Allotment holders get fruity

Allotment holders should consider growing some soft fruit. PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos
Allotment holders should consider growing some soft fruit. PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos
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It’s not only the humble potato or common carrot which can thrive on allotments – you can also grow a cornucopia of delicious soft fruits like summer berries and blackcurrants.

What’s more, fruit bushes and trees are long-lived. Gooseberries and blackcurrants can do well for 20 years, trees can produce for decades and raspberry canes can last more than ten years.

“Plot-holders are better off looking at soft fruit because it takes up less space than fruit trees and is easier to manage and pick,” says Mike Thurlow, horticultural adviser to the National Allotment Society.

“The root run of soft fruit isn’t so expansive so it doesn’t interfere with other crops or with neighbours’ plots.”

Summer fruits are generally easier to care for than larger fruit trees. Many currants can be grown as bushes, while raspberries and blackberries need to be trained against a framework structure, usually a post and wire system.

“Soft fruit can’t be shoved away in a cold corner,” Mr Thurlow explains. “Full sun is needed to ripen the wood rather than the fruit because it is ripe wood which gives you the bountiful harvest the following year.”

If you are growing bushes or training trees, plan them as part of the structure of your allotment, as they are likely to be permanent fixtures. Most fruit trees are pollinated by insects so you’ll need to avoid windy sites, and add plenty of organic matter to the soil, which needs to be well-drained.

Strawberries, one of the nation’s favourite summer fruits, should be placed in the sunniest border and should be moved around on a three-year cycle.

Unless you live in a really mild area and your plot is sheltered, avoid trying to grow tender fruits such as figs, apricots and peaches on your allotment, as they will need so much protection.