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Plant of the Month November 2010

Berries plant of the month soft fruit November 2010

November - Soft Fruits With the title of “Super food” blueberries and blackberries not only look and taste good, but are also increasingly becoming very popular with the “Grow Your Own” movement; knowing exactly where your berries have been grown along with the freshness factor all adds to the pleasure of eating more healthily.  Berries give your diet a health boost because they are so full of nutritional benefits.  These small bursts of flavour do more than please your taste buds, they also:

•    contain antioxidants
•    help combat heart disease and cancer
•    are filled with vitamin C
•    are a great source of fibre

Blueberries are easy to grow either in a well-drained border soil with plenty of humus or a suitable container.  The important factor is that the compost or soil needs to be acid.  They will also require protection, such as nets or cages, from birds once the fruit is present.  It is better to have at least two plants growing in close proximity to ensure good pollination and larger yields.  There are a number of cultivars that are worthy of growing, the most widely grown is “Bluecrop” but there are almost another dozen varieties available from specialist growers in the UK alone.
Blackberries are becoming more popular as there are now varieties without any spines which makes them easier to tie into their supports than the more traditional varieties which are covered in thorns.  Blackberries like cool root runs so a well-drained fibrous loam is best, slightly acid soil and after planting ensure they are well mulched with well rotted compost.  All varieties require sufficient space to allow the cane growth to be attached to a form of support.  This support is needed to keep the developing flowers and fruit off the ground.  Again, the developing fruit will require protection from birds.  Thornless varieties include “Loch Tay”; “Loch Ness” “Chester” and “Oregon Thornless”.

If you have slightly acid soil you would do well with the hybrid berries which include Loganberry and Tayberry, which could provide interest and variety to choose from.  These berries can be eaten fresh, straight from the plant, or used in pies and other soft fruit dishes. 

Other berries to consider are blackcurrants, packed full of vitamin C they are easy to grow in an open position with moist but well-drained soil.  Recommended varieties include Ben Sarek, Ben Lomond, Jet and Baldwin.  Another berry which has always been widely grown and popular will give fruit over several months is the raspberry.  There are summer and autumn growing varieties, such as “Glen Prosen” and “Glen Ample” during the summer months and “Autumn Bliss” and “Allgold” during the autumn.  All of these berries freeze well so you can enjoy them long beyond the season!