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Soft fruits

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by Colour Your Life • Friday September 4, 2015

Everyone knows the value of eating plenty of fresh fruit and what could be better than getting some of it from your own garden! The boom in growing edible plants is set to continue and it’s easy to see why. Picking your own fruit that you’ve watched maturing over the weeks is just so satisfying. Good for body and soul, fresh fruit packed with vitamins will feed your sense of well-being and reinforce your connection with nature in a way that shop-bought never could.

Benefits of soft fruit in your garden

Soft fruit is a brilliant place to start your foray into fruit growing because results come quickly, you don’t need much space and soft fruit is packed with all the best vitamins (as well as being very expensive in the shops!)

Blackberries
Blackberries (Rubus) are fantastic because they are so easy to grow and who ever heard of someone that didn’t love them? Until quite recently they were regarded by many as a hedgerow ‘weed’ and most gardening references were in relation to controlling them.

Now, however, the tide has turned and cultivating blackberries in gardens has a strong following and there are some wonderful varieties. Some of these are thornless and others can be grown in large pots. They usually need some kind of support – a fence can be perfect - but some may be self-supporting.

Given their hedgerow heritage, it is exciting to discover how much diversity there is amongst cultivated Rubus. ‘Loch Ness’ is a superb cultivated variety. Vigorous, spine free and easy to manage, it is the perfect choice for smaller gardens and yields heavy crops of delicious fruits. ‘Loch Tay’ is early fruiting and tough enough to withstand heavy summer rain. ‘Waldo’ is a thornless variety with fabulous flavour, whilst ‘Ashton Cross’ is very heavy cropping.

Raspberries
Raspberries (also members of the Rubus family) are another guaranteed success in the garden because of their popularity in the kitchen! Later-fruiting varieties include ‘Autumn Bliss’ which is a short-caned, sturdy, high yielding plant, the fruits of which are deep red and have an excellent flavour. ‘Leo’ or ‘Polka’ are also wonderful late-fruiting varieties. Ideal conditions for most cultivars of Rubus are medium/well drained soil with plenty of organic matter.

Involve children and youngsters
Children love home-grown fruit so it’s a great way of making the ‘five a day’ rule part of everyone’s lives at home. Planting, feeding and picking are also great activities to get youngsters involved in. Even a handful of bushes or canes will soon yield good crops with the right care. Before you know it you’ll be making jams and crumbles as well as enjoying fruit fresh from the garden.

Seasonal highlights – September
This is a wonderful time in the natural year. After a good summer, hedgerows and orchards are heavy with fruit and the wild creatures are busy all around us, getting ready for the harder days to come. But for now, summer’s finale is there to be enjoyed.

In the garden, flowering grasses are looking fantastic, bringing with them the feel of the savannah. Perhaps if you live in a drought area the whole garden creates this impression. Welcome autumn rain will be with us soon to feed parched soils and invigorate plants.

And September means ‘back to school’. If you haven’t got children this makes it a great time to get out and about, to visit gardens or go on plant-buying trips, away from the crowds of summer holidays. If your family is still at home, make the most of after school to get them outside, blackberrying, gathering conkers and letting off steam after being cooped up all day.

Did you know?
In World War One, people brought pram-loads of wild blackberries from the hedgerows around the city to Oxford’s jam factories which turned them into jam for the troops. 

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