Posts Tagged ‘soft fruit growing’

Growing soft fruits for Beginners

March 1st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

In a few weeks fruit bushes will be bursting into leaf, ready to start a new season of delicious abundance.

Many soft fruits are both heavy cropping and surprisingly easy to grow; and when you consider how much it costs to buy them in the shop, there is every reason to grow them!

If you have never tried growing fruits before, watch this video, it will show you how to grow soft fruits for beginners.



With so many varieties you could be picking fruits from spring all the way through to autumn.

Strawberries will crop the first summer of the planting, and because they aren’t woody plants, the only pruning they need is pruning back the leaves after fruiting.

Fruits that lie on bare sole can rot, you can protect them by laying straw around them when they begin to flower. You can even enjoy a late crop of strawberries by protecting them with row covers or cloches.



There are two types of raspberries: summer fruiting and autumn fruiting or fall bearing .  Autumn fruiting raspberries are the easiest to grow because they only need minimal support to stop them flopping over. Pruning couldn’t be easier too. Simply cut back on the old canes in late winter, ready for new canes to replace them in spring. Autumn fruiting raspberries produces a steady supply of berries from late summer to the first frosts.


Blackberries and Hybrid Berries

Most modern varieties are thornless and their fruits tend to be bigger and sweeter than their wilder counterparts. The canes are vigorous and generally trouble-free. Simply tie them to support to maintain order and cut out old canes to encourage new growth.

Hybrid berries such as boysenberry or tayberry are the result of a cross between the blackberry and other cane fruits; often raspberry or another hybrid. The result are tasty berries, all easy to grow and all juicy and delicious.



With red, white and black currant to choose from you’re immediately spoilt for choice. All currants crop well, producing heavily laid in clusters or streaks of currant to eat fresh, use into sauces or turn into jam or jelly. They also go wonderfully with apples in pies!

Red and white currants prefer cooler climates and will even grow well in shade. If you got a sweet tooth, opt for white currants. Which tend to be a little sweeter than reds.

Blackcurrants require very little care. They even crop when neglected; But prune them in winter to remove some of the older branches, and you will encourage a lot of new, healthy growth and plenty of fruits.



They are near to indestructible and will strive in any soil, though it prefers cooler climates and some shelter from the wind. You can choose between culinary varieties and desert varieties.

Gooseberries will produce their fruits even when neglected, but if you show some care by feeding, pruning and mulching, you will have many fruits to enjoy every summer.

They have been some restrictions for growing gooseberries and currants in the United States. The reason is that they served as intermediary host for the white pine blister rust disease, which is fatale to white pines. Thankfully, modern breedings created varieties resistant to the disease and restrictions have been lifted in most states. However, there are still some restrictions in some area, so make sure to check the situation where you live before planting.


General care

Generally, soft fruits require less space than trees, and are quicker to reach maturity, so you won’t have to wait long before your first pickings. Container growing soft fruits can be planted at any time of year, while bare root fruits are best planted from late Winter to early spring; or in milder climates from autumn onwards.

Keep your soft fruits striving by watering thoroughly once a week in dry weather, especially in the first year.

In spring, top up with mulch, such as compost, to help feed the plants, while improving soil structure. Lay it at least a couple of inches or 5cm thick, taking care to keep it clear of the canes or trunks of the plant.

You may find birds like your fruits as much as you do. Netting or a walk-in fruit cage will keep them off.

While soft fruits are delicious eaten fresh, most currants and berries can also easily be frozen or dried, to enjoy later in the year.



These are just a few tips and ideas to help you grow soft fruits for the first time. If you are already growing fruits let us know which ones in the comments below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page and tell us what you would recomend for beginners.

What to do in the garden in October

October 2nd, 2014 | Garden Diaries, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

As summer started to edge gently into autumn during September, misty mornings gave way to plenty of still-warm days, even if conditions remained overcast rather than sunny for much of the time.  We received very little rainfall in this most westerly corner of Suffolk, and September has been generally a very pleasant month, providing us with, as it often does, an ‘Indian summer’ to enjoy before autumn arrives.

As October now gets underway, autumn now seems to be well and truly on the way, although at the end of September our trial field in Kentford was still full of colour from all the flowers and full of vegetables ready for harvesting.

Photo 11-09-2014 12 57 20

On the whole, we feel this summer has been one of the better ones, although the above-average temperatures we experienced for so much of the time meant many of our annual flowers ‘went over’ rather more quickly than we would have liked.  We are never satisfied, are we?


Jobs in the flower garden in October

Sweet Pea ErewhonWe always like to begin October by looking at sweet peas.  To many keen growers of this favourite annual this is the start of the sweet pea season with seed being sown either in pots to over-winter in a cold frame or greenhouse, or direct in the garden in the plants’ flowering position.  Many sweet pea enthusiasts make their sowings during the first fortnight of the month, but there is a no hard-and-fast rule about this.  Late September through to mid November is the ‘window’ in which many people sow their seed.

There is no doubt that sowing sweet pea seeds in autumn has many benefits.  The resulting plants, which are usually hardy in all but the severest of winters, have a head start come next spring.  They flower earlier and longer than those plants produced from spring-sown seed, so we get more bunches of flowers and for longer.

We offer one of the finest ranges of sweet peas and have a good relationship with Dr Keith Hammett from New Zealand, who is the world’s best breeder of these beautiful flowers.   Browse our range of sweet pea seeds and take a pick of what you fancy in your garden this season.

Calendula grown by one of our Nation of GardenersIt really is not too soon to start thinking about next year’s display of hardy annuals either, so why not direct-sow seed of subjects such as calendula, nigella, candytuft and cornflower during October?

The soil will still be warm, so seedlings will germinate quickly and make enough growth before any hard frosts arrive later in the year to see themselves through the winter, bursting into flower early next summer considerably earlier than seedlings produced from spring-sown seed.  If you have never tried this method before, it really is well worth a go!

While roses are generally given their main prune in February or early March, just before the new season’s growth begins, it is a good idea to cut them back by about half during October, as this stops them being rocked and sometimes disturbed by the wind.  Shrubs such as buddleia and lavatera would benefit from the same treatment.  After giving rose a ‘half-prune’ collect up any remaining foliage from the soil to prevent the development of fungal diseases which can attack the plants.

Tulip bulb collectionThis is the month when many of us start planting spring-flowering bulbs.  Hyacinths, daffodils (narcissi) and croci (we still use the old fashioned plural!) can all be planted during October, but delay tulip planting until late in the month or into November, as this will tend to help them prevent being attacked by tulip fire disease.  We think all these bulbs look best planted in informal drifts and close together to create dense patches of colour.  Remember too the great majority of spring bulbs can also be planted in containers where they will flower successfully.  Bulbs are surely the easiest of all flowers to grow – it is virtually a case of plant them and forget them!

Pansy BeaconsfieldAs half-hardy annuals, bedding and container plants start to fade, pull these up and add them to the compost heap.  They can be replaced either by pansies, violas, primroses and polyanthus, which will all give a welcome splash of colour during milder winter spells, or by spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and hyacinths.  Dwarf daffodils are particularly versatile because they look great in beds and at the front of borders and are also perfect for planting in containers close to the house.  Remember to plant a tub or two of hyacinths near the house too, so you can appreciate their heady perfume every time you come out of the door next March and April.

If dahlias are still flowering into October, keep removing any dead-heads to encourage them to keep on blooming until they are cut down by the first frosts of autumn.  No need to lift the tubers until the foliage has been blackened by a hard frost or two.  Only store sound specimens, keeping them somewhere dry, cool and frost-free over the winter.


Jobs in the vegetable garden in October

Brussels sproutsWe particularly enjoy October in the vegetable garden, as this is the month when the traditional winter vegetables are just becoming ready to harvest.  Parsnips, leeks, Brussels sprouts, savoy cabbages and kale now take over from summer crops of runner and French beans, courgettes and sweet corn – and are every bit as eagerly anticipated.

We know you can buy so many vegetables all the year round from the supermarkets, but we sometimes wonder where the fun is in that?  As a certain book tells us ‘To every thing there is a season‘, and this is the season for parsnips and Brussels sprouts!

Autumn sown broad beans from our Nation of Gardeners

October means it’s also time to sow broad bean seeds and look forward to that early crop next May.  Aguadulce is a splendid choice, as is Bunyards Exhibition.  In colder areas the seed and seedlings will benefit from a little fleece protection.  Aguadulce produces small, fine beans of lovely quality and flavour, while ‘Bunyards’ generally gives larger beans and one or two more per pod.

Pea MeteorWhere you have a spare patch or two in the vegetable garden or on the allotment, how about an October sowing of early peas?  Meteor is probably still the best early pea for autumn sowing, even if it has been about for donkeys’ years!  It only grows to around 2ft tall, does well even in exposed sites and will provide you with that unforgettable first picking of home-grown peas early next summer.  It’s what vegetable gardening is all about, surely!

If you are growing pumpkins, squashes and marrows, cut these and bring them in before the first frosts arrive.  It is best if pumpkins and squashes can be left in the greenhouse or cold frame for a week or two to ‘cure’ before being put into storage.  Pumpkins will be in demand from youngsters as Hallowe’en approaches at the end of the month.

Runner beans will just about be over now, so they too can be pulled up and composted.  The top growth of Jerusalem artichokes can be cut down virtually to the ground, chopped up and added to the compost heap.  Maincrop carrots can continue to be lifted as required.  Our light, free-draining soil has yielded some excellent crops this year and the quality of some of the roots of our F1 hybrid varieties has been very good indeed.  The seed may be more expensive than that of open-pollinated varieties, but at harvest time it is easy to see how worthwhile the little additional cost is.

Chilli PeppersIf you have not already so, harvest any remaining chilli peppers.  Green fruits tend not to be as hot as orange and red ones, but take care when preparing any of them.  It is a good idea to wear disposable, clear plastic gloves when handling and chopping them because it is so easy to touch close to your eyes with your hand while preparing them, which is not a pleasant experience.  Remember that any glut of chillis can be frozen and used throughout the year until next year’s crop is ready.

There is still time to plant garlic, shallots and over-wintering onion sets in the garden in October to provide an early crop next summer.  Once planted, they require very little attention, but do keep any competition from weeds to a minimum.  They are much more susceptible to poor drainage than they are to low temperatures and, given good drainage, they are hardy even in very cold winters.  Garlic in particular generally produces heavier and better crops from an autumn planting than from a spring one.

The first frosts may mean winter is well on the way, but we welcome them if only because Brussels sprouts and parsnips both taste sweeter once they have been ‘frosted’.  It’s a matter of personal opinion, of course, but in our view a couple of frosts seem to concentrate the flavour of these vegetables.


Jobs in the fruit garden in October


We know that technically rhubarb is a vegetable, but because it is used mainly in dessert dishes we think of it more as a fruit.  We have a real treat for all rhubarb lovers, because now they can enjoy those succulent, sweet sticks from September to November.  Our Livingstone rhubarb plant is the first autumn-cropping variety, it’s British bred and has had its summer dormancy eliminated; this is what causes rhubarb to stop cropping by the middle of summer.  So for the first time you can now combine fresh rhubarb with other autumn fruits to create mouth-watering desserts such as rhubarb, apple and blackberry crumble.

Livingstone yields an excellent crop of high quality, deep red skinned stems. It’s very easy to grow – just incorporate some bonemeal or organic matter when planting and, once established, it will crop heavily from September onwards.  It can be ordered from us now for planting this autumn.  It is delicious and we are sure you will enjoy it.

On already established plants in the garden you will now find that rhubarb leaves have died back.  The dormant crowns will benefit from a 3in mulch of well-rotted garden compost or farmyard manure.  If you feel any clump is now too large, lift and divide it, getting rid of the central section and re-planting the younger sections from round the outside of the crown.

Nation of Gardeners results: Blackcurrant Big Ben

March 21st, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

We are all familiar with the traditional varieties of blackcurrant which produce small and round darkly coloured fruits, ideal for adding to pies and for making jam. However, modern blackcurrant breeding has produced two varieties which produce fruit more than double the size of standard types and, are sweet enough to eat straight from the bush. Blackcurrant Big Ben is a variety selected for these qualities.

Our Nation of Gardeners were asked to plant Blackcurrant Big Ben in February 2014 as part of a trial to test it’s yield and flavour.   The gardeners were asked to record details such as when the plant produces its first fruit from date of planting, yield and size of fruit, and the flavour to check for any variations around the country.

The table below charts their progress.

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 17 February 11 March Planted in open ground in West facing part of garden.  4 degrees C at time of planting.
Renfrewshire 28m Planted to pots
North Devon 30-50m 20 February Planted in open ground in North East facing part of garden – intended to form part of an edible hedge eventually.  10 degrees C at time of planting.
Worcestershire 55m 15 March 15 March Planted in open ground in South facing part of garden.  12 degrees C at time of planting.
Derbyshire 39m
Cumbria 90m 15 February Planted in exposed site in very wet well manured soil
Ceredigion 131m 20 February 6 March Planted in open ground in South West facing part of garden.  8 degrees C at time of planting
Bristol 55m 17 February 19 February Planted in open ground in South facing part of garden.  10 degrees C at time of planting
Suffolk 6m 19 February Planted in open ground in West facing part of garden.
Hertfordshire 150m 19 February 7 March Planted in open ground in South East facing part of garden.
Surrey 58m 20 February 5 March Planted in raised bed in South East facing part of garden.  6 degrees C at time of planting.
Pontypridd 157m 20 February 6 March Planted in open ground in South facing part of garden.  16 degrees C high and zero degrees C low at time of planting.  Loads of buds on plant very strong and growth was soon seen.
Buckinghamshire 66m 21 February Planted into pots.
Guildford 56m 23 February 3 March Planted outside in raised beds. Trimmed down to a couple of inches to encourage bushy growth.  3 March: looks healthy with new shoots appearing.
Gloucestershire 74m
Derbyshire 241m Heeled in 15 Feb.  Planted properly 23 Feb 21 March Planted in open ground in South facing part of garden.  4 degrees C at time of initial heeling in.

Nation of Gardeners results: Blackberry Rueben

December 9th, 2013 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Blackberry RuebenBlackberry Rueben is the World’s first primocane blackberry, meaning that it fruits in its first season on the current season’s wood.  The berries are large – some as large as a plum – and are sweet eating with a manageable habit. Blackberry Reuben can be grown against a warm fence, wall or even in a large container on the patio with canes for support.

Our Nation of Gardeners were asked to plant Blackberry Rueben in November 2013 to test whether this variety performs consistently in all areas across the UK and so fruiting in late summer 2014 will be charted following this autumn 2013 planting.  The table below charts their progress.

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 12 November 18 November 3 flowers visible and a 3cm growth recorded 30/11/13
Renfrewshire 28m 9 November Planted in large terracotta pot. Plant was destroyed by December storms on 29 December.
North Devon 30-50m 11 November Planted into a pot, with plans to relocate to open ground before end of year
Worcestershire 55m 10 November Planted into shallow raised bed. 17 November: plant looks healthy
Derbyshire 39m 10 November Planted in open bed with ph7
Cumbria 90m 8 November 10 November Planted into open ground, healthy and happy plant 2 days later.
Ceredigion 131m 8 November Planted in open ground in partial sunny position.
Bristol 55m 10 November Planted against a SW facing fence in sheltered position.
Suffolk 6m 10 November Planted against a west facing fence in the veg garden
Hertfordshire 150m 23 November 27 November Planted next to a East facing fence with no added compost or manure
Surrey 58m
Pontypridd 157m 10 November 21 November A flower appeared 21 November
Buckinghamshire 66m 10 November The plant has flowered in November
Guildford 56m
Gloucestershire 74m 7 November 22 November 22 November, starting to show autumn colours
Derbyshire 241m 9 November 16 November Planted into open ground. ph7.5, sunny position. Some buds forming by 16 November but not blooming.  23 December: the stem broken by high winds about two thirds down.  Not sure if enough foliage left for it to survive.  Pruned to below the break leaving 3 tatty leaves.

Nation of Gardeners results: Strawberry Sweetheart

November 15th, 2013 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Our Nation of Gardeners were asked to plant 12 bare root plants of variety Strawberry Sweetheart in November 2013 to test raising these bare root plants over winter in the open ground.  Mr Fothergill’s believes that autumn planted strawberries benefit from planting at this time in order to gain best fruiting results the following summer and so this will test this theory.   The table below charts their progress.

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 12 November 15 November x13 plants growing well
Renfrewshire 28m 9 November 12 November x8 planted.   Planted in plastic veg trough.  Noticeable greening of the leaves and fresh growth 3 days after planting.
North Devon 30-50m 11 November
Worcestershire 55m 10 November Planted x6 into shallow raised bed and x6 into deep bed
Derbyshire 39m 10 November Planted into a raised bed with ph7
Cumbria 90m 8 November Planted into open ground x 10 plants
Ceredigion 131m 8 November Planted into raised bed in sunny aspect.
Bristol 55m 10 November end November Planted into raised bed.  Showing lush new green leaves by end November/start December.
Suffolk 6m 10 November mid November Planted into open ground.  Healthy growth observed within days of planting.
Hertfordshire 150m 12 November 14 November Planted x10 (gave x2 to neighbour who planted his on the 13th and saw growth on the 16th)
Surrey 58m
Pontypridd 157m 10 November
Buckinghamshire 66m 1 December
Guildford 56m
Gloucestershire 74m 5 November 10 November Planted into open ground. Healthy growth of all 12 plants observed 22 November
Derbyshire 241m 9 November mid November Planted into strawberry pots onto the patio. The leaves took on a healthier green within a few days of planting, with growth in size of leaf evident within a couple of weeks.