Growing berries is not for the faint hearted: they have fierce thorns, troublesome pruning rules and require heaps of commitment (and hardware) in protecting ripening fruit from wildlife.
There are many berries to choose from and apart from your palette, your climate will be the obvious factor when deciding what berry to choose. Berry canes and plants are widely available through mail-order companies for us to grow at home - strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Berry lovers will also be impressed with blackberry hybrids such as silvanberry, marionberry, loganberry, youngberry and boysenberry. Winter planting is upon us and at least during the hard work of establishing your own berry patch, you can dream of harvesting berries for the next year's summer puddings!
Facts: Deciduous cane bearing shrub, above growth / the canes are temporary, roots are the only permanent part of the plant, fruiting November - April, grows from suckers, requires pruning, grows 1.5m tall, plant 40cm apart.
Climate: Must be grown in climates with a minus 1 minimum temperature in winter (not for warm climates). Enjoys cold climates only.
How to grow: Research indicated that raspberries should be grown as a hedgerow or as clumps a metre apart, pretty irrelevant really as soon you will have a forest of suckers arising some distance away from the original crown. Canes should be clamped between pairs of parallel wires, or bunched together to encourage a neat arched framework to pick your berries from. Shorted canes can be plaited into the longer canes for more support. A sturdy 2.5m post in each corner of your bed will be essential when it comes to providing the wire support the hedgerow will need and for the bird netting to be attached to.
Varieties: The two raspberries I have had experience with are 'Chilliwack' and 'Heritage – both delectable! Digger's catalogue says 'Chilliwack' have sturdy, almost thornless canes which carry sweet fat fruit in mid-summer. A traditional type needing older canes that have fruited to be pruned off and current canes to overwinter, so canes that have fruited should be pruned directly after fruiting and new canes from current year's growth to be left! 'Chilliwack' is a summer fruiting raspberry that holds fruit well on the canes so you can revisit every few days to pick fruit at premium ripeness. 'Heritage' has huge yields in autumn only and is easier to prune as you can cut the entire plant down in winter.
Pruning: Pruning can be done in summer or winter, simply remove the canes that have just fruited and then bundle the new season canes (that haven't yet fruited) together and weave them together or onto the trellis, making it easy to remove them after fruiting next year. It also makes it easy to see the fruit, not lost in a forest of leaves and spikes.
Blackberry & blackberry hybrids
Facts: Deciduous cane bearing shrub, above growth / the canes are temporary, roots are the only permanent part of the plant, summer fruiting Nov to Feb, grows from suckers, winter pruning, many garden friendly hybrids, grows 2m high, plant 1-3m apart.
Climate: Cool climate only but some hybrids such as loganberries and youngberries are better suited to warm climates.
How to grow: Blackberries need training along a trellis to tame them into a garden friendly shape. The problem is that as each shoot grows over, it arches to the ground, and takes root – its important to avoid this and instead hold the cane and tie it to the trellis.
Varieties: Loganberries are thornless and perfectly suited to the home garden; they must ripen on the bush to gain their full sweetness. The thorny boysenberries are better thornless. Silvanberries fruit over a longer period. Marionberries have better flavoured but produce less than other berries. Youngberries are very similar to boysenberry but with sweeter and shinier berries. Pruning: Those growing logan, boysen and young should prune back to 4 buds above ground level in late spring to encourage more branching.
The Ross Family