Growing Berries

Berries are some of the easiest fruits to grow in the UK. They require very little attention, produce abundant masses of fruit each year, and the only pests you’re likely to encounter are birds.

Berries can be classified into two sub-categories: cane fruit, and bush fruit. Cane fruit includes blackberries and raspberries. They are incredibly easy to grow, and if you prune them once a year, they’ll grow masses of fruit for you for decades to come. Bush fruit include blueberries and gooseberries.

Blackberries and Raspberries

Blackberries will grow almost anywhere and are often found colonising vast areas of uncultivated land. Choose a sunny site and dig in plenty of rich, organic matter and remove perennial weed roots that will compete with your crop if left to grow. Buy plants from a respected nursery and ensure they are disease-free. Blackberry plants bought from a nursery are much tamer and safe to plant in your garden.

Plant them in early spring in moist, well-prepared soil, about 1.5m apart. Cut the plants down to a height of just 15cm and water well. Apply a good, organic mulch such as straw or compost, and top-dress each spring with well-rotted animal manure.

Raspberries prefer to grow in a sunny spot in well-drained, sandy soils packed with plenty of rich, organic matter. Prepare the soil by digging in plenty of organic mater such as garden compost, and removing any perennial weed roots.

Most raspberry plants are sold as one-year-old canes. If you have the space, consider growing both summer and autumn varieties as this will prolong the season.

Plant them in the ground and space them 50cm-1m apart. Cut the canes down to ground level and water well. When they start to show signs of new growth, support them with sturdy posts and tie them in. Prune them yearly to encourage heavy cropping.

Growing Blueberries

Blueberries require a very acid soil that is well-drained and crammed full of rich, organic matter. To tell if your soil is acid you can look to see if there are any acid loving plants thriving in your neighbours’ gardens. These plants include rhododendrons and camellias. You can also use a soil ph testing kit, which you can buy in most garden centres. If the ph ranges from 4.0 to 5.2, you have an ideal soil for blueberries. Most soils come with a ph of between 5.0 and 7.0 however, and are not suitable for growing them.

If grown in a soil, which has too much lime (with a ph of 5.0 and above), blueberries can’t absorb iron. This leads to an iron deficiency in the plant, which means they won’t grow properly, will produce very little, if any fruit, and could die. An old gardeners’ trick of dealing with this is to place the plants over a pile of nails to increase the amount of iron available to the roots. Most gardeners, however, feed their acid-loving plants with a sequestered iron liquid feed, or grow them in pots filled with ericaceous compost.

Blueberries grow well in pots due to their fussy soil requirements, though they should always be fed with rain water, as tap water contains lime. They enjoy full sun or partial shade, and you should grow two plants so they cross-fertilise and produce bigger yields.

Plant the bushes in pots at any time of the year, and in autumn or spring if you’re putting them straight into the ground. Prepare the soil by digging in plenty of rich, organic matter, and include chipped bark or sawdust as these usually contain high levels of acid. If the plant has any flower buds or signs of new growth, remove these so it focuses its energy on generating a healthy root system, place in a hole 50cm deep and wide, an firm the soil around the stem gently. Space plants 1.5m apart. Keep the plant well watered and never let the plant grow out (if you’re short on rain water, mix a little vinegar in some tap water and use that as a substitute).

Feeding Berries

Organic feeds are best as they don’t impair the flavour of the berries or lower their nutritional value as chemical-based fertilisers do. They also help the plants grow at the rate they are supposed to, which leads to less risk of attack from pests such as aphids. Use a pelleted organic chicken manure or seaweed feed during the growing season, and mulch with an acidic dressing such as bark, sawdust or leaf mould.

Pick the fruit as it ripens, and cover with netting to protect from birds if necessary. Once you have started growing your own berries, you won’t want to stop. They produce masses of fruit that you can eat raw, cook in desserts or add to ice creams. And the health benefits of eating berries regularly are immense.

17 thoughts on “Growing Berries

  1. Allotmenteers says:

    Supports on our allotment blackberry canes have rotted and quite a few blackberry canes became rampant. I decided to do a general overhaul and cut all the canes down to ground level. I would like to train then properly so can you advise me what to do when & if they recover from the treatment they’ve have. Many thanks

  2. Dick says:

    I have several Jostberry bushes here in Birmingham about 5 years old but they have brown patches on the leaves. Am I able to send a picture? Advice appreciated

  3. Matt23 says:

    I’ve a gooseberry blackcurrent and raspberrys growing in a raised bed. Should I feed with sequested iron and seaweed?

    • Rose says:

      @Matt23 – I’d personally feed with an organic feed such as blood fish and bone and the occasional feed of a fertiliser high in potash, liquid tomato feeds. Don’t forget to prune the bottom branches.

  4. gardener says:

    I have read that raspberries like acid soil, is it possible to grow them in ericaceous soil ? I have two small canes that I want to grow in a large pot.

    • Fruit Expert says:

      @gardener – If you are growing raspberries in a pot, to get the best results use a soilless potting mix and add a balanced 10-10-10 timed-release fertilizer when planting. If you decided to grow your fruit in the garden or in a bed instead, raspberries thrive in fertile, well-drained, moisture-retentive, slightly acidic/sandy soils and as specified in the article, they dislike weeds and weed roots.

  5. Allotment girl says:

    I have a Chilean guava plant on my allotment. It is grown on an ercaceons bed with blueberries.It is about 5 years old but I have never had a crop.What do I need to do Please?

  6. Turquoise Shaman says:

    Hi! I am super bummed out. For the second year in a row, my triple crown blackberry vines are not producing fruit on the floricanes. I have read every web page on growing triple crown blackberries I can find. They all say that the vines bear fruit from second year canes, i.e. that canes that grow one year will bear fruit the following year. For two years running now, I have had the following scenario repeat itself: One year, the vines grow huge, long canes. I have pruned them and trellised them according to all the youtube videos and blackberry growing web pages. They are super healthy plants and I feed and water them well, etc. They are totally free of disease, etc. Those canes over winter just fine, and the following year those same canes just sit there without putting out new leaves or fruits, they just sit there and do nothing. This year I had one exception – one small second year cane did put out leaves and does have blackberries growing on it. It began in the spring and looks like the berries will be ready in mid to late summer, as would be normal. But the vine next to it, which has second year canes as long as twelve feet, are just sitting there doing nothing, just like the last batch of second year canes on that same plant. There is one small node on one of the floricanes on that plant, on the very bottom near the base of the plant, which has leaves and looks like it will make one blackberry. What in the world is going on? They have full sun, vigorous growth, all the right food and water, no disease, etc. What is the secret to getting floricanes to come back to life and put out leaves and berries? Is there something I need to do to stimulate them to grow as they are supposed to? Is it too late this year to do anything about it? (It’s June 17th as I type this, and I live in Golden Colorado.) I have another type of blackberry plant near by, three plants called Prime Ark 45. They all do what all the web pages say blackberry plants are supposed to do. They put out canes one year, and fruit like crazy all over those same canes the following year. They also put out new leaves on those second year canes as they do. And I prune the spent canes afterward just like I’m supposed to. They get all the same food and water and are near to the triple crown plants in the same full sun. So clearly it is not the environment, it is the species. Does triple crown have some special need that I am not meeting? This year’s new growth on the triple crowns (especially as I have pruned them and laterals are preparing to go utterly wild with length and will fill up the trellis) looks like I may have 15 foot or longer new vines. I don’t want to do all the work of trellising the new vines just to have them sit there next year as if they are dead, like the other second year canes on these same plants have done for two years in a row now. The plants are at least three years old. Finally, should I go ahead and cut off the second year

  7. Jinks says:

    I have a goji berry bush and want to know how to prune, it is in a pot upagainst a sunny wall, very leggy small leaves. Was at house when i moved in, think about by looking at it 2years old?

  8. Scuba12345 says:

    I’m in the first year of growing fruit and veg. Just need some advice for next year. What fruit can i grow in a greenhouse and what do i grow it in. Please help.

  9. BEE says:

    I have a large berry bush which I understand is called a Rosta berry, this I have been told is a cross between a Blackberry and Gooseberry, the fruit is just like a blackberry but larger. I would like to know how and when to prune it. Thank you. Brian.

    • Mark says:

      @BEE Hi Brian, Do you mean Jostaberry? If so it’s best to prune in late winter, cutting out broken or drooping branches.

  10. worriedredcurrant says:

    I don’t know if this is the right place to be asking, but so far I am having no luck. I have been growing redcurrants for 4 years now, I noticed the other day that there is a white almost foamy substance coming out of the main stem of the bush all the way up one side in clumps. It seems to be breaking through the bark on the stem as the bark is broken in places and the white substance is coming out. It seems to be more apparent where a branch meets the stem and the white substance is coming out of the join, where the branch and stem meet. I can only assume this is a fungus or infection of some kind, but can not diagnose it from anywhere. Can anyone help and enlighten me as to what it is and what I can do about it?

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