Grow Your Own Bush Soft Fruit

Bush Soft Fruit

Bush Soft Fruit
Bush Soft Fruit Blackcurrants
Picking your own ‘Home grown’ fruit from the Garden is one of the most satisfying and fulfilling tasks a gardener ever undertakes. I remember as a small boy, I used to pest my mother whenever the blackcurrants in the garden started to turn shiny black’ can we start picking Mum ? There was an ulterior motive, of course ; my mother used to make loads of blackcurrant jam in a big jam pan and my sister and I were allowed to scrape out the residue to eat after the jam had been poured- I can still taste that sweet aromatic flavour!

The most popular Bush Soft fruits are : Blackcurrants; White and Red Currants: Gooseberries: Raspberries have quite different cultural requirements, so I will deal with those another time.


The Blackcurrant is a very easy plant to grow. It will require a good rich soil if it is to produce a reasonable yield – say 5 – 6 kilos of fruit per bush. The best time to plant – whether bare root or pot grown- is mid November to Mid March ( this also applies to Red and White Currants and Gooseberries ) Make sure you buy 2 year old Certified plants and that they have at least 3 strong shoots. I still prefer to use bare rooted stock as generally you will get stronger plants. When planting any fruit trees or bushes I always recommend that you incorporate a mycorrhizal soil improver into the planting process , this is basically a living fungi preparation that attaches itself to the plants roots and has the effect of protecting the plant against harmful deceases and also helps the plant to take up all the nutrients it requires. The best know of these additives is Root Grow. It is available from most Garden Centres and is recommended by the RHS.

When planting your bushes plant them a bit deeper than the original soil level, the idea here is to encourage as much shoot growth as possible. The Blackcurrant mostly fruits on the previous seasons wood and therefore you will need to keep a good supply of new shoots coming through each year.

When you first plant your bushes , trim back the existing shoots to just 2 buds from the base, this may seem a bit drastic, but it will encourage a strong root system and a large crown, which is what you need.

Planting distance is about 1.5 to 2.0 metres apart. After planting top dress with Bone Meal which will give the bushes a nice long feed of nutrients. Weed control is most important. You should not use any chemical weed control for obvious reasons, so I find either a deep mulch of compost or some weed control fabric will solve the problem. Pruning is done in the winter and is really just a matter of taking out a large percentage of the old wood that has already fruited, and keeping the centre of the bush open to aid in ripening. These days there are some really high yielding varieties thanks to the breeding programmes that have been in place since the Blackcurrant became a major soft drink ingredient.

These are a few I would recommend: Ben Lomond: Ben More: Ben Sarek – this is a dwarf variety and is very suitable for container growing – Wellington XXX , an old variety , but it still has the best sweet flavour of all the Blackcurrants.

White and Red Currants

These two currants are basically the same plant within which there are varieties that produce either red or white currants. It is usually quite difficult to purchase these currants from shops or supermarkets, so growing your own is often the only way to get them. The Red is quite tart and is usually only used for culinary purposes – Jellies, Pies and so on – or just for decoration- whereas the White has quite a pleasant grape like flavour and can be served as a desert fruit . The Red and White – though still closely related to the Blackcurrant are totally different in their cultural requirements. The fruit of the Red and White are mostly produced on 2 and 3 old year wood, so to encourage as much fruiting as possible when pruning it is best to concentrate on keeping the bush nice and open and only to remove old and tired branches. If you want to be really exacting then ’Spur Pruning’ will make sure you retain as much fruiting wood as possible; this entails trimming back the previous years growth to within 2 buds of the main stems.

If you do this each year you will build up clusters of ’Fruiting Spurs’ though in my experience just keeping the bush free of really old wood is enough to ensure a good crop. The planting position for your bush is quite important, Reds and Whites are not too keen on being in full sunlight as the leaves scorch very easily , so plant them where they will get some shade in the afternoon. The other thing to bear in mind is that the berries are very attractive to the birds, so you will definitely have to net the bushes or grow them in

a fruit cage.

When you purchase your young bushes make sure that they are 2 years old and have at least 4 strong shoots. Reds and Whites need quite a lot of moisture , so a heavy clay soil suits them very well, if you have a quick drying soil then you may have to provide some form of trickle irrigation for them – leaky hose is a very good solution; the plants will need to be at least 1.2 meters apart. After planting top dress with Bone Meal and employ the same weed control techniques as I have suggested for Blackcurrants . There are quite a few Varieties of both Red and White but my preferred are for Red’s Laxtons Number 1 and for White’s White Versailles.


The ‘beast’ of the garden, always ready to bite you when you go to pick it’s fruit ! However , it does reward it’s owner with a decent return and is very suitable for small gardens. One way of partly avoiding being ‘bitten’ is to grow the berry as a half standard, it really does work quite well, and at least you are approaching the beast from the side as apposed to delving down into it from above ! The soil condition for Gooseberries is quite important, it will not be happy in poorly drained soil and it likes an open structure to grow in , so heavy clays are not ideal. It is not too bothered whether the ground is rich or not , in fact a poorer soil will produce less growth and more fruit than a rich soil.

Again November to March is the time to plant. Make sure you purchase 2 year plants and that they already have a decent structure to them of at least 2 strong shoots. Gooseberries do not require much room, so plant at about a metre apart. They do like to be in a sunny position if possible, but once again, as with Reds and Whites , the birds will get them if you don’t do something to stop them; a fruit cage is the perfect solution, and there are some really good ones on the market. Failing this you can try one of the many different kinds of birdscarers which are all available from most Garden Centres.

The fruit of the Gooseberry is produced from old and new wood so pruning is really just a mater

of shaping and keeping the bush open and easy to harvest.

I should like to recommend the following varieties, all of which should give you a good crop without too much trouble. Careless – a very old variety, but unequalled as a cooking variety. Espera: New introduction, large red juicy sweet fruit. Hinnonmaki another new variety , yellow fruit with lots of aroma and very sweet tasting. Finally Xenia – a really recent introduction, this red berried variety produces absolutely masses of fruit and is absolutely perfect for container growing.

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