Fruit planting: raspberry delay

I’ve left it a bit late to get my much-wanted fruit patch planted. I’ve bought a number of fruit bushes which are still trapped in their pots (and that have been rocked ‘n’ rolled about by the recent winds). Some are starting to sprout new leaves and buds and I urgently need to get them planted out before Spring sparks them into hungry growth. Subject to weather conditions, I’m pretty determined to get the job complete by the end of the week.

My tardiness has been two-fold. Firstly, I took far too long deciding what to buy… there’s too much choice! After a lot of online dithering, I would advise that if you’re not making headway then get in your car, drive to a local nursery and buy something, anything, from what they have on offer. There might not be much choice, but ‘job done’!

Secondly, I’ve been procrastinating over where to site my purchases, because:

  • I won’t want to move fruit bushes once they’re planted and established.
  • They need a dedicated sunny spot (but doesn’t everything?)
  • Bushes and trees need plenty of space to grow into without rubbing against each other.
  • Berry bushes will need netting to keep the birds off the blossom and fruits
  • They’ll need to be reasonably accessible on all sides to pick the fruit, and bearing in mind things like raspberries and gooseberries have thorns.
  • As the bushes might get quite big and dense, the soil behind them will be cast in shadow and restrict what can grow there.
  • While the structure of fruit bushes could add some aesthetic interest during the winter, some fruit, like rhubarb and strawberries, needs surrounding space to expand its summer growth into but dies back to expose an expanse of bare soil during winter months.

As a result of much thought about the above conundrums, I felt that I wanted to keep my fruit huddled together in one or two places. I did consider dotting them about… This might look nice but not be hugely practical.  It will be easier to net fruit bushes, and mulch them, if they are together and they won’t have their roots disturbed by the growth and removal of adjacent seasonal crops.

Some fruit does well-enough in large pots, which means you can move them about. This is especially handy in a small garden, as they can be tucked away during the winter, or popped on the patio when the beds get full. You can also regulate the soil conditions (for example, I’m keeping my blueberries in pots as they need an acid soil). But I know this means a lot of watering during the summer. And I’m not convinced bushes are really that happy in pots.

So the first thing I’ve planted is the raspberry plants. Rather than buying individual canes, I have three established plants that I dug out complete with their roots, from my mum’s garden (with her permission, of course!). They are the commonly available variety ‘Autumn Bliss’, and produce masses of tasty fruits. I also planted out two small bushes of a new dwarf variety called ‘Ruby Beauty’ which is, allegedly, prolific but suitable for pots. It is thornless, maintenance-free, doesn’t grow bigger than 1m tall and has masses of tasty summer fruits. Allegedly. I bought them last spring and they didn’t have a single bud or fruit, so I am a little concerned about this variety. Perhaps you’ve tried them and had better luck? Please let me know if you have. It’s recommended on the RHS website so ‘fingers crossed’ they know their stuff and the bushes will produce the promised bounty this year. I have decided to take them out of the pots to see if they do better in the ground.

I’ve chosen a patch on the north side of the beds for the raspberries, rhubarb and strawberries. I might also add the cherry tree here. It’s an awkward triangular space, between the shed and a walled, 1m drop down to the stream. But it is in the sun for most of the day and anything planted here will cast its shade away from the raised beds.

So the first thing I’ve planted is raspberries. These are notorious for spreading all over the place, and are a bugger to keep under control. And I don’t want the cane runners to get into the retaining wall that holds the bank off the stream. So I’ve constructed a couple of ‘defence’ planting rings by sawing up a giant resin plant pot I bought some 12 years ago (and have never used). I dug a couple of holes and sunk the two rings 1 foot into the soil, leaving a 2 inch lip above the soil. This should, hopefully, allow the roots to grow down but stop the canes spreading sideways.

I half-filled the rings with some quality bagged topsoil, mixed with double strength peat-free Dalesfoot compost, nestled the plants so that their roots started an inch or two below the pot rims, then filled up the rest with the same mix. I topped them off with a layer of Strulch and watered them in.

So, the Raspberries are done! Hurrah! Just 7 rhubarb, 2 blackcurrants, 1 whitecurrant, 1 pinkcurrant, 2 gooseberries, and 6 more strawberry plants, still to go… Oh, and that bloomin’ cherry tree!

Do you have any tips on planting or controlling raspberries in small gardens? Or have you had much luck growing them in pots?

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