline and not suitable correct it by adding 15cms (6ins) of ericacious compost and dig it in to a depth of 60cms (2ft) or apply Flowers of Sulphate at a rate of 50-120g/sqm (3oz/sqyd).
Or plant in a 20 Litre container or pot 30-38cms (12-15ins) in diameter using ericaceous compost. Blueberries crop better if two or more cultivars are planted close together. Needs no pruning except dead, diseased or damaged stems, mulch yearly with ericacious compost to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
Blueberries have a very fine shallow root –system making them very susceptible to drying out. Use rain water throughout the summer to ensure the soil remains moist, a thorough weekly drench should prove sufficient. Apply Sulphate of Ammonia at a rate of 35g/sqm (1oz/sqyd), Sulphate of Potash 35g/sqm (1oz/sqyd) and Bonemeal 105g/sqm (3oz/sqyd) in the spring.