Your veg plot may have looked a little bare over the last month or two, but in the next few weeks it will be bursting with life and colour. To kick-start this process and get ahead of the game, why not start planting some soft fruit? It’ll help you get your veg plot in tip-top shape, and we’ll even talk you through the process.
In a recent Pots & Trowels video, Martin Fish shares his advice to get your garden ready. You can follow along with his video below, or you can keep reading to see how best to introduce new soft fruits like gooseberries, redcurrants and white currants to your patch.
How to Prune Blackcurrants in Spring
Traditionally, soft fruits are grown as bushes. These may have started from your own cuttings, or maybe from small potted plants that you’ve bought from a garden centre. Each different type of soft fruit bush is treated slightly differently when pruning and planting come in to play, although there are lots of similarities.
With blackcurrants, the fruit is always produced on the last season’s growth, and once these stems have produced fruit they won’t fruit again. You’ll often find these woody remains on branches, mixed with the new buds. Therefore, pruning needs to be completed with care. You’ll need to cut out the old wood that has produced fruit to make way for the new growth and fruit for the following year.
Planting Blackcurrants in Spring
Once you’ve pruned your blackcurrant plant, it’s time for planting. You’ll be pleased to know that planting your potted blackcurrant in the garden is fairly simple.
Step 1 – Dig a good-sized hole. Remember that your plant could grow from 3ft to 5ft tall, depending on the variety, and a similar width size, so it’ll need space. Once you’ve dug the hole, pop the pot in to test the depth. You’ll want the pot to be a little deeper than normal.
Step 2 – Blackcurrant plants are greedy feeders, so you’ll need a nice scoop of compost as a base layer in the hole. Fork all of this over. This step will help to retain moisture and encourage roots, as blackcurrants like a rich soil.
Step 3 – Knock your plant out of the pot and pull off any weeds or moss. Loosen the roots, then drop it into the hole.
Step 4 – Fill the hole in. As you fill the hole, you’ll hopefully spot lots of dormant buds by the base of your plant. These will grow from under the soil. Firm the soil with your heel, ensuring it’s not too loose, and then rake the soil once more.
Step 5 – Finally, grab your secateurs and prune your plant again, but this time give it a harsh prune. We recommend the Darlac Expert Titanium Bypass Pruner, as it offers a razor-sharp smooth cut that’s great for neat edges.
Cut all of the branches off and leave a small stubby base. This may feel shocking at first, but the aim of this first year of planting is to allow the roots to develop. You’ll have strong plants and more fruit in years to come if you undertake this harsh prune. Don’t worry, the dormant buds will come to life and you’ll have real strong growth in the future. Keep on feeding your plant throughout the season with a strong fertiliser and you’ll further encourage growth, and by next year you’ll have a crop of sweet berries.
Planting and Pruning Other Soft Fruit
The process for redcurrants, white currants, and gooseberries is slightly different. These soft fruits produce fruit on older wood, and you can prune these into more formal shapes.
You’ll see new growth sprouting from the older wood. From this, what you need to do is to create a single stem or a cordon. Side shoots will then grow off throughout the season and produce the fruit. Take the branches from the bottom and carefully prune. Work your way up the cordon, pruning back just above a bud until you reach the top. Tie your main stem to a cane and your plant will carry on growing, with the shorter stems producing the fruit. This is an annual process, but in time you’ll get a wonderful column of fruiting spurs that will hang nicely.
You can also grow out your plants into a fan shape. Use the lower shoots to help build your chosen fan shape, and slowly they will grow and follow the canes. The pruning process for these is the same; take the tips off but leave the fruiting spurs. Keeping this formal shape will allow lots of fruit from a small area in your garden. Delicious!
What to Do With Your Soft Fruit Cuttings
If you’ve pruned correctly, you should have quite a few cuttings, but don’t waste these! You can make hardwood cuttings. And the best part is there’s still time to plant these cuttings this season. To make a hardwood cutting, cut above a bud and trim to the length of your secateurs, then push the cutting into a pot and it will root.
You can now sit back and look forward to lots of lovely fruit in the garden for many years to come. It’s now time to get them in the ground and prune in early spring.
Where to Buy Darlac Tools to Prune Your Soft Fruit
You can find Darlac products in store from your local garden centre. These tools will not only help you plant and prune your soft fruit, you’ll also be prepped and ready for the busy gardening season ahead. Find your local Darlac stockist here.
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