There are few pleasures that equal popping out the back door to pick your own fruit for breakfast. Follow Kim's advice for a mouthwatering crop.
Having fresh fruit like raspberries, blueberries and strawberries on tap in your garden from the early summer to late autumn is one luxury we can all indulge in. Growing your own is not only straightforward, but it's becoming a necessity if you want to enjoy all the different varieties that supermarkets seem to have stopped stocking.
In my humble opinion, no garden should be without raspberries, my favourite fruit. Plant early and late varieties for a constant fruit supply from early summer right into the autumn months. Plant raspberry canes 45cm apart in autumn or early winter. Posts and galvanised wire supports will be neerled for summer fruiting varieties, but autumn varieties need no support. Summer fruiting canes that have fruited will Deed cutting back to the ground and those that haven't fruited will need tying in for next year's crop. Autumn varieties can be pruned down to ground level every spring. You could do a lot worse than a succulent Glen Moy, Glen Prosen or even my son's favourite, Autumn Bliss.
The quintessential summer fruit, strawberries are arguably the most delicious. They're not particularly difficult to grow and with their pretty white flowers, lovely red fruit and attractive foliage, they're the perfect choice for a container on the patio. Special pots and tubs are available, the most common being terracotta pots with holes in the sides. Plant them in mid to late summer using soil-based potting compost and some well rotted garden compost. They will produce their first crop the following summer.
Strawberries are readily attacked by soit-borne pests and diseases and therefore shouldn't be grown on the same site for more than three or four years in a row. Plants also need replacing af ter two or three seasons of cropping. You can easity propagate your own by pegging down some of the runners which each plant produces then transplanting them when they've rooted. Protect developing fruits from any damage from mud or slugs by placing straw or special strawberry mats under them. For a succession of harvesting, try Honeoye, Elsanta and the autumn fruiting Aromel. Alpine strawberries bear small fruit throughout summer and are especially suited to a purpose-made pot that has planting holes. They also make an attractive edging plant.
For an year round appeal, try blueberries with their lovely ben shaped flowers in spring, delicious fruit and striking autumn foliage. They need an acid soil and again are a great fruit to grow in a container. They can take a while to start fruiting but by about their fifth year they can produce around 2.5kg of berries a year. The best fruit is found on branches between two and three years old. Good varieties include Herbert, Covi"e (late) and Blue Crop (mid-season).
The first soft fruit I discovered were the blackberries that tumbled over the hedge down at the bottom of our garden. If a hedge isn't available, support with posts and wires or against a fence. Choose a thorn-free variety such as Loch Ness or Oregon Thornless.
Shade is important when planting gooseberries as they prefer cool conditions and can be planted during autumn or winter. Gooseberries bear fruit on spurs on older wood, often in the form of an open-centred bush on a short stem of about four to six inches. It's crucial to open up the centre of the plant by pruning weIl, as this makes picking easier, helps to ripen the wood and fruit and also improves the air circulation, lessening the risk of mildew. Try Invicta or Jubilee.
A little space-consuming for sma1ler gardens, currants need at least 1,5 metres between each plant, but heavy mulches of manure will ensure a bumper crop. With blackcurrants, cut out all the fruited branches in the autumn. They produce heavy crops of delicious fruit which bottles really well and is packed with vitamin C. Blackcurrants can be affected by big bud mite, which causes buds to swell. Unfortunately, the only way to effectively get rid of them is to dig up all the infected bushes and burn them.
- Position on rich. free draining soil, which retains moisture. Dig in lots of well rotted manure.
- Plant the canes 45cm apart to the depth indicated by existing soil marks on stems. Prune any long canes to 25cm.
- 1f you've only room for a few canes, support them on single stakes. As the shoots grow, tie loosely to the stake.
- If you've space. plant raspberries in a row, using posts and wire as supports. Drive a stake into each end of row and attach wire to stakes. The lower wire should be 6Ocm from the ground, the upper wire 1.2m.
- Tie canes to the wire as they grow. Water well and mulch regularly with compost to help keep the soil moist.
All soft fruits require a sunny position and a weil drained but moisture retentive soil. Dig in plenty of vell rotted organic material and keep an eye on watering plants in dry spells. Regular nulching with compost will help to conserve moisture.
The birds and the bees
Not all wildlife is welcome in the garden in summer, but I do think that hees, butterflies, ladybirds and songbirds are to be cherished. Not only do they make us feel as if we're in the heart of the countryside, but they're also a sign of a healthy environment and can help to keep down pests, if you're lucky. A wildlife garden needn't be a dense jungle that's inhospitable to humans, but it'll certainly help if you can leave a bit of grass to grow tall and provide cover. And a clump of nettles at the bottom of the garden will attract butterflies, too.
If you can't bring yourself to do this, then simply choose flowering plants and shrubs which will act as a wildlife magnet. The plants listed (below) not only look great, but will also literally bring your garden to life by providing pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies, as well as berries and seeds for birds.
Shrubs / Attracts
Berberis / 1, 2, 3
Ceanothus / 2
Cotoneaster / 1, 2
Hebe / 3
Lavandula / 2, 3
Skimmia / 1, 2
Syringa / 2, 3
Buddleia / 2, 3
Annuals & biennials
Helianthus / 1
Lunaria annua / 1
Scabiosa / 2, 3
Centaurea cyanus / 2, 3
Achillea / 2, 3
Aster / 2, 3
Solidago / 1, 2, 3
Thymus / 2, 3
Key: 1 (Birds) 2 (Bees) 3 (Butterflies)
Q: One corner of my garden is very shady and damp. Is there anything that would grow well in those conditions?
A: There are lots of plants that'll thrive in that shady corner! Try alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle) which comes up every year and is a true survivor. It has attractive grey green foliage and tall sprays of lime green flowers. It'1l also self seed and spread quickly.
A book which caught my eye this month is Gifts from the Gaiden by Stephanie Donaldson. It's perfect to give as a present to a gardener who is also good at crafts, or you can use it to get brilliant ideas for presents to make yourself and give to gardeners. The ideas are simple, natural and, above all, useful. The book costs 4.95 and is published by Lorenz Books.
Well worth a visit
Roses and perennials are at their best this month. Below are gardens which have spectacular displays.
The Gardens of the Rose
Chiswell Green, St Albans, Herts (01727850461). The trial gardens of the Royal National Rose Society - the place to see how roses should be grown.
Hall Farm, Harpswell
Gainsborough, Lincolnshire (01427668412). This lovely garden has herbaceous borders and about 100 varieties of old roses.
Cardross, Dumbarton (01389841867). A small country estate with a fine kitchen garden and peaceful woodland walk.
Things to do in July
Fill gaps in borders and flower beds with pot grown annuals.
Deadhead flowering plants and shrubs regularly, either pinching off faded flowers or snipping them off with secateurs.
Plant autumn flowering bulbs such as colchicurn, crocus speciosus and amaryllis belladonna.
In hot weather, dampen the floor of your greenhouse to cool and hurnidify it.
Use bamboo canes to support talier perennials.
Prune early flowering shrubs such as deutzia and weigela immediately after flowering.
In bloom this month
Campanula Loddon Anna
This sends up tall flowering shoots, in shades from lavender to pink.
are at their best this month. Try the beautilul Shirley and Mother of Pearl varieties.
Grown for their elegant leaves, but in July most hostas produce tall spikes of blue, violet or white flowers.
come in a myriad of colours which show that summer is finally here.