Growing Soft Fruit Plants

Where to grow

Soft Fruit will grow well in most soil types but ideally should be grown in well-drained, loamy soil that is not too heavy. Dig over the soil in the planting area before planting to relieve any compaction, and dig in some manure or granular fertiliser.

What to do when you receive your Soft Fruit

Potted Plants

Remove from packaging and position in a sheltered spot. Make sure water can drain freely from the bottom of the pot and give the plant a generous watering. The potted plant can then be allowed to rest for a few days before planting. Whilst the plant is resting, make sure it keeps moist but not saturated.

Bare root Plants
On receipt, unpack the plants immediately. In all cases, aim to plant as soon as possible to reduce the possibility of the roots starting to dry out. Allowing the roots to de-hydrate before planting is probably the single most likely cause of plants failing to re-establish.

If you can’t plant straight away – because the ground is very wet, or frozen for example – store the plants in an unheated building such as a shed or garage, making sure the roots are moistened and loosely covered with a sack or compost. Alternatively, dig a hole in a sheltered position and ‘heel in’ the roots temporarily. 

For any type of bare root plant, soak the roots in a bucket of water for a couple of hours before planting. Dig a hole wide enough and deep enough to take all the roots without them being doubled up.

Plant bare root Strawberries and Rhubarb with the very top of the growing crown set level with the soil surface. Back-fill the planting hole and press down the soil firmly. Water after planting.

Canes and bare root bushes, such as Raspberries, Currants, Gooseberries and Jostaberries need to be planted slightly deeper than they were at the nursery. The nursery soil mark should be visible, but if not, just make sure the entire root ball is under soil, along with about 1cm of the stem. After planting, press the soil down around the plant and water in.

Remove the root ball of container grown Berries, such as Blackberries, Blueberries, Tayberries, Cranberries, Boysenberries and Loganberries from the pot. If it doesn’t budge straight away, turn the plant upside-down with your palm over the opening of the pot, and give it edge of the pot a tap on a hard surface. Re-plant in a hole that is just deeper than the height of the root ball.  Back fill any gaps and level off with the soil that was initially removed, firm in and water thoroughly. If planting Blueberries or Cranberries in open ground, the soil must be lime free; if growing in a patio container, use only ericaceous compost.


Positions and Spacings


Blackberry & Boysenberry - Plant in well-drained but moisture retentive soil in full sun or partial shade. Grow on wires against a fence or wall, or as single plants up a post. Space at least 6ft/2m apart. Cut back to 10in/25cm straight after planting to promote fresh growth from the base.


Blueberry - Plant 3ft/1m apart in a sheltered position in free-draining ericaceous soil in full sun/partial shade.


Cranberry - Best grown in a container or raised bed lined with plastic which has been pierced so that water is retained but not allowed to stagnate.  Incorporate plenty of moss peat when planting and water regularly with soft (rain) water.  Space about 1ft/30cm apart.


Currants - Plant in moisture retentive soil in an open position in full sun or partial shade.  Avoid planting in a position where the bushes might catch a late spring frost which will damage any emerging leaves and new growth.  Space currant bushes 3-4ft/1-1.25m apart, Jostaberries 6ft/2m apart.  After planting, cut blackcurrants down to 3-4in/8-10cm above ground level, and cut the stems of red and white currants and Jostaberry back by about half.


Gooseberry & Jostaberry - Plant in deep, well-drained but moisture retentive soil in full sun or partial shade.  Avoid planting in shallow soil which dries out in summer as this will result in poor sized fruit.  Also avoid sites liable to catch late spring frosts.  Space bushes 4ft/1.25m apart.  Cut stems back by about half after planting.  This is very important for successful establishment.


Raspberry & Tayberry - Plant in deep, rich well-drained but moisture retentive soil in a sunny or partially shaded position. Space canes 15-18in/40-45cm apart. Allow 4-6ft/1.25-2m between rows of floricane (summer-fruiting) varieties and at least 6ft/2m between rows of primocane (autumn-fruiting) varieties. Dig the planting hole deep enough so that the root sits in the soil with the previous soil mark just below the soil surface, back fill and firm in. Cut back Regular canes to 2in/5cm above soil level after planting. Keep well watered until canes get established and add an annual top dress of balanced fertiliser in spring. Do not hoe in the planting area to remove weeds. Pick weeds by hand. The growing shoots of the Raspberry plant grow from underneath the soil. Hoeing could chop off these growing shoots resulting in canes dying. We cannot be expected to replace free-of-charge any raspberry canes which fail to grow satisfactorily through customer neglect.



Unlike Regular Canes, Long Cane plants must NOT be cut back after planting.  The canes should be left intact as supplied. They will then develop fruit-bearing side shoots at the top of each cane which will flower and produce fruit for picking in the first season after planting at the same time as new growth (next year’s fruiting wood) is thrown up from the root stock. 

N.B. In subsequent seasons, treat as Regular Canes.


Rhubarb - Plant about 21/2-3ft/75-90cm apart in an open, sunny position in moisture retentive soil that has been enriched with well-rotted manure or organic matter prior to planting. 


Strawberries - Plant in an open, sunny position in soil which is rich in humus.  Set plants 18in/45cm apart in rows 30in/75cm apart.  After planting, water thoroughly.  If no rainfall occurs during the first few weeks after they have been planted, water regularly to keep the soil moist until plants re-establish. 



Pruning and Aftercare


Blackberry & Boysenberry - During autumn or winter each year remove canes that have fruited to ground level and train and tie in the new growth that has grown up from the base during the summer. 

In late spring cut out the tips of the leading canes to promote the growth of extra fruiting laterals.


Blueberry & Cranberry - In winter, cut out any damaged or dead branches.  It is also recommended that each year a few old stems that have borne fruit are cut hard back to promote new growth in the following spring.  


Currants - Blackcurrants fruit on new wood so aim to remove a third of the old wood each year, taking out at or near ground level the oldest branches (those with the darkest wood).  Unlike Blackcurrants, Red and White currants fruit on two year old wood so require only that the leading shoots are shortened by about half each year to encourage branching.  If and when the bush becomes crowded, remove the occasional branch to open it up to allow air to circulate more freely.  


Gooseberry & Jostaberry - Aim to build up a well-shaped bush by annually cutting out crossing branches from the centre in the spring before bud break.  Also cut out any diseased or damaged wood. 


Raspberry & Tayberry - Floricane (summer-fruiting) varieties fruit on canes produced in the previous year.  After fruiting, cut out the old, fruited wood in autumn/winter and tie in the new growths to the support.  Primocane (autumn-fruiting) varieties fruit on canes produced in the current year.  After cropping, these should be cut down to ground level to promote the growth of new canes.  Allow primocane raspberry beds to spread up to 2.5ft/0.75m wide but dig out any canes which start to grow between the rows.


Strawberry - Once new growth starts in the spring, remove the old foliage but take care not to damage the growing crown.  Replace with fresh, certified stock in a new bed in a different part of the plot every 3-4 years.


Rhubarb - Can be left to its own devices most of the time. Over the years the crown may begin to spread. To keep it producing healthy growth for long it will need to be divided, which can be done during winter-time (at a time when the ground isn’t frozen). This is done by digging up either the whole clump or a section of it, cutting it into smaller pieces with a space, and then re-planting each bit in an area with a bit more space.



Feeding and Watering 

An application of a high potash fertiliser at the rate suggested on the pack will increase yields.  Avoid fertilisers high in nitrogen as these will tend to promote too much soft, leafy growth.


All soft fruit needs plenty of moisture, particularly round about flowering time which is when the fruit start to form.  In dry spells it is recommended that the crop is watered every 10 days or so.  N.B. Check for any current local watering restrictions before doing this.  An occasional heavy watering is better than little and often as this does not get down far enough and encourages shallow rooting.


Monthly Jobs for Growing Soft Fruit Plants