How to Grow: Berries and Currants

Fruit bushes, including many berries and currants, are reliably productive for most of the summer.
From: DK Books - Fruits and Vegetables
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Jersey Blueberry Popular Late Cropping Fruit

Jersey Blueberry Popular Late Cropping Fruit

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Jersey blueberry is a rich blue fruit, medium sized, and very sweet. It is a favorite for baked goods. The bush is a heavy, reliable producer that tolerates a wide range of soil types and displays orange flame fall foliage. Most widely grown variety.

Given large pots, many berries and currants will grow into substantial shrubs that need little pruning to maintain good harvests.

Blueberries 

Worthy of a place in any garden, blueberries are attractive bushes with fresh green foliage, clusters of white, urn-shaped flowers and heavy crops of plump, blue-black berries from midsummer into fall. Plant them in fall or spring in acid soil, which is easy to provide by filling containers with ericaceous compost, and place pots in full sun or part shade. Some blueberries are self-fertile, allowing solitary plants to produce fruits, but yields tend to be better where several bushes are grouped together. 

How to Plant

  1. Cover the base of a 15in (38cm) pot with broken clay pot pieces and a layer of ericaceous compost. Plant the blueberry at the same level as before by placing its pot in the container, filling around it with compost, and firming.
  2. Remove the plastic pot and carefully place the plant into the remaining hole. Firm around the root ball to remove any gaps and dress the top of the pot with a little more ericaceous compost. Water the plant in thoroughly.
  3. Place the pot in sun or light shade and cover with netting to prevent birds eating the berries. A bamboo cane pyramid shape with garden netting stretched over it is secure, but easy to remove and replace when picking fruit. 

Aftercare and Harvesting 

Keep the compost moist and apply a liquid acidic fertilizer once a month during the growing season. Also repot plants into slightly larger containers every two years. Blueberries have few pest and disease problems, but birds enjoy the fruits, so protect bushes with nets. Although regular pruning is not essential, cut back dead or damaged stems to the base of the plant in winter. Pick berries as they ripen. 

Gooseberries 

Ripe Gooseberries are Best Eaten Fresh

Ripe Gooseberries are Best Eaten Fresh

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Gooseberries will be ready for picking from early July. Pick fully ripened berries carefully as they are soft and likely to burst. Excess fruit can be put into freezer bags and frozen.

Although the fruit can be difficult to find or expensive to buy in the stores, gooseberries are easy to grow in containers. Plant in 15in (38cm) pots during the dormant season, between late fall and late winter, in a soil-based compost. Bushes stay healthy and fruit ripens best in a sunny spot with good air circulation, but they can tolerate some shade. Gooseberries are self-fertile and can be grown as single plants. They also respond well to being trained up walls or fences as cordons, which look great and save space. 

Aftercare and Harvesting 

American Gooseberry Mildew Result of Stagnant Air

American Gooseberry Mildew Result of Stagnant Air

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

American gooseberry mildew is a common disease caused by a group of fungi producing powdery mildews on a wide range of plants and is the most serious disease of gooseberries. Gooseberries are best pruned to an open form to discourage stagnant air.

Do not allow the compost to dry out and water plants regularly, but not heavily, in dry weather to prevent the fruits from splitting. Apply a liquid tomato fertilizer every two weeks when the plant comes into leaf. Gooseberries can be picked from early summer, although their sweetness and flavor develops the longer they are left on the bush. Net plants to protect ripening fruits from birds; American gooseberry mildew and gooseberry sawfly are common problems in gardens. Green-fruited gooseberries have a sharp taste and are best cooked with some sugar, while the red varieties are sweet enough to eat straight from the bush.

Currants 

Red Currants

Red Currants

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

There are a number of new varieties of red currant that grow well in containers. The 'Stanza' variety is a good choice for frost-prone areas.

These tough shrubs grow vigorously and require large containers, at least 18in (45cm) wide and deep. They crop heavily in summer, and the fruit makes delicious preserves and freezes well for later use. Plant currants from late fall to late winter in soil-based compost, and place in a sheltered spot in full sun or partial shade. Plant black currants deeply and straight after planting; cut all the stems back to within 2in (5cm) of the soil to encourage new shoots to form. Prune the branches of red and white currants back by half after planting. Keep plants well watered, and feed every two weeks with a tomato fertilizer from spring to early summer. 

Types of Currants

  • Red currants: Glorious when draped with strings of ruby-red berries, train the long stems on wires against walls or fences where space is limited.
  • Black currants: An essential fruit for desserts and jams, modern, compact cultivars are best for containers and boast superior flavor.
  • White currants: These delicate, translucent berries are difficult to find in the stores and have a bold, sharp flavor similar to red currants.

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