Caring For Soft Fruit Bearing Trees

The Care of Apricots

Apricots flower even earlier than peaches so that some kind of covering (hessian, old curtains etc.) should be held in readiness for evenings when frost threatens. They are self-fertile but unless flying insects are plentiful hand pollination is helpful (distributing the pollen with a camel’s-hair brush or wisp of cottonwool).

Two comparatively new varieties are thought to be an improvement on older kinds – ‘Farmingdale’ and, a few days later and a little more vigorous, ‘Alfred’, both ripening in late July or early August.

In the warmest parts apricots may be grown as bushes but more often they are trained as fans against walls. The habit of fruiting resembles that of the plum. Keep the pruning of mature specimens to a minimum, cutting back leaders where necessary immediately after picking, rubbing out misplaced sideshoots as they appear and pinching the growing points from other laterals after the first flush of spring growth.

Apricots may be grown in the greehhouse but there should be no attempt to force growth, using the glass merely to safeguard from frost. Ventilate freely whenever possible.

Apricot tree

The Care of Blackberries

Blackberries and the other berry fruits are all very easy to grow. They fruit on canes produced during the previous year. After planting, cut down to a sound bud about 9 in. above the ground. Shoots which grow during the first summer will fruit in the second year. After picking, cut old canes to ground level and tie the new season’s canes against the horizontal support wires. It is sound practice either to spread out the old canes all to one side of the plant, tying the new ones in on the other side or to spread out the fruiting canes on both sides, but fairly low down, and fasten the new canes to the centre and along the top. These schemes, by keeping the new canes separate or above the old ones prevent them from becoming disease infected by drip from above.

Recommended Varieties:


  • Bedford Giant (late July), earliest and largest berries;
  • Himalaya Giant (Aug.-Sept.) Extremely vigorous, large berries;
  • Oregon Thornless (Aug.-Sept.), less vigorous. The absence of thorns is a great asset.

Hybrid berries:

  • Loganberry (second half July). The LY 59 strain is the best cropper;
  • Thornless Loganberry. Similar to above but the canes are smooth;
  • Japanese Wine-berry (Aug.) Decorative. Very sweet, crimson berries;
  • Mailing Hybrid 53-16. Dark purple berries the pips of which are less trouble than raspberry pips in jam; Young-berry (late July-Aug.) Large purplish-black berries. Very vigorous, thornless.

Blackberries and their related hybrids are all self-fertile.

The Care of Blackcurrants

Plant slightly deeper than the bushes were in the nursery, put down a 2-in, mulch of rotted manure, compost or peat and at once cut all shoots down to within an inch of the mulch. The next winter cut down half of the new shoots; those which remain will give you your first crop. In subsequent years prune as soon as the crop has been picked, removing entirely about one third of the shoots which have just fruited. Blackcurrants yield most heavily on the young wood of the previous summer’s growth but also on two-year-old and older wood. Try to keep the centre of the bush from becoming congested.


Blackcurrants are gross feeders. Liberal dressings (5 lb. Per sq. yd.) in winter or early spring with rotted farm or stable manure are best. Also scatter A oz. of sulphate of potash and 1 oz. of sulphate of ammonia per sq. yd. in spring. Every third year add 1 oz. of superphosphate per sq. yd. Where no natural dung is available mulch freely with garden compost, lawn mowings or peat, and double the sulphate of potash and treble the sulphate of ammonia dressings.

Recommended Varieties:

  • For succession: Laxton’s Giant (very early);
  • Blacksmith (mid-season);
  • Baldwin (late); Amos Black (very late).

All are self-fertile.

The Care of Cherries

Sweet cherries are not grown much in gardens because there are no dwarfing rootstocks yet available and because none is self-fertile you must have two trees. Fan-trained trees are a possibility but even root-pruning will probably be necessary to restrain vigour.

The Morello sour cherry is a different proposition because it is self-fertile and less vigorous. It can be grown as a bush or be fan-trained and as most fruit is borne on the previous year’s growth pruning (in spring after the buds have broken) should be directed towards stimulating new growths, as with peaches, old fruited shoots being cut out and a few complete old branches being taken out each year from established trees.

The Care of Gooseberries

The most usual way of growing a gooseberry is as a bush. The lowest branches should not be too low, however, or they may soon droop to the ground (‘Leveller’ and ‘Careless’ are notable offenders in this respect) and if shoot tips take root, a tangle of growth results. To prevent this, start with a leg of at least 6 in. and prune branch leaders to upward-pointing buds.

Pruning Bushes

Gooseberries bear their fruit both on wood of the previous year’s growth and on spurs arising from older wood. The first few years’ pruning should be fairly hard, directed to forming a good open framework of branches: cut branch leaders to half their length and laterals to three or four buds.

After three years confine winter pruning to removing crossing branches, those congesting the centre and those drooping down to the ground. New upward growing laterals will then have to be selected to replace the old branches and these should be cut back half way to encourage growth. All laterals should be shortened to five leaves in late June.

Pruning could be done in autumn, as soon as the leaves fall, but it is often deferred until spring to discourage the birds which, in some districts, can do much damage pecking out the growth buds.

Protection against birds can, of course, be provided during the winter and in some areas may prove essential. It is not normally necessary to protect the berries while they are unripe but once ripening begins it is.

Trained Forms

Gooseberries can be trained as standards as well as espaliers, fans or single or double cordons.

In pruning cordons cut back in winter the new growth of the vertical leader by a third (but never leaving an extension of more than 10 in.). In the second half of June cut back laterals to four leaves and in winter shorten these laterals to two or three buds. Feeding Give an annual early spring dressing of A oz. Sulphate of ammonia and 1 oz. Each of sulphate of potash and superphosphate, per sq. yd. Then follow this with a liberal mulch of farmyard manure.

Recommended Varieties

Gooseberries are self-fertile and there are many varieties.

  • EARLY: Keepsake. Early for picking green. Rich flavour. Pale green.
  • MID-SEASON: Careless. Good all-rounder. Whitish-green; Leveller. Best flavour but must have good soil. “Greenish-yellow.
  • LATE: Lancer. Excellent flavour. Good for bottling and dessert. Greenish-yellow.

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