Here is a list of the easiest soft fruit I grow in my garden. If you are going to grow fruit and vegetables, I think soft fruit is a great place to start. The fruit is delicious, and will save you a fortune. And, it is not hard to grow them – despite the rumours to the contrary.
Possibly the easiest of the soft fruit varieties that you can grow, blackberry is so vigorous that you can practically cut it to the floor every year and it won’t suffer from it at all. The fruit is plentiful, and there aren’t that many pests that will attack it.
I guess the downside of blackberry is that firstly once ripened it is best picked before it rains, since sometimes the fruits can attract maggots. And secondly that it has very strong thorns that will prickle you when you pick the fruit or prune it.
You can reduce these problems by spending a little money and getting a thorn-less variety. They taste just as good as other varieties of blackberry but are much easier to manage.
Even if you don’t grow them yourself, you can often find them around in hedgerows in the countryside. Fifty years ago people just picked them. These days, it is best to avoid them if they are too near a busy road. But if you can find some in a secluded field they are still delicious.
There are many uses for them, including eating them raw with cream, blackberry and apple crumble, and jams.
Currents – Red, Black and white
Currents are very easy to grow from cuttings, or you can buy them in the shops. Depending on your proclivities, you may decide to prune them like they tell you in gardening books. Frankly, I don’t bother. A little top dressing with manure every spring, and they provide a plentiful supply. The only difficulty thing is to net them. Otherwise the Birds will gobble them down.
This is half and half. Gooseberries are not difficult to grow, in fact they are very easy... if it weren’t for the fact that they do attract butterlies. A gooseberry bush can be stripped raw in a day or so. So constant vigilance is necessary. For an organic gardener there is not much choice but to pick them off. This is not a pleasant experience.
The gooseberry is delicious when cooked. Personally I don’t like them when raw although many people do.
This is a rare mixture, similar to Blackberry in many respects. It makes absolutely delicious fruit. I haven’t grown one yet, and the gardening books do describe pruning in detail. I guess if we grew them here, we would dispense with the instructions to a degree.
Raspberry's provide delicious fruit, and they do require a certain amount of effort when planting, because they will be in the same place for many years. If you can give them a nice sunny spot with sandy soil, they will reward you for years without any real hassle at all.
Suggestions for planting and caring
I think soft fruit has a reputation for being difficult because many gardeners look at the descriptions in the gardening books and think they should follow them exactly. And, in many respects, if you do so you will get great results.
If you are like me, you will find yourself not bothering so much with the detailed pruning instructions.
As long as you remember whether the fruit flowers on this years or ext years wood, you are often good to go. In the main all you need to do is keep it tidy. This kind of approach to gardening will not get you the ‘best’ results but will get you good results, without having to spend hundreds of hours fussing over plants.
I guess this is my personal gardening philosophy coming out: if you are not a professional gardener, doing something for money, you can be a little more lazy with your gardening techniques. If you don’t get 100% of the possible fruit... but get enough for delicious treats for the family, that is enough in my opinion.
In general I suggest not planting soft fruit in the same place twice, and making sure to start several fruit patches, because these plants often die off after five to ten years.
The main thing to do is make sure that you net the fruit every year. The easiest way to do this is to get plastic piping, like they use for insulation or for hosepipes, and form a small netting poly-tunnel covering the plants. Alternatively, if you have some time on your hands and a bit of DIY skill, a fruit cage is a good idea. But it will take a bit of ingenuity to construct. We’re planning to build one eventually, but it may take a few years.
Until then, we’ll use our home made poly-tunnel solution.
In general, with all of these fruits you can simply cook them and freeze them, so once you’ve picked them you can enjoy great homemade summer puddings, pies and crumbles almost all year round.