May 9, '23
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Raspberries can be split into two groups: summer-bearing and ever-bearing. Summer-bearing produce only one crop in summer, whilst ever-bearing will continue to produce fruit throughout the season. Summer-bearing contain the most popular and widely sold varieties. Raspberries are self-pollinating and do not require a second plant.
Summer-bearing raspberries produce fruit on 2-yr old canes and thus an annual pruning regime is necessary to ensure optimal fruit production. Prune out any canes that are older than 2 years as these will no longer produce fruit. Old canes can easily be differentiated from new ones as these are brown and woody as opposed to the new green ones. Ever-bearing raspberries produce fruit largely on 1-yr canes, so a heavy annual pruning is recommended. Be sure to leave a few 2-yr canes as the these will carry the spring crop, followed by an autumn crop on the first-year canes. Also prune both groups to control vigor and allow more sunlight and air to penetrate plants.
Select a location with full sun and good drainage for maximum fruit production. Keep plants watered until established. Some plants, depending on variety, will require support. Raspberries start bearing fruit in their second season. Depending on the variety, plants may benefit from support. Apply netting over plants to minimize any bird damage.
Blueberries can be divided into 4 groups: highbush, lowbush, hybrid half-high and rabbiteye. Most popular and widely sold varieties are members of the highbush group. Blueberries are self-pollinating but higher yields are obtained by cross-pollination with other plants.
Blueberries thrive in an acidic soil, so be sure to test the pH of your soil and adjust it accordingly. Ideally the pH should be between 4-5. To lower pH use sulphur for more rapid results, or peat moss, pine needles or pine bark. Plants enjoy a full-sun location with a rich, well-drained soil. Be aware that blueberries have shallow root systems, so mulch plants well and ensure they do not dry out. Once established, blueberries respond well to annual fertilizer applications. Be sure to use an acidic fertilizer (10-10-10) or ammonium sulfate. Once plants are mature, selectively prune out old, damaged or stray- growing branches annually.
Currants are an excellent crop to grow as they are generally trouble-free and produce large quantities of fruit. Both currants are quite adaptable and perform well in a wide range of conditions. Ideally they favor a full-sun location with a well-drained soil and good air-circulation, although they are tolerant of part-shade. Plants are self-pollinating, meaning a single plant will produce fruit. Both red and black currants can be eaten as is, although traditionally black currants tend to be used more for jams, sauces, juices, liquors and desserts; as these are a little more tart. Black currants are extremely healthy, being very rich in vitamin C and containing twice the antioxidants of blueberries! Red currants are often consumed fresh, or also made into jams, juices and desserts.
Red currants produce fruit solely on 2 or 3-yr old wood, whilst black currants produce a little fruit on 1- yr wood and the rest on 2-yr wood. As a result, black currants receive a harder prune than red currants. It is important with both currants to always maintain wood that is 2-3yrs old, after which the old wood can be pruned out, as it will no longer produce fruit, and this encourages the plant to put up new wood. When differentiating between old and new wood, know that new wood is smooth, whilst old wood becomes rougher and darker as it ages. If uncertain, prune out wood after fruiting. In addition, prune out any dead, damaged or crossing branches. To protect the fruits from birds be sure to apply netting.
Gooseberries are very easy to grow and quite trouble-free. They prefer a sunny location but will equally tolerate shade conditions, although this may lower fruit production. Fruit is produced on 2 and 3-yr old wood, so be sure to maintain a good balance of old and new wood, and when pruning remove wood older than 3yrs. Be aware that gooseberries can grow into a wild, unruly thicket if left unpruned, so be sure to carry out regular pruning. Gooseberries do have spines along their stems, so always wear gloves when handling them.
Blackberries are another easy, robust plant to grow that produce large quantities of fruit. Plants can be divided into two groups: upright and trailing. Trailing forms have long arching stems and will require some form of support. All plants enjoy full sun and a rich, well-drained soil. To avoid plants drying out, apply mulch and ensure plants have a rich soil. To amend soils, add or apply an organic fertilizer in early spring. Blackberries produce fruit on 2-yr canes, after which these die, thus old and dead canes should be pruned out annually to encourage new growth. Plants can be quite vigorous so exercise pruning to control growth habits. Plants are self-pollinating.
Many grapes are self-pollinating, but always be sure to check when selecting a new variety. Grapes thrive in full sun, with ample air circulation and good drainage to avoid any disease occurrence. Be sure to provide plants with some form of support, i.e. trellis or fence, and consider using grape plants as a living wall or a green canopy. Grapes produce fruit on new growth and thus annual pruning is required to ensure a high yield. Plants should be pruned back heavily each year, always selecting a few new stems to train along your support, and removing the rest. Allow fruit to remain on plants until fully ripened. Apply netting over plants to avoid bird damage to fruit.
Also known as the Bensonhurst Purple Fig, this fig is native to Sicily and is fully hardy to a zone 5. Do not despair if you experience some dieback of topgrowth after a harsh winter, the plant will quite happily resprout from its extensive root system. Chicago Hardy is known for producing abundant amounts of medium-sized, sweet purple fruits on two crops in one season; the first fruit in early summer on old wood, followed by the second fruit in autumn on new wood. Plants are self-pollinating. When selecting a suitable location be aware that plants can ultimately reach mature heights of 15-30ft, so allow enough space. Ideally plants prefer full sun but will also tolerate part-sun. The attractive, deeply-lobed foliage makes this quite an ornamental tree in addition to its desirable fruit.
Strawberries can be divided into two main groups: June-bearing and Ever-bearing. June-bearing are the more popular of the two as these are larger in size, however they only produce a single crop per year. Ever-bearing produce fruits throughout the season, yet the fruits are smaller. The choice of strawberry is personal preference, but also based on whether gardeners wish to process strawberries, i.e. make jam, in which case a large single harvest is ideal, or whether they would like to nibble throughout the seasons. Both strawberries benefit greatly from full sun and a rich, well-drained soil. Although strawberries do enjoy a slightly acidic soil, it is not essential. Be aware that strawberries spread via runners, so always be sure to allow plants enough space to spread. Strawberries are ideal for filling in an area. Always mulch plants as this will help keep fruits off the ground and thereby reduce any rotting. Straw is ideal, otherwise shredded leaves or pine needles, the latter having the advantage of acidifying the soil over time. Be sure to thin plants out over the years to avoid a dense mat that will result in reduced fruiting. In lieu of applying conventional fertilizer, instead apply a layer of compost following the harvest (initial harvest for Ever-bearing) or an organic slow-release fertilizer.