Care notes for soft fruit

GENERAL:
Soft fruiting plants come in many shapes and sizes.
On arrival of you plant it is best to plant as soon as possible to avoid the plant from drying out.
The best way to plant is to stand the plant with its roots in a bucket of water for about an hour before planting.
This can be done while the ground is being prepared.
Most can be planted straight into the ground or in pots of multi purpose compost.
If planted in pots, they have to be watered and fed regularly.
Species:
Blackberry (rubus):
Blackberries can be planted at anytime of the year.
They are traditionally planted in winter but they can establish better before the ground freezes.
I have planted all year round and the only disadvantage of planting in summer is that you have to wait until the following year for fruit.
The plants supplied will depend on the time of year, they are hard grown outside and have been trimmed and pruned ready for planting.
It is advisable to stand the roots in water for about an hour before planting.
Plant straight into the ground up to the soil mark on the cane.
If there are small white buds appearing from the root ball these must be planted at soil level.
Various training methods can be used depending on your conditions.
After planting it is best to keep them well watered until established to avoid the soil from drying out in summer.
The plants don't like to be sat in water as it can rot the roots, but must be kept damp.
Cranberry (vaccinium):
Cranberries must be planted in acid soil, this is either peat or peaty soil which has a ph of 4 - 3.5.
If the open ground is not acid, cranberries can be grown in a large 12 inch pot of ericaceous compost.
Either method must allow the soil to remain wetter than normal soil but allow drainage.
I find that when grown in a large deep pot stood in a tray with 1 inch of water they grow very well.
This is due to the fact that the plants are shallow rooted and the soil in a deep pot acts as a wick and keeps the plants well watered.
Only water with collected rain water as tap water will bring the ph up and the plants will die.
A top dressing of washed sand will also help the plants from drying out.
The plants are fully hardy and are best grown outside.
When the plants have reached about 10 inches tall the growth starts to fall over.
When there are enough trailing stems, these can be ground layered to produce a larger plant.
Removing the growing tips give the dormant buds in the leaf nodes a chance to burst thru and this produces a really bushy plant.
Raspberry (rubus):
Raspberries can be grown the same as Blackberries.
They have shallow roots so be careful when weeding round the base.
On arrival the plants will be trimmed and pruned ready for planting.
Autumn varieties fruit on new growth, so once planted the old woody canes must be cut back to ground level to direct the plants energy into the developing buds on the roots.
These buds will start into growth in spring, and continue until summer when they start to flower.
Growth on Autumn fruiting variety starts from the roots as they are primocane.
This means they grow and fruit on new canes every year.
Old canes must be removed.
Summer variety need pruning back after fruiting in late summer.
The traditional method of planting is in rows and trained up wires.
Before planting it is advisable to soak the roots for about an hour.
To get a heavier crop it is recommended to trim the tips of the canes when they reach about 6 ft.
Raspberries have a habit of producing suckers that can spread.
The best way is to remove the unwanted ones and let the others form to fill the gaps of any old canes.
When planting in summer it is very important to never allow the plant to dry out.
Even if the leaves look wilted new growth will start from the roots within a couple of months.
This will be the canes that will fruit next year.
It is normal for the growth that is supplied to wilt or die.
This is left on to avoid the roots from drying out during postage.
Strawberry (fragaria):
Strawberries like most soft fruit can be planted all year round if you can find the plants.
They are best grown in full sun to ripen the fruit.
The plants supplied are best planted straight away after soaking the roots for an hour.
I have found that planting thru ground fabric gives good results as it avoids the fruit from getting dirty,
which also helps to maintain moisture in the soil and thus cuts down watering.
If you can wait a year for fruit then the following advice works very well.
The first year remove the flowers to avoid the plants from forming fruit.
This may sound drastic but it puts all the plants energy into producing a very strong and robust plant.
The advantage of this is that the following year the crop from each plant can be as much as 300% greater than ones that have been left to fruit in the first year.
If you have a few plants you could always let a few fruit the first year and remove the flowers on the others.
It is advisable to cover the plants when they are in flower to avoid birds from stealing your crop.
Gooseberry, Blackcurrant, Redcurrant, Whitecurrant (ribes):
Gooseberries and currants are versatile and will grow well on most soil providing they are not allowed to get too wet or dry out.
Best grown in full sun in a sheltered spot.
Plant up to the soil mark on the stem and firm in the ground.
Water well and best to plant in the final position as they can take a season to establish.
Ideal spacing is 2meters.
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