- Reduce your shopping bill by saving money on expensive soft fruits that spoil quickly
- Enjoy the wonderful taste of freshly picked produce as you need it meaning no more waste
- Get children interested in eating their five-a-day by growing fruit like strawberries as a family project
Summer is a time we start thinking about eating more healthily. With stodgy winter dishes a thing of the past, lighter meals and desserts packed with healthy fruit and vegetables are far more appealing. But buying fruit from the supermarket is not just expensive; it can also be a gamble. More often than not, fruit is either under ripe or over ripe and lacking in flavour.
Growing your own vegetables is very popular, but what about growing your own fruit. Too complicated? Not enough space? Not so fast! Read our seasonal tips and growing guides and you could be enjoying your own home grown fruit in no time.
Seasonal Top Tips
Early spring is the best time to start work in the garden. Prepare soil or pots using plenty of well-rotted manure or garden compost. Take a trip to the garden centre and choose from a variety of fruiting canes, fruit trees and soft fruit. Plant fruit like gooseberries and raspberries for a summer and autumn harvest.
Once summer arrives, most fruit will be ready or ripening. Pick fruit regularly to ensure a good harvest. If birds are enjoying your produce as much as you are, put netting around the plants to protect them. Water fruits well during hot weather.
Autumn is not just about harvesting, it’s also time for planting. Fruit like rhubarb and strawberries can be planted now as they both require a cold spell to encourage good growth and fruit production the following year. An autumn glut of fruit is perfect for jam making.
Winter is time to tidy. Prune fruiting canes like blackcurrants and gooseberries to ensure a good harvest the following year. Autumn-fruiting raspberries are very simple to prune, but bushes like blackcurrants can require more care. For ease, try using a pruning diagram available in gardening books or on the internet.
It's not just fruit you can grow at home, it's just as rewarding to grow your own vegetables too.
5 Easy Fruit to Try - 1. Raspberries
Autumn-fruiting raspberries are the best choice for beginners as they can be grown in patio containers, don’t need supports when growing and are simple to prune. Raspberries are also a great choice nutritionally as they contain strong antioxidants and vitamins that fight against cancer, heart disease and ageing.
Plant: Sold as dormant canes, autumn-fruiting raspberries can be planted between November and March. Choose a sunny spot for the containers as shade will mean less fruit.
Space Required: Autumn-fruiting raspberries are perfect if space is an issue as they can be grown in a sunny spot in patio containers at least 24in (60cm) in diameter, planting six per container.
Care: As raspberries need full sun, make sure they are regularly watered so soil doesn’t dry out. During the growing season, make sure to fertilise regularly. To prune in winter, cut canes down to soil level allowing plants to fruit on new canes.
Harvest: Ready from August to October when fruit is a deep pink colour and comes off easily when pulled. Freeze raspberries individually on a tray before bagging up.
5 Easy Fruit to Try - 2. Strawberries
Strawberries are not only delicious; they are easy to grow too. They are equally happy in a vegetable patch, container or hanging basket. Choose between alpine (wild strawberries), summer fruiting or perpetual-fruiting. Replace plants every three years.
Plant: Plant in a sunny spot in spring or autumn. If you only have a shady spot, the alpine variety will still fruit well without sun. If planting out allow plenty of space, ensuring strawberries are level with the soil so they don’t rot if too deep, or dry out if too shallow.
Space Required: Growing strawberries in containers is a great way to protect plants from pests like slugs and snails. If using a hanging basket, plant three or four strawberries per basket to allow plants to get the nutrients and light they need.
Care: Water frequently when newly planted and during dry spells. Fertilise every two weeks during growing season. Some strawberries will produce trailing stems called ‘runners’ which must be removed to ensure effective fruiting. Once fruit develops, put straw on top of the soil to prevent strawberries rotting
Harvest: Pick regularly when bright red in colour. Harvest at the warmest part of the day when they have most flavour. Strawberries do not freeze well, but make delicious home-made jam.
5 Easy Fruit to Try - 3. Blackcurrants
Blackcurrants contain high levels of antioxidants meaning they have exceptional health benefits. They can be used in pies, desserts and even home-made Ribena. They are also extremely easy to grow!
Plant: Buy plants already in containers for transplanting into the garden or large containers at any time of the year. One bush alone will yield 10lbs (4.5kgs) of fruit.
Space Required: Choose a container 20in (50cm) in diameter and fill with quality compost. Repot every two or three years. If planting out, give roots plenty of space to grow to encourage good production.
Care: Water during dry periods and during the growing season. Prune from late autumn to later winter when blackcurrants are dormant, removing older wood only. Use netting if birds are a problem.
Harvest: Fruit is ready when soft and almost black in colour. Harvest by cutting off individual bunches of blackcurrants. Fruit can be frozen or made into jam.
5 Easy Fruit to Try - 4. Rhubarb
If you want to grow a fruit that doesn’t need looking after, rhubarb is an excellent choice. Packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, rhubarb is a great way to get your five-a-day. Versatile in cooking, rhubarb can be used in crumbles, fools and even home-made wine. Always dispose of rhubarb leaves as they are toxic if eaten.
Plant: Buy a ‘crown’ which is the easiest way to start. ‘Crowns’ are established plants that can be planted at any time of the year, but preferably in autumn for good production. Rhubarb does not like being moved, so choose a sunny spot where they won’t be disturbed; bearing in mind they can last up to 10 years.
Space Required: Grow in pots or containers if short of space. Ensure containers hold at least 40 litres of compost to allow room for roots.
Care: Water during dry periods to prevent soil drying out, especially if growing in containers.
Harvest: Avoid harvesting during the first year to allow rhubarb to become established. Pull a few stems at a time from late April until July by gently twisting at the base. Do not harvest after July to help production the following year. Rhubarb freezes well.
5 Easy Fruit to Try - 5. Gooseberries
The British climate is perfect for growing gooseberries. Packed with antioxidants and vitamins, they have excellent health benefits. Their high pectin content also makes them easy to make into jam. Choose thornless varieties if you have small children.
Plant: ‘Ready pruned’ plants of about two years will produce fruit four months after planting. Choose an open sunny position in soil enriched with manure or compost.
Space Required: Gooseberries can be grown in the garden, in pots or even trained up a wall. They are shallow rooting so patio planters 15in (38cm) deep will accommodate them.
Care: Water well until fully established. Do not allow soil to dry out during hot weather, especially when fruit is forming. Protect from birds with netting.
Harvest: In good weather, fruit can be ready in May. Pick some, leaving the remainder until June to fully ripen. Gooseberries freeze well and are super in pies and crumbles.