1. How to Grow Soft Fruit

2. How to Grow Tree Fruit

     a) Planting Tree Fruit

     b) Chilling Hours

     c) Pruning

     d) Training

3. Fruit Trees A-Z

It would be very easy to start a diatribe about the benefits of eating fruit, with lists of vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, fibre, etc. While all this is very important, it is easy when discussing food to forget the most important thing – the mere sensual pleasure and enjoyment of the beautiful taste and texture of fruit. I have known people who are so concerned about eating healthily that they have forgotten the simple, honest pleasure of enjoying their food. So, for our health we should have a good proportion of fresh fruit in our diet, but for our spiritual health we need to enjoy and remember to give thanks for all the many and varied tastes and textures that all these different fruits can give us.

I have divided fruit into the two categories, i.e. Soft Fruit and Tree Fruit. This is a useful distinction because Soft Fruits and Tree Fruits have to be grown and treated very differently.

Soft Fruits have soft fruits, hence the name, and consist of:

• Briars, like blackberries and boysenberries

• Canes, like raspberries

• Small bushes, like currants, gooseberries and blue-berries

• Ground plants, like strawberries

• Vines, like grapes

• Climbers, like passion fruit

Tree Fruits are obviously small or large trees usually having fruit with harder skins that often store well, like apples and pears.

Different Climates:

Some of the fruit on this list will be suitable for a variety of climates. Others can only to be grown in warmer climates, and some will not be able to be grown in climates that don’t have enough chilling hours – however I have listed one or two varieties of apples, for instance, that can be grown successfully with less chilling hours in warmer climates.

Eco & Organic Fertilisers:

As with section 9. ‘How to Grow Vegetables’ both Eco & Organic Fertilisers are referred to in this section. See the beginning of section 9 for descriptions and details and where to obtain Eco Fertilisers in your country.


It has to be remembered that most of the soft fruits are woodland-edge plants in the wild. In other words they grow on the outer edges of woods or forests or in forest clearings where there is sun and partial shade and some protection from the worst of the weather.

BLACKBERRY (Rubus fruticosus)

I have always found that wild blackberries tasted better than the cultivated ones, but you don’t get the quantity and juicy size of the cultivated ones. Also, there are several thorn-less varieties, which make life a lot easier and more comfortable when handling the canes. The great value of blackberries is that they fruit late, after the raspberries and in time for the first apples – so you can make blackberry and apple pies! 

Soil & Site:

Blackberries prefer full sun but will tolerate partial shade. All the briars prefer a deep rich soil, so digging in at least 2 buckets of well-rotted garden compost or horse manure to each square metre (square yard) will enrich both light and heavy soils alike and also improve its water holding capacity.

Blackberries also prefer a pH of 6.0 or even a little below. If the pH is 7.0 or higher they can suffer from iron deficiency. Fortunately, iron deficiency can be corrected with a seaweed spray and a dressing of seaweed meal at one handful per square metre (square yard).


Blackberries are not grafted and grow on their own roots. Buy one year old plants.


Navaho: These thorn-less blackberry plants deliver all of the flavour with none of the prickles. Navaho in particular is a very upright variety requiring tying to a wire, fence or trellis. This is the variety we grow. 

Black Satin: Another thorn-less variety with a good flavour. Black Satin is a slightly earlier to ripen than the Navaho thorn-less blackberry.


They are best planted in early winter when they are dormant, when the soil still has some warmth in it to encourage some root growth before it gets too cold, but if they are container grown they can be planted at any time of year, although late autumn to spring is the best time.

The traditional way to plant blackberry plants was to dig out a trench 60cm (2ft) wide and one spade deep. Break up the bottom with a garden fork and spread a layer of well-rotted compost or manure 10cm (4in) thick in the bottom. Mix more compost or manure in with the soil as you refill the trench and it’s also good to sprinkle a handful of bone meal for every metre (yard) of trench for good root growth.

Plant them at 3m (10ft) apart, and cut down the canes to 15cm (6in) after planting.

Support & Training:  

You can train and support the canes on a trellis 1.8m (6ft) high, allowing for the fact that the canes will grow 2.5-3m (8-10ft) in length. You can also train them on wires attached to 1.8m (6ft) posts. The first wire should be 1m (3ft) from the ground and then 30cm (1ft) between them till the top.

It is essential to train the canes as they grow. The best way is to train the new growths to one side and last years growth (which will fruit) to the other side, this makes it easier to prune and handle, especially winter pruning.


Mulch: with 15-30cm (6-12in) of spray-free straw after watering or rain. 

Feeding: Mulch with well-rotted compost or manure in late winter. Feeding with liquid seaweed, or compost tea with added liquid seaweed, every 2 weeks during the fruiting season will ensure heavy crops. If the plants show signs of iron deficiency with yellowing between the veins of the leaves, spray with a liquid seaweed and apply a dressing of seaweed meal at one handful per square metre (square yard), or spread fresh seaweed under the straw mulch.

Protection: You will need to net the bushes before the fruit has ripened, otherwise you will end up feeding the local bird population.

Pruning: After the fruit has been picked, cut all the fruiting canes (last years) down to ground level, leaving and tying in the new shoots grown this year to fruit next season.

Harvesting & Preserving:  

The fruit will not ripen all at once, so pick regularly as the fruits ripen. They will keep for a few days in a fridge before eating fresh or cooking. They can also be bottled, frozen or dried, or made into delicious jam.


In the wild, briars propagate by seed, but also spread by the tips of the new growths growing into the soil and rooting. The easiest way to propagate blackberries therefore is to select a strong young healthy cane that grew that year. In late summer/early autumn, bury the tip of the cane into the soil holding it down by tying the cane to the wires, or place a stone or brick on it or peg it down. It will not be long before the tip grows roots and pushes its way up forming a healthy young plant, which can be cut off in late spring/early summer and dug up for transplanting.

Possible Pests & Diseases: First see the first 4 sections of section 13. ‘Pests & Diseases’ on how to encourage disease and pest resistance in plants.

Raspberry Beetle

Raspberry Beetle

Raspberry Beetle:

This is the most common insect to infect Raspberries, Blackberries, Boysenberries and Loganberries. The raspberry beetle isn’t very big – between 3.8 and 5mm (1/8-3/16in). It is pale brown in colour and has short hairs covering its body. You can often see them on the leaves in mid-spring. The beetle lays its eggs on the flowers. The larvae feed on the developing fruit and cause the fruit to appear small and shrivelled. The beetles also eat portions of the flowers and young leaflets. The larvae then drop to the soil and pupate 10-15cm (4-6in) underground and remain there until the following spring.

Rapberry Beetle Grub

Rapberry Beetle Grub

Control measures include digging-over the soil around bushes to expose the pupae for birds to eat. Traditionally organic growers used to spray Derris ten days after the blackberries have started to flower, but this also kills bees and other beneficial insects. As a result it has become increasingly unacceptable to use Derris. However one can spray with Pyrethrum in the evening, when the bees have gone to bed and the Pyrethrum will have mostly broken down by morning when the bees are about again. Unfortunately, Pyrethrum only kills the young bugs and not the beetles (See also section 13. ‘Pests & Diseases’Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides). You can also use pheromone traps to allure the beetles. These can be placed at regular intervals along the rows and emptied periodically.

For those who haven’t had a bad attack and are not too fussed by the worms, you can soak the berries in some salty water for about 5-10 minutes. This flushes the worms out and the berries can then be used after rinsing in clear water.


BLUEBERRY (Vaccinium corymbosum & Vaccinium ashei)

Blueberries are definitely one of my favourite fruits. They are not as sour as many fruits and they have a delicious iron sweet taste.

Like most purple and deep red fruit they are high in antioxidants. They are great eaten alone, but also make a welcome addition to any mixed fruit salad.

Soil & Site:  

Blueberries must have an acid soil – a pH of 5.0 - 5.5 is ideal, so add as much peat as you can to the soil where they are to grow, and if necessary add flowers of sulphur to make the soil more acid. If your pH is 6.5 or above, mix in 30g (1oz) of flowers of sulphur per square metre (square yard). If the soil is heavy, add some sharp sand and peat to open it up. Raised beds in a sunny spot are ideal as you can create the ideal conditions, whatever the underlying soil is. Also, mix in 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic fertiliser per square metre (square yard).


There are three types of blueberries:

• Rabbiteyes (Vaccinium ashei)

• Highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum)

• Lowbush (Vaccinium angustifolium)

Rabbiteyes are native to the southeastern United States. Supposedly they are called rabbiteye because the berries turn pink before they go blue, reminiscent of the eye colour of a white rabbit.

Rabbiteye Blueberries:

• Are very easy plants to grow.

• They have a long flowering to ripening period compared to other types of blueberries.

• They are evergreen.

• They require cross-pollination for fruit set and this will increase the yield. • They are less fussy about their soil requiring less acid soil than other blueberries, but still prefer free-draining soil with a pH around 5.5, and no lime.

• They are reasonably drought tolerant but definitely benefit from irrigation during the development of the fruit.

• They have a lower chilling requirement than Highbush varieties.

• They will start producing fruit in 2-3 seasons.

Highbush Blueberries are found in the wild in northeastern North America. The name highbush implies it might be the larger plant, but it is actually smaller than rabbiteye. Highbush earned its name because it is taller than lowbush blueberries. Within this group are the Southern Highbush and the Northern Highbush blueberries.

• Northern Highbush requires higher chill hours than other blueberries of at least 700 hours per year.

• Southern Highbush types require only about 400 hours or less.

• Highbush blueberries are deciduous.

• These blueberries are self-fertile but cross-pollination will increase fruit set, size and yield.

• They are the earliest berries to ripen, and will crop in the 3rd to 4th season after planting.

• Highbush plants average about 1.8m to 2.5m (6-8ft), though some may grow to 3m or 3.5m (10-11ft).

• Highbush blueberry fruits are usually larger.

Lowbush Blueberries are native to eastern and central Canada and the north-eastern United States. These are very cold hardy requiring high chilling hours, so they are not suitable for growing in New Zealand and other warm temperate areas.


Blue Dawn: Rabbiteye variety. Has delicious large dark blue fruit. 1.5m (5ft) tall. 

Delite: Rabbiteye variety – 1.8-2.5m (6-8ft) high. Ripens in late December and January. Occasionally the Delite blueberries will maintain a pinkish or red tinge even when fully ripened. Because of the delicious flavour the Delite blueberry it is best eaten fresh. 

Climax: Rabbiteye variety. Concentrated ripening season, small to medium sized fruit 

Atlantic: Highbush variety. Large, wide bushes, December – January harvest, very large, dark blue berries, one of the best for full-bodied flavour. Continuous harvest for about 4-6 weeks. Bears medium crop, reliable. 

Jersey: Rabbiteye variety. Large bushes – 2m (6½ft) high, prolific bearer of smallish, intensely flavoured dark blue berries.


After preparing the beds as above, plant the bushes in late autumn or early winter, while the soil is still warm to encourage root growth before winter. Plant them 1.8m (6ft) apart, slightly deeper than they were grown in the nursery, then mulch with well-rotted compost or manure, leaf mould or peat.


Mulch: 6cm (2½in) leaf mould, pine needles or peat.


Mulch with well-rotted compost or manure every autumn, and in late winter apply, 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard).


The bushes will need to be netted as the fruit ripens to protect against birds.


• In the first few years the tips of the branches should be removed in the autumn to thicken up the bushes.

• In following years cut out any old or week branches and prune out any branches that are closer than 15cm (6in) apart to allow the free passage of light and air.

• Both Rabbiteye and Highbush benefit from rejuvenation pruning after a few years, removing the oldest canes entirely as they get unproductive.

• Rabbiteyes can get quite large, up to 6m (20ft) if allowed to grow unchecked. If you wish to keep them at a height where you can easily reach all the berries, you will need to prune vigorously after a few years of growth.

Harvesting & Preserving: 

Highbush ripen about a month earlier in the summer. The fruit is juicier, with a thinner skin. The quality after freezing is quite high. Rabbiteyes are a little tougher and though they freeze beautifully, the skin becomes tougher after freezing. For eating fresh, the Rabbiteyes are a little sweeter. After freezing, the Highbush berry is tenderer than the Rabbiteye.


Blueberries root more easily by softwood cuttings taken from the new growths in late spring/early summer (see section 8. ‘Propagation Techniques’ for details).

Possible Pests & Diseases:  

Birds are the main menace, so cover the bushes with netting before the fruit has ripened. Highbush varieties are more susceptible to diseases. Rabbiteyes are practically disease free, and they tend to have much longer productive lives.

BOYSENBERRY (Rubus. ursinus × Rubus. idaeus)

For: Soil & Site, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Harvesting & Preserving, Propagation, Possible Pests & Diseases – see: BLACKBERRY


Tasman: A self fertile Boysenberry with almost spineless canes to make picking and handling easier. Medium to large delicious berries from December in southern hemisphere and June in the northern hemisphere. Crops well - reliable. 

Mapua: Almost spineless canes. Large purple-black fruit with outstanding flavour

Cape Gooseberry fruit

Cape Gooseberry fruit


(Physalis peruviana)

The Cape gooseberry is a member of the tomato family, indigenous to South America. They have bright yellow round fruit about 2cm (¾in) in diameter encased in a papery husk. 

  It can survive a few years, unless knocked back by heavy frosts, but they fruit better on new plants, so it is best to treat them as annuals or biennials and sow a new crop each year. They are high in vitamins A, B and C, protein, phosphorous and iron.

Cape Gooseberry plants

Cape Gooseberry plants

Soil & Site: 

Shelter from heavy frosts. Will cope with a little shade. Prefers a light well drained soil, but will cope with clay if lightened with compost and is well drained. They don’t like over feeding, but 1 bucket of garden compost plus 1 handful of seaweed meal per square metre (yard) forked in before planting is beneficial.


They are just listed as Cape Gooseberries.


You can buy plants, or get some self-sown seedlings from friends or family. Alternatively sow seeds in the spring in a seed tray or pot, transplanting out after the last frosts.


Plant out 90cm (3ft) apart in a sheltered site. We grow ours up against a sunny wall. Pinch out the new shoots at planting to encourage a more compact bushy plant.

Support & Training:  

Ours climbs up a trellis. You can also tie them to a stake like a tomato plant.


Mulch: 100mm spray-free straw, or 4cm (1½in) grass clippings around the plants after watering.


Spread a handful of seaweed meal, or washed fresh seaweed, around each plant in spring.


Shelter from cold southerly winds and sharp frosts.


Cut back the stems after fruiting to maintain a bushy shape and encourage more fruit.

Harvesting & Preserving:  

Make sure that the fruits are properly ripe – when the fruit is a deep yellow or orange colour and the husks are a pale colour, and the husks fall off easily. Harvest in dry weather and the fruits will last for weeks if left in their husks. Eat fresh, dry them, freeze them or cook them and liquidize them as a topping for cheesecakes or as a sauce for fish. They can also be made into jam.


See: Sowing. Let them self-seed then transplant the seedlings in the spring to a new site.

Possible Pests & Diseases: 

The papery husks deter most pests, but they can get the dreaded psyllid – (see: TOMATOES in ‘How to Grow Vegetables’).

CRANBERRY (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

I love fresh cranberries, dried cranberries and cranberry juice, so much so that I am going to build a small raised bed where I can grow some plants for our own use. Cranberries are low, creeping runners 2m (6½in) in length.

They grow wild in acidic peaty bogs in the cooler regions of the Northern hemisphere. They have starry white-pale pink flowers in spring followed later in autumn by fruits about 1-2cm (⅜-¾in) in diameter.

Soil & Site: 

Cranberries grow better in nutrient-poor soils that are acidic – pH 4.5-5.5. For those of us who have rich soils with a neutral pH, then a special raised bed will have to be made filled with peat with some topsoil, or mix in 30g of flowers of sulphur per square metre (yard) to make the soil more acid.

They prefer full sun but will grow in light shade. They are very cold hardy but can also tolerate fairly hot summer temperatures and are wind tolerant. They do not need freezing temperatures but they do need about 3 months (very approximate) of temperatures that consistently fall down to the 20 to 70C (350-440F) range.


Crowley: Medium red fruit with a good flavour. The fruit are formed on the upright stems. This variety does not require such low chilling in winter than Bergman, so will probably grow and fruit better in areas with mild winters. 

Bergman: Medium red fruit with a good flavour. The fruit are formed on the upright stems. Lower chill requirement than Crowley, so better in areas that have colder winters.


Plant in the autumn, spacing plants ½m (1½ft) apart. Plant into acidic soil or work in peat into the soil. Keep young plants moist until established.


Keep weed free. They do not tolerate dry soils, and need careful watering in hot weather.

Mulch: Mulch heavily with pine needles, leaf-mould or fine bark to reduce weeds and keep the soils acidic.

Feeding: Cranberries prefer nutrient-poor soils, but one or two sprays of liquid seaweed every year in the growing season will keep them healthy, without overfeeding them.

Pruning: Fruit is borne on previous year's growth. Little care is required apart from reducing tangled growth and trimming to encourage strong dense growth.

Harvesting & Preserving: 

Harvest mid-autumn. Harvest when the berries are bright red in colour and they bounce when dropped on a hard surface. If left on the vine the early frosts can sweeten them. Will store for 5 months due to the waxy surface.


Starting cranberry vines from seeds is an exercise in extreme patience and is not recommended. Softwood cuttings root readily in mid-summer – (see: section 8. ‘Propagation Techniques’ for details).

Possible Pests & Diseases: 

Cranberries have very few problems.

CURRANT Black (Ribes nigrum)

The humble Black Currant has recently been claimed as the new ‘Super Food’ because of its very high levels of anti-oxidants – much higher than Goji berries, Boysenberries and Blue Berries.

Antioxidant activity is measured using the ‘Oxygen radical absorbance capacity’ (ORAC).


• Blackcurrants 12,881

• Boysenberries 7,239

• Blueberries 6,341

• Goji berries 4,500

Blackcurrants are a rich source of vitamin C, with 4 times the amount of vitamin C as oranges, and they provide significant amounts of vitamin E and carotenes and potassium. They also have anti-inflammatory properties.

Soil & Site:

Blackcurrants are gross feeders with a high nitrogen requirement, so they need a rich soil, with an ideal pH of 6.5. Plant where protection can be given from afternoon sun, but the plants love the morning sun as well as shelter from hot drying winds. Too much salty air damages their leaves. Prepare the soil by forking in at least 1 barrow load of horse or cow manure and 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser plus 1 handful of fishmeal and 1 handful of seaweed meal per square metre (yard), this may sound excessive but they are heavy feeders.


Magnus: A vigorous grower with large fruit ripening mid to late summer. Sefton: This is an early variety that is pleasant to eat fresh.


Early to mid winter is the best time to plant, at 1.5m (5ft) between them in rows 1.8m (6ft) apart.

Support & Training:

Blackcurrant bushes need no special support or training.


Blackcurrants have very shallow roots, so do not cultivate between the plants.


200mm of spray-free straw is ideal to suppress weeds and retain moisture.


Every year in early spring sprinkle 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser plus 1 handful of fishmeal and 1 handful of seaweed meal per square metre (yard) on top of their straw mulch and water to wash it in. Two sprays of liquid seaweed during the growing season will keep the plants healthy.


Netting against birds will be necessary before the fruit has ripened.


After planting, prune young bushes back to two buds above the ground and allow to grow; then do not prune for two seasons. Thereafter, prune to maintain size by removing old stems to a new low bud, removing at least 1/3 of the old canes, removing those that are drooping on the ground first, so as to keep the bushes as upright as possible. Aim to have 8-10 shoots per bush. No cane should be in place longer than 3 years. To encourage as much young wood as possible cut down old wood to new buds in winter.

NEVER summer prune blackcurrants, as you will cut out next years fruiting buds.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Harvest in mid to late summer, when the berries are firm and easily picked. Expect a few berries in the second year after planting, then heavy crops by the fourth year. They will be in production for ten years or more.


Blackcurrants are one of the easiest plants to grow from cuttings. The success rate is more than 50%, they need no protection or care when growing from hardwood cuttings – (see section 8 ‘PROPAGATION TECHNIQUES’ for details).

Possible Pests & Diseases:


Currant borer: does its damage on the inside of the cane. The larvae feed on the pith, then emerges as a moth in the spring. A tell tale sign of borer damage is the tip of canes wilting and dropping their leaves. Cut out affected canes then burn the infested wood.

Currant fruit fly: Wormy fruit is the work of the currant fruit fly. Infested berries will have a discoloured area where the egg was inserted by the female fly. The damaged fruit falls to the soil, then the maggot burrows into the soil and emerges as a fly in spring. Control by removing all fallen or damaged fruit.


Mildew: can be a problem in mid to late summer but regular once a week sprays of liquid seaweed will help to avoid this. If it becomes a problem, spray with Trichoderma in water, or use homemade organic fungicides – (see section13. ‘Pests & Diseases’Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides).

Red currants

Red currants

CURRANT Red & White (Ribes rubrum)

Red and white currants are quite different from black currants, in that they fruit on older wood, so they can be trained as vase-shaped bushes on a short leg, or trained as cordons. 

White currants

White currants

Soil & Site:

Red and white currants are not such hungry feeders as blackcurrants, but they do love soil rich in organic matter, so incorporate 2 buckets of garden compost plus 1 kg bone meal and 2 handfuls of seaweed meal per square metre (square yard). The bone meal is a slow release fertiliser for good root growth and the high potassium seaweed and all its trace elements are good for fruit production and healthy plants.


Laxton’s No 1 Red Currant: is an early fruiting variety with a fine flavour. White Versailles: This is the best white currant we have come across with a fine sweet flavour.


Bushes: Plant the bushes at 1.5m (5ft) apart with 1.8m (6ft) between the rows.

Cordons: Single cordons should be planted 30cm (1ft) apart, double cordons 60cm (2ft) apart with 30cm (1ft) between each ‘arm’, and triple cordons 90cm (3ft) apart with 30cm (1ft) between each ‘arm’. After planting tie the ‘arms’ upright to the wires and mulch round plants with 15cm (6in) spray-free straw.

Support & Training:

Vase-Shaped Bushes:

Freestanding bushes need training to produce a strong, vase-shaped bush with eight main branches and an open centre on a 15cm (6in) stem. To do this the young rooted cutting is encouraged to produce four good branches on a 15cm (6in) leg by pruning back to four outward pointing buds 15cm (6in) up from ground level. In the first winter these four branches should be cut back to within 10cm (4in) of their base – the cuts being made just above an outward pointing bud at an angle of 30 degrees in order to form a bowl-shaped bush.

For the next three years, when the leaves have fallen, prune back these branches by half to an outward pointing bud and the side growths (laterals) cut back to 2.5cm (1in). This type of pruning should continue for the first four years resulting in good strong branches with short side branches or ‘spurs’ which will produce the flowers and fruit.

After the first five years cut back the leaders or end growths of each branch by about ¼ resulting in eight or nine branches, each of which will be like a cordon with short fruiting spurs all the way up. The aim is to have the branches spaced about 18cm (7in) apart.

If any suckers should develop at the base of the bush, these should be cut out as soon as seen.

Summer pruning is called ‘brutting’ – this is done, by breaking off the laterals or side growths with the back of a knife to within 15cm (6in) of their base when the currants are starting to colour. This will let in light and air into the centre of the bush helping the fruit to ripen better, and also encourages the production of fruit buds at the base of the laterals for future production.


Single Cordons should also be grown on a 15cm (6in) bare leg, rubbing out any buds below that. Immediately after planting, cut back the leading shoot by a third of the growth it made that year and cutting back side growths or laterals to 2.5cm (1in). In the summer, ‘brutt’ the side growths with the back of a knife to 15cm (6in) of the base.

Every winter prune back by a third until the final height is reached, then prune to that height each year.

Double & Triple Cordons – Cut back the rooted cutting to two or three buds just above 15cm (6in), rubbing out any buds below that. As the two or three shoots grow bend them out and upwards and tie them to the wires at 30cm (1ft) apart. Winter and summer prune each branch as single cordons above.



Mulch with 10-15cm (4-6in) of fresh spray-free straw, or 7cm (3in) leaf mould every spring adding the old mulch to the compost heap.


Red and white currants require a lot of potassium, so in early spring each year, when renewing the mulch, apply 2 handfuls of seaweed meal per square metre. Symptoms of potassium shortage are a browning of the leaf edges, which can be solved reasonably quickly by spraying with liquid seaweed.


Currants are very susceptible to bird damage, from flower bud formation onwards. Cover the bushes with garden netting as soon as the buds appear until after harvest.


See above in the training section.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Pick the sprigs of currants from the bush remove the individual currants later with a kitchen fork over a bowl. They will not store fresh, but they can be cooked, frozen, bottled and dried.


Hardwood cuttings are best – (see the section 8. ‘Propagation Techniques’ for details).

Possible Pests & Diseases: (see ‘CURRANT Black’ for details). 

Goji Bush

Goji Bush

GOJI BERRY (Lycium barbarum) 

The Goji is a small slightly thorny deciduous weeping woody shrub, originally from China, which belongs to the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes and potatoes. It typically grows 1 to 2 metres (3-6½ft) tall when cultivated and pruned, but will grow taller if you let it.

Dried Goji Berries

Dried Goji Berries

Goji berries are high in anti-oxidants, but not as high as blackcurrants. However they are tasty with a pleasant sweet-sour taste and are well worth growing. I always include soaked dried ones in my Kefir smoothies.

Goji berries need a little time to get going, so patience is essential – it takes around three years to fruit properly. Although the plant will grow, it'll sulk if its feet are too wet – the main areas for goji production in China are semi-arid, desert-like climates that have high light levels, so long summers and well drained soil are essential.

Soil & Site:

They prefer light soils, but as long as the soil drains well and has plenty of organic matter incorporated in it to open up the soil, they will grow well. As a pH of 6.4 is ideal for most cultivated crops, so it is for Goji. They are actually quite remarkably heat and cold tolerant, but will prefer a site in full sun with some protection from cold winds. Avoid planting near tomatoes and potatoes, as they share diseases, like blight.


Goji are just the wild variety as far as I can gather.


The plants should be spaced 1 to 1½ metres (3-5ft) apart.

Support & Training:

I usually suggest training fruit bushes and trees in a vase shape, but Goji are usually limited to one single main stem, from which the side branches droop down.



Mulch with 10-15cm (4-6in) of fresh spray-free straw, or 7cm (3in) leaf mould every spring adding the old mulch to the compost heap.

Feeding: Two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard) in spring and again in early summer mixed into the mulch, plus an autumn dose of garden compost, at one bucket per square metre, to replace the summer mulch.


see Soil & Site.


Because the fruit is borne on the current year's wood, mainly from the spring and autumn growths, the goals of pruning Goji bushes are to encourage the formation of lateral branches to maximize fruit production, by cutting back canes to produce more laterals and higher yields. Pruning should also aim to limit plant height, improve ease of harvest, and encourage light and air penetration into the bush.

Winter pruning is done to remove spindly canes, remove dead and damaged wood, improve plant shape, and shorten laterals. Summer, pruning is done to head back growth, encourage lateral formation, and remove unwanted new shoots. One of the most important goals of pruning is to produce an open canopy structure that allows in plenty of sunlight.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Plants will begin fruiting two years after seeding, or the year after planting if one-year-old transplants are used. Full yields will be reached four to five years from seeding. The fruit needs picking carefully as they bruise easily. They can be eaten fresh, bottled, or made into juice, but the most common way to preserve them is to dry them.


Goji are grown from seeds, however they should be fresh seed

Possible Pests & Diseases:

The most obvious pest and resultant disease would be potato psylid, if you live in New Zealand or North America – (see ‘Vegetable Growing'Tomatoes for how to prevent psylid).

Red Gooseberry Bush

Red Gooseberry Bush

GOOSEBERRY (Ribes uva-crispa)

Gooseberries are so called because they were made into a acidic sauce for eating with roast goose to counteract the greasiness of the goose, and in France they are called groseilles à maquereau – mackerel currants, or mackerel berries.

Green Gooseberries

Green Gooseberries

This is because mackerel is also very oily like goose and they serve mackerel with a gooseberry-béchamel sauce. I have made a traditional gooseberry sauce for serving with mackerel, that a friend caught, and it was the perfect accompaniment.

There are two types of gooseberry – Cooking and Sweet Dessert. The cooking varieties tend to be hard and sour and the dessert varieties can be eaten like grapes when they are fully ripe. We have tended to only grow the dessert varieties that can be both eaten fresh and picked unripe for cooking.

Soil & Site:

They prefer a site where they have morning sun, shade in the afternoon, and shelter from strong winds. Ideal pH of 6.5. Fork in 2 buckets of garden compost and 2 handfuls of seaweed meal per square metre (yard).


Invicta: This cooking gooseberry is one of the more mildew resistant and heavy cropping varieties. It produces large clusters of classic green fruit. A slow growing, small deciduous shrub that is very prickly but fairly low maintenance.

Monarch: The Monarch gooseberry bush is a good upright vigorous growing plant with slightly reddish dessert fruit. The bush is very prickly.

Farmers Glory: is arguably one of the best-flavoured gooseberries for cooler climates. When ripe they are a beautiful sweet yellowy-green fruit and the unripe fruit also makes perfect pies and flans. It is a very prolific growing plant that needs a nice open, sunny position. This is the one we grew in the U.K.


Free-standing bushes are planted at 1.5m (5ft) apart, with 1.8m (6ft) between the rows.

Single cordons should be planted 30cm (1ft) apart, double cordons 60cm (2ft) apart with 30cm (1ft) between each ‘arm’, and triple cordons 90cm (3ft) apart with 30cm (1ft) between each ‘arm’. After planting, tie the ‘arms’ upright to the wires and mulch round plants with 15cm (6in) spray-free straw.

Support & Training:

I have uncomfortable childhood memories of getting pricked trying to pick wild gooseberries from large prickly bushes, and in my late twenties struggling to prune prickly unruly bushes, like prickly octopuses, which were also difficult to net from birds.

As a result we decided early in our gardening and farming career to grow them as double cordons. This ensures having two-dimensional plants that are easy to train and prune and also much easier to net from birds. Whether on wires or up against a wall or fence, they only take up a 20cm (8in) wide strip of ground, ideal for small gardens. We have also found over the years that cordons produce much larger and better quality fruit - (see: ‘CURRANTS Red’ for details on training soft fruit cordons).

Free-standing bushes do not need support. Train the young rooted cuttings by cutting back to three buds 15cm (6in) from ground level to create a short leg. For the first few years cut the main branches back by a third to sidewise facing buds – this will produce more branches, preferably eight or nine with an open centre. Once the main branches have reached the height you want, cut them back to that height each year.


Mulch: Every spring remove last seasons mulch and compost, replacing with 15cm (6in) of fresh spray-free straw, after removing any perennial weeds. This will maintain moisture and smother annual weeds.

Feeding: Apply 2 handfuls of seaweed meal, bone meal, or one handful of rock phosphate per square metre (yard) when you have removed the old mulch and before re-mulching.

Protection: Netting against birds before the fruit is ripe is essential.


Prune immediately after harvest.

  o Free-Standing Bushes – After harvest, cut back all side shoots to five buds and train the bushes as above.

  o Cordons – After harvest cut all side shoot to 7cm (2¾in) and cut back any secondary shoots to 2.5cm (1in)

Harvesting & Preserving:

For cooking pick the berries when they are ripe, but still firm. For eating fresh, pick when well ripe and starting to be soft.

Over the years we have bottled them and frozen them for cooking and pie making during the winter months. The best way to freeze them, is to top and tail them, then lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer over night. Next day put them in a large slip-lock bag and store in the freezer until needed. This way they won’t be all stuck together. This method can be used for raspberries and other soft fruit.


Hardwood cuttings are best – (see section 8 ‘Propagation Techniques’ for details).

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Gooseberry Sawfly: If the fallen leaves are carefully removed from the ground in the autumn and burnt, and the surface of the soil turned over with the fork or spade (careful of the roots). As a result, most eggs and chrysalides will be eaten by birds, or die of exposure.

Mildew: The main disease is the Gooseberry Mildew that is brought on by humid conditions and drought stressed conditions. Keep well watered but not over watered.  Spray with organic fungicide Trichoderma viride, from flowering onwards as a preventive. Also see: section 13. ‘Pests & Diseases’Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides.

Bunches of Black Grapes

Bunches of Black Grapes

GRAPE (Vitis vinifera)

Grapes fall into two categories – Dessert Grapes and Wine Grapes, although some are good for both.

If you are interested in growing grapes for wine making you will have to do your own research into varieties etc. This section is all about dessert grapes for eating fresh and juicing.

Grapes have high levels of antioxidants and vitamins C and K, and also good levels of vitamins A, B1, B2 and potassium.

Soil & Site:

Grape vines must have full sun and long hot summers, but need winter chill as well. In cooler areas you can grow them against a sunny wall that will provide protection and absorb heat in the daytime, radiating it out at night; or you can plant them just outside a glasshouse, a Polytunnel, or outside a conservatory, training them in through a hole to grow inside in the warm, as we did in the UK very successfully; making sure that in the winter the temperature goes down to at least 50C (410F) on a regular basis inside the glasshouse or conservatory.

Ideally they need fertile, dry, stony soils, but they will thrive on poor soil as long as it’s well drained and has plenty of organic matter and a pH of around 6.4. Ours do well on our well-drained deep clay soil overlying gravel.

Too much nitrogen will cause lots of leaf growth and not so much fruit; so don’t use animal manures or organic fertilisers, like blood & bone, or fishmeal. Fork in 1 bucket of garden compost and 2 handfuls of seaweed meal per square metre (yard), and if you have a very heavy soil you could also add some sharp sand.


Niagara: Niagara grapes are an excellent choice for the organic home gardener. A very early white dessert grape, sweet with a lovely mild flavour. Ripens late summer. Easy to grow with reliable heavy crops.

Thomson’s Seedless: The Thompson Seedless grape vine produces large bunches of sweet seedless green grapes. It is a popular commercial table grape in California but the reason I have included it is it makes great raisins, because it ripens early in the season and has a high sugar content it is good for making sundried raisins.

Niagra: This is a very fragrant great tasting green table grape with very few small seeds. It has a sweet-tangy, sharp flavour. It is a vigorous and healthy grower, bearing large bunches of fruit mid-season.

Albany Surprise: This is one for those who want a black grape. A very sweet black table grape of sweet traditional flavour. Not seedless.


Plant in the autumn or early winter while the soil is still warm, so that some root growth will occur to establish the plant. Plant next to one of the upright stakes, water, then mulch with spray-free straw, 10cm (4in) thick.


Whether planted against a fence or wall, or freestanding, the vine will need strong wires to support them. You can train them on two or three wires. We have a two-wire structure, the bottom wire at 60cm (2ft) above the ground and the second at 1m (3ft) for the vine to grow on with another wire at 1.6m (5ft), to support the garden netting at fruiting time against birds. The wires are supported by 2m (6½ft) waratahs (metal Y posts) hammered into the ground 2m (6½ft) apart and 1.5m (5ft) waratahs at a 450 angle supporting the end posts wedged into a slot in the uprights. You can also use 5 x 5cm (2in) square, or other strong wooden posts. Then strain 2mm (AWG 12) (SWG 14) wires, the first at 60cm (2ft) from the ground, the second at 1m (3ft), and the third at 1.4m (4½ft).

If the wires are against a wall or fence, they need to be held 8cm (3in) out from the wall by galvanized metal brackets and eye-loop strainers at the ends to tension the wires, to hold the vines away from the wall to allow air circulation and to make pruning and training easier.


Three Wire System


1. Plant next to one of the upright stakes.

2. Immediately after planting if there is more than one shoot, reduce to the largest one.

3. Cut back the main shoot to thee strong buds, level with the bottom wire.


4. The following summer the three buds will grow up. Tie these as they grow to the stake.

5. During the summer cut back any side growths to three leaves.


6. Cut back the main shoot to three buds at or just below the second wire. 7. Tie the two other shoots to the bottom wire, one either side of the stake and prune them back by one third. If there are more than two cut out the weaker ones.

8. Cut back all the side shoots right back to one healthy bud only.


9. The central shoot will again produce three shoots, tie the top one to the stake and train and loosely tie in the other two to the second wire, either side, as they grow. Pinch back any side shoots to two leaves after each flower, allowing only one bunch of grapes for each side growth.


10. Cut back the main shoot to two buds at or just below the top wire.

11. Cut back each of the main side stems growing on the second wire by a third and finish tying them on.

12. Also cut back the two bottom stems by a third until they have reached the right length in future years.

13. Cut back all side growths and ones that fruited right back to one healthy bud.


14. Train and loosely tie the top two shoots out along the top wire either side, and cut back all side growths to two leaves after the first flower.


15. Cut back all new stems back by a third, and those that have grown further than is required, and cut back all side growths to one or two buds as usual.

Obviously if you want only a one or two wire system stop at one or two wires and cut back the main shoots each winter by a third.

You can also train the vines up and along a pergola, but it is more difficult to net against the birds.

In the UK we grew our vine in a 10m (33ft) long glasshouse. The single stem was attached to a single wire stretched 25cm (10in) below the central roof pitch.


Mulch: Take away old mulch each autumn, weed and feed the plants and spread fresh spray-free straw 10cm (4in) thick around them.

Feeding: Before re-mulching once every 4 years spread 1 handful of bone meal, or 1 handful of rock potash every square metre (yard).

Protection: Net against birds before the fruit is ripe.

Pruning: Each summer keep cutting back all side growths to two leaves. They will try several times to grow again, so keep cutting back to two leaves and one bunch of grapes per side growth during the growing season (see 3 pictures below).

A two-layer grapevine before pruning

A two-layer grapevine before pruning

Grapevine after pruning

Grapevine after pruning

Grapevine pruned - detail

Grapevine pruned - detail

For the fanatical amongst us, you can also thin out the small growing grapes in each bunch when they are about 6mm (¼in) in diameter, by cutting out every other grape with some nail scissors so as to get a bunch of big, well spaced grapes.

If there are too many young bunches, cut out some so there is space between them. As the grapes begin to ripen cut off some of the leaves that are shading the bunches, to expose them to the sun to encourage ripening.

Each winter cut back all stems to required lengths, and cut back all side growths and the ones that fruited right back to one or two buds.

Harvesting & Preserving:

In dry weather, cut off the fully ripe bunches with scissors leaving a small length of stem. Leave the other bunches to ripen before cutting. Eat them fresh, make into juice or freeze for winter desserts.


Harwood Cuttings – (see secyion 8. ‘Propagation Techniques’ for details.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Powdery Mildew: is the most common problem in mid to late season, forming a powdery greyish mould on the leaves and then on the fruit and young shoots as well. Vines that are well mulched are seldom attacked with mildew. Spacing out the laterals and thinning out growths to allow air in also helps. Spraying with weekly sprays of liquid seaweed from mid summer onwards will also help to avoid this problem, both feeding and strengthening the plant’s resistance and also acting as a mild fungicide. If you still get mildew, spray with diluted urine – 3 parts water + 1 part urine, which is a good natural fungicide – and stand upwind whilst spraying!.

GUAVA Cherry (Psidium littorale)

Cherry Guavas are woody upright bushes. They are self-fertile. Guavas are highly productive shrubs whose fruits have an exotic perfumed flavour. Although Guavas are a tropical looking fruit, they are frost hardy. If you live where there are cold winters that often drop below freezing, then it is best to grow them in containers and bring them into a glasshouse or conservatory during winter. Guavas are rich in vitamin C. They are delicious eaten fresh, and can also be cooked in pies and made into jam.

Soil & Site:

They like a rich soil, so add 2 buckets of garden compost per square metre (yard) and fork in. Plant guavas in full sun – though they will tolerate some partial afternoon shade. Protect them from strong winds. Guavas grow well in large containers or half barrels, which means you can put them in your sunniest spot.


Red Cherry: rounded red fruits with a tangy, sweet flavour. Very productive plants – good for making jam.

Yellow Cherry: produces round greenish yellow fruits that are slightly larger than Red Cherry Guava. Sweet tasting.


Add one bucket of garden compost per square metre and fork in before planting plus a few handfuls of seaweed meal.


Do not let the plants dry out too much especially when planted in full sun. Mulch: Mulch with 8cm (3in) spray-free straw.


Apply 1 handful of seaweed meal per square metre (yard), or spread fresh seaweed every spring when replenishing the mulch. For container grown plants add three handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser in the spring.


Plant in a protected area from wind. Pruning: Not much pruning required. After fruiting you can cut out suckers from the base of plants, remove stems to improve shape of open growing plants, remove dead, diseased and spindly stems.

Harvesting & Preserving:

The yield is very good; you can expect 1 kg (2 pounds) of fruit from a 3-year-old plant, with yields increasing a kilo every year. The small red fruit ripen early in the year.

The fruit is very tasty and can be eaten fresh or added to other fruits in desserts. They can also be added to juices, made into jams and jellies. They can be made into a sauce and added to yoghurt, ice cream or to accompany meat dishes or made into a lovely jelly. They dry easily on a sunny windowsill, a dehydrator or a solar dryer.


You can take heal cuttings or grow them from seed – (see section 8 ‘Propagation Techniques’ for details).

Cuttings: Take cuttings of half-ripe wood 8-10cm (3-4in) long with a heel in early spring in a frame. Pot up in the autumn and overwinter in a cold frame. Plant out in late spring. Good success rate. Cuttings can also be taken of mature wood of the current seasons growth, 8-12cm (3-5in) with a heel, in mid to late spring in a shaded and frost-free frame. Plant out in late spring or early autumn. Good success rate.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

In a lot of countries they are generally pest and disease free. However, Myrtle Rust has spread from South America and Brazil to other countries including Australia, Southern Africa and more recently New Zealand. 

Myrtle Rust (Guava Rust, Eucalyptus Rust):

Myrtle rust generally attacks soft new growth including leaf surfaces, shoots, buds, flowers and fruit. Symptoms to look out for are:

• bright yellow/orange powdery patches on leaves

• brown/grey rust pustules (older spores) on older lesions

• leaves that are buckled or twisted and dying off.

See pictures below:

Early signs on leaves

Early signs on leaves

Yellow powdery spore growths

Yellow powdery spore growths

1. If you have it in your area or country, but your plants are not infected, as a preventative I suggest spraying preventively with either the biological spray, Bacillus Subtilis every two weeks during the growing season, or try a urine spray (diluted 3 to one), again every two weeks.

2. If you already have it, do not handle, or knock the yellow growth, as this will spread the spores. These are the instructions from the NZ Ministry of Agriculture for handling any infected plants, that are applicable to any country:

a) Spray infected and unaffected plants with a fungicide 3-4 days prior to removal. If fungicide treatment is not possible, carefully wet the plants prior to removal to dampen any spores likely to be dispersed during removal.

b) Remove plants. Small plants should be enclosed in a plastic bag before being either pulled or dug out. For potted plants, the whole plant, plus the pot, should be placed into the bag and sealed.

c) Larger plants that do not fit in waste bins can be cut into smaller pieces, securely covered with black plastic or similar and put in a sunny place for 3-4 weeks to kill spores.

d) Dispose of bagged plants by burying on-site, placing in general domestic waste bins, or transporting in a covered vehicle/trailer to a general waste disposal site (not a green waste site). Do not use infected plants as mulch.

e) If you become contaminated you’ll need to decontaminate yourself as best you can, so as not to spread the spores.


• Spray the garment with alcohol/methylated spirits or Sterigene.

• Place the garment in a plastic bag, surface sterilise the bag and place into another bag and leave it on the spot.

• Spray and clean footwear.

• Spray the site where you changed from the garment with alcohol/methylated spirits or Sterigene.

• Phone the MPI hotline 0800 80 99 66 immediately if you live in New Zealand.

GUAVA (Ugni molinae) The New Zealand Cranberry

Chilean Guavas are straggly bushes that grow 30cm to 170cm (1-5½ft) tall with small shiny heart-shaped evergreen leaves. They are also called New Zealand cranberries, because the fruit resemble true cranberries, but the texture and taste are different.

They are a lot easier to grow than true cranberries, without the need for special acid peaty soil conditions. They are cold hardy. They can be grown as a hedge, or in containers, and are easily clipped to form a low formal bush. They can be grown as an edible substitute for a box hedge and are ideal grazing food for children. They are high in fibre, vitamin C and K.

Another advantage to the New Zealand cranberry is that birds don’t seem to eat them, so they don’t need netting and as such are ideal for planting in a forest garden.

Soil & Site:

They will grow and fruit well in partial shade or full sun. They will tolerate salty sea air, but prefer protection against wind. They will grow in sandy soils and clay, but do best in a well-drained soil enriched with leaf mould or other well-composted organic matter.


They are listed as Ugni molinae.


Add one bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard) and fork in before planting.


Do not let the plants dry out too much especially when planted in full sun.

Mulch: Mulch with leaf mould or peat, straw is too coarse for these low growing plants.

Feeding: Apply 1 handful of seaweed meal per square metre (yard) every spring when replenishing the mulch, or mulch with fresh washed seaweed.

Protection: Plant in a protected area from wind.

Pruning: Trim after fruiting to maintain bushy shape and more regularly if you are growing as a box-like hedge. Not much pruning required. They tend to become straggly if left un-pruned.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Yield is very good. You can expect 1kg (2 pound) of fruit from a 3-year-old plant, with yields increasing a kilo every year. The small red fruit ripen early in the year.

The fruit is very tasty and can be eaten fresh or added to other fruits in desserts. They can also be added to juices, made into jams and jellies. They can be made into a sauce and added to yoghurt, ice cream or to accompany meat dishes or made into a lovely jelly. They dry easily on a sunny windowsill, a dehydrator or a solar dryer.


You can layer them, take heal cuttings or grow them from seed.

Layering: As they are naturally straggly plants, layering is an obvious for of propagation. Layer in the winter. Either bend a low growing branch in a U shape burying it about 5cm (2in) deep in a slot in the soil and cover with soil leaving the end growth above the soil. If necessary, pin down with a wire or place a stone on the soil to stop it springing up. Alternatively, bend the branch down into a pot filled with a soil and sharp sand mix, half berried in the soil. The following autumn check to see if the branch has rooted and if it has, cut the new plant from its parent and plant out or grow on in a pot to plant out later.

Cuttings: Take cuttings of half-ripe wood 8-10cm (3-4in) long with a heel in winter in a frame. Pot up the following autumn and overwinter in a cold frame. Plant out in late spring. Good success rate.

Cuttings can also be taken of mature wood of the current seasons growth, 7-12cm (2¾-4¾in) with a heel, in spring in a shaded and frost-free frame. Plant out in early autumn. Good success rate.

Seed: Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow it in late winter in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Myrtle Rust: see: GUAVA above. Otherwise they are generally pest and disease free.

HOPS (Humulus lupulus)

I know it seems strange, but hops are sort of fruits, or rather flowering heads.

Soil & Site:

Hops prefer a rich well-aerated soil that is high in nutrients and has good drainage, so add plenty of garden compost + sharp sand, if the soil is very heavy. Aerate the ground by turning it over several times to aid drainage They are tolerant of a wide pH range of 5.5-8.0, so aim for 6.4, and do not go higher than 6.5. Hops need a sunny site, with no shade.


Hops can grow to over 7.5m (24½ft) long and weigh 9 kilograms in one season, so a strong, secure trellis structure is important.


You can buy female hop plants on line in many countries.

Fuggle: is an English heritage hop plant, one of the oldest available varieties, developed by the Reverend Richard Fuggles in 1856. This hop plant tends to crop more heavily towards the head of the plant and produces large flowers sometimes referred to as banana hops. Traditional brewers highly prize Fuggle for producing a light flavoured beer.

Cascade: Flowery, citrus & spice with grapefruit the noticeable fragrance. Good for flavour and aroma, but also an acceptable bittering hop. Bred from a cross between Fuggle and a Russian hop, it is the mainstay of US craft brewing.

Smooth Cone: was developed at the Riwaka Research Station in New Zealand in the early 1960's. Although it is not a heavy yielding variety like some of the modern ones, but the quality is good.

Bullion: is an English hop variety, and was an important variety in its day. Developed in the 1940s, it has been superseded by more modern high alpha hops. Bullion is a bittering hop with a strong blackcurrant aroma. Bullion was used in the production of stouts.


Add one bucket of garden compost per square metre and fork in before planting + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard). Hops should be planted in the spring, late enough to avoid a frost. Spread the rhizomes out, about 10cm (4in) deep. Cover the mound with some straw or light mulch to inhibit the weeds.


Once the hops begin to grow, select the best shoots and wrap them around your trellis to train them. You will need to train the hops for a few days, but eventually they will begin growing in a clockwise direction. Train the best shoots and trim off the rest.


Hops enjoy lots of water. In dry climates, or the heat of summer, they may need to be watered daily.

Mulch: Mulch with 10 cm spray-free straw. Replace every spring after feeding.

Feeding: Apply Eco or Organic Fertiliser in the spring and apply new mulch.

Pruning: When Spring comes, take a spade and cut around the rhizome to trim the roots back to about 30cm (1ft). Trimming the roots will prevent the hops from running, as they tend to spread rapidly.

Harvesting & Preserving:

To determine when to harvest, you need to examine the cones (female flowers). Mature hop cones will be dry to the touch, springy, and has its characteristic strong aromatic odour. It will also leave yellow lupulin powder on your fingers. Check the cones every day or two, and when you think they are ripe, pick one and open it. It should be filled with thick yellow-gold lupulin powder if it is fully ripe.

The hops may not all ripen at once, so harvest them as they ripen. Dry the hops out in a warm dry spot in your house, keeping them away from the sunlight. Sunlight can seriously damage picked hops. A paper bag is a good place to store them while drying. The hops should dry out in a week or two. After that, place them in a sealed bag and store the hop cones in your freezer. Remove as much oxygen as possible from the bag to avoid oxidization.


You can take soft wood cuttings in early summer if you want a lot, but if you are only wanting a few plants the easiest is to layer some shoots – (see the section ‘Propagation Techniques’ for details).

Possible Pests & Diseases:

The growing conditions for organic hop production are ideal here in New Zealand because none of the traditional hop diseases, such as powdery mildew, downy mildew, verticillium wilt, are present. However in other parts of the world these diseases exist. They include:

Downy Mildew: Spraying with weekly sprays of liquid seaweed from mid summer onwards will also help to avoid this problem, both feeding and strengthening the plant’s resistance and also acting as a mild fungicide. If you still get mildew it can be treated with Bacillus Subtilis spray. This is a liquid that contains spores of the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, known to inhibit the growth of mildew fungi. The alternative is an old recipe – urine – watered down 3 parts water + 1 part urine, which is an effective natural fungicide, but stand up wind!

Powdery Mildew: Treat as for downy mildew.

Verticillium Wilt: Hops are vulnerable to infection by the soil-borne disease Verticillium Wilt against which chemical treatments are impractical. Strict hygiene is necessary to minimise the likelihood of introducing this disease into hop plantings. Verticillium wilt first appeared in the UK in the 1920’s and was recognised in continental Europe in the 1950’s. Plants infected with Verticillium Wilt must be grubbed-out and the site of infection laid fallow under a weed-free grass cover for several years. Again, plant breeding has produced British hop varieties that are resistant to, or tolerant of, infection by this disease. In Britain the control measures include the non-cultivation of hop plantings and the planting of certified wilt-free stocks.

My serious suggestion is that the ground should sprinkled with Trichoderma viride granules (or powder) at 2 handfuls per square metre around the feeding roots, then watered in to kill the verticillium wilt fungus – definitely worth a try! I have cured a soil-borne die-back disease on my Persimmon tree this way with great success.

Aphids: See the section ‘Pests & Diseases’Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides.


For: Soil & Site, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Harvesting & Preserving, Propagation, Possible Pests & Diseases – See: BLACKBERRY

A Karakaberry is a hybrid berry that has all the flavour of blackberries combined with the lush taste of boysenberries and raspberries. The long firm fruit are borne on quite prickly canes, which are quick to establish and need tying up on a trellis like a blackberry.

Karaka berries are self-fertile and will grow to a height of 2m (6½ft). They are quick to establish and the fruit is quite resistant to mildew. The fruit also freezes well and makes beautiful pies and jams.

They ripen December through to end of January (southern hemisphere) – June to end of July (northern hemisphere).

KIWI BERRY (Actinidia arguta)

For those who love Kiwi fruit, try these. It is a close relation to Kiwi fruit. It is a perennial vine native to Japan, Korea, Northern China, and Russian Siberia. The grape-sized fruit is similar to kiwifruit in taste, but sweeter and more intense in flavour, and is usually green with a smooth skin.

They can be eaten whole without peeling. They are higher in Vitamin C than most citrus fruit.

The vines are vigorous, with each vine can grow up to 6m (20ft) in a single season, given ideal growing conditions, although with us they do not grow as much as that – 3-4 metres maximum. They can eventually grow to 12m (40ft) if allowed to. Plants usually fruit by their fourth year, and bear full crops after the eighth year. Once established, plants can live for fifty years or more.

Soil & Site:

Kiwifruit can be grown in any garden soil provided the pH is between 5.5 and 6.5. The plants thrive in moist soils but do not tolerate poorly drained soils. They benefit from the incorporation of 2 buckets of well-rotted compost before planting.

They will need protection in colder climates. The Royal Horticultural Society in the UK advises that Kiwi fruits require a sheltered sunny position, preferably trained against a south - or west-facing wall, although they can be grown in the open in milder areas. They are being grown commercially at Withers Farm in Ledbury, Herefordshire, England. Young shoots are extremely vulnerable to frost damage in the spring and may require protection, which is easier if they are trained against a sunny wall, which can be covered in sacking or frost fleece, if there is a threat of frost early in the season.


Takaka Green: The fruit are green skinned fruit cylindrical in shape. This variety was selectively bred in Golden Bay, New Zealand, with crops of 100kg (220 pounds) per vine being recorded.

Marju Red: is a reddish purple skinned variety bred in New Zealand with a fantastic flavour.

Issai: is a green Japanese cultivar, which has the advantage of being self-fertile.


Plant kiwi berries 3m (10ft) apart in mid to late spring, or after the danger of frost are past. Plant one male for every nine females. Plants require frequent watering from the time they are transplanted. It is important to select one or two new canes and train them to grow vertically. Do not allow them to twist around the support pole or wire because as they grow they can get constricted.

Support & Training:

Kiwi berries require a trellis, pergola or other support structure. Train the main cane up the pole to the top of the structure, then train stems along the centre wire or timber. Laterals grow from these arms and can be tied to the outside wires or frame. Fastening the stems will help to keep them from breaking off, especially on windy sites.


Mulch: Plants benefit from a thick layer of organic mulch, which helps control weeds, adds organic matter to the soil, and aids in moisture retention.

Feeding: Feed late winter early spring with one handful of seaweed meal or rock potash per square metre (yard).

Pruning: Pruning is necessary both during the dormant season and during the growing season. Two or three times during summer, cut non-flowering laterals back to the outside wire on the trellis. Trim the flowering shoots back to 4 to 6 leaves beyond the last flower. In the winter, remove canes that fruited last season back to the swollen base where there will be one or two buds, also cut out diseased or tangled canes. Keep the best one-year-old lateral canes that haven't fruited, spaced about a 30cm (1ft) apart along the arms, trimming them back to about eight buds.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Unlike Kiwi fruit, Kiwi Berries are soft and deteriorate almost as fast as raspberries. If they are not overripe they can be kept a few days, or longer in a fridge. They can be made into jam, made into chutney, yummy fruit leather, or frozen, but we love them so much we eat them fresh. When our vines grow bigger we may have to preserve the excess.


Take hardwood cuttings anytime after the plant has received 500 hours of chilling, or take softwood cuttings in January (southern hemisphere), July (northern hemisphere). Kiwi berries can also be propagated by layering - (see: the section ‘Propagation Techniques’).

Possible Pests & Diseases:

PSA: is the main disease I worry about, but we are several kilometres from the nearest commercial orchards, so we might get away with it. I also spray the vines regularly during the growing season with ‘Nature’s Curator’ in the hope that this will increase the vines ability to resist disease and help to stop an infection, should it come our way. It also helps to control other pests and diseases.


Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa) is a bacterium that can result in the death of kiwifruit and kiwi berry vines. Growth of the bacteria outside/inside the vines can result in leaf spotting, cane/leader dieback and, in extreme cases, vine death accompanied by the production of exudates (a rusty red liquid discharge).

Symptoms are usually expressed during spring and autumn when climatic conditions are favourable – i.e. cool temperatures, persistent rains and high humidity. Psa is temperature sensitive and active between 10-200C, and limited by temperatures over 250C. The disease can be spread via windborne pollen, strong winds and heavy rainfalls. It is believed to be spread by footwear, vehicles and orchard tools, animals and humans. The bacterium infects the plant through natural openings (stomata and leaf axis) and wounds.

Symptoms include angular shaped spots, often associated with a halo, although not all leaf spots clearly exhibit the halo, brown discolouration of buds and, in advanced stages of infection, the leakage of red-rusty gum. Not all symptoms appear at the same time.

KIWI FRUIT (Actinidia deliciosa & Actinidia chinensis)

Kiwifruit seeds first arrived in New Zealand in 1904, brought back from China by Wanganui Girls College headmistress Isabel Fraser, who had been visiting her missionary sister. She gave the seeds to Alexander Allison, a Wanganui farmer with an interest in unusual plants and the rest is history. Raw kiwifruit is rich in the protein-dissolving enzyme actinidain (in the same family as papain from papaya), which is commercially useful as a meat tenderizer and as a help in the digestion of protein rich foods. 

The vines are more vigorous than Kiwi Berry vines, so you will need a lot of space and a substantial framework on which to grow them.

For – Soil & Site, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Propagation and Possible Pests & Diseases see: KIWI BERRY – allowing for the fact thatKiwi Fruit are more vigorous and need more room and a larger frame to grow on.


Hayward (Actinidia deliciosa): is one of the original cultivars developed in New Zealand and is the common kiwifruit with green flesh.

Hort16A (Actinidia chinensis): is a golden kiwifruit with a sweeter golden browny-yellow flesh.

Harvesting & Preserving:

They are best picked just as they are starting to soften.

I have pealed, sliced and dried them and they are good for nibbles, if a bit chewy. However the dried fruit can be soaked, or better still steamed briefly to soften them before eating.

Kiwifruit makes an excellent fruit leather. Peal and pulp in a food processor, and then dry on thin plastic sheets in the sun, in a solar dryer or home dehydrator.

Freezing is the easiest, most convenient way to preserve kiwifruit at home. The fruit retains its fresh flavor and green color. Choose fully ripe fruit. Sliced fruit freezes and thaws evenly and is attractive. Crushed fruit may be used for meat tenderizing. Freezing does NOT inactivate the enzyme, actinidine that helps to break down animal protein. Slices may be frozen individually by placing on baking sheet or tray and freezing; pack after freezing. Good for garnishes.

If you are going to use kiwifruit in gelatine dishes, or milk dishes, you will need to heat the fruit to boiling before using, otherwise the enzyme in it will break down the jelly or milk with messy and runny results. Kiwifruit can also be made into jam.

LOGANBERRY (Rubus × loganobaccus) 

Loganberries are a hybrid cross between a Raspberry and a Blackberry. For: Soil & Site, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Harvesting & Preserving, Propagation, Possible Pests & Diseases – See: BLACKBERRY.  

Varieties: Waimate: is a thorn less variety, with white flowers in spring followed by large dusky purple-red berries, with an excellent aromatic flavour. The core of the fruit is left behind when picked. The canes run 2-3m (6½-10ft). They are self-fertile. They crop in mid-summer.

PASSION FRUIT (Passiflora edulis) 

Passion fruit is a climbing vine native to Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina. They are high vitamin C & A, with some magnesium, iron, fibre and vitamins B & niacin. 

  One vine should supply most families. Vines start bearing within 12 months of planting: they flower in spring to produce a late summer or autumn crop. The flowers are self-fertile and are insect pollinated.

Soil & Site:

Passion fruit is adaptable, but prefers a nitrogen rich, well-drained soil. 

Dig in 2 buckets of compost plus two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard) into the soil before planting in spring.

Passion fruit requires full sun to fruit reliably, although it tolerates occasional mild frosts.

For colder climates, they can be grown in a glasshouse or conservatory.


Different passion fruits are usually grafted onto yellow passion fruit rootstock, which is resistant to various root rots. These grafted vines generally live longer and are also more vigorous.


The most common species are black, or purple, passion fruit (Passiflora edulis), yellow passion fruit (P. edulis f. flavicarpa)

Black Beauty: Flowers 5-8cm (2-3in) across are white and purple, an attraction in themselves. Formed on currant season's wood and will flower in the first year. But unfortunately the life expectancy of a plant is 4-7 years. Egg shaped, 4-7.5 cm (1½-3in) dark purple fruit with a yellow-orange juicy aromatic flavoured pulp filled with small black seeds.

Red Banana: This is NOT one of those nasty imported invasive weeds (Passiflora tarminiana and P. tripartite) that is here in New Zealand). It is a lot less vigorous than the invasive weed version. Red Banana has large ornamental red pendulous flowers followed by yellow oblong fruit. The pulp has a delicate flavour, is sweet, juicy and aromatic. The fruits take longer to form and mature so they need a longer, warmer summer than normal varieties.


Plant in early spring next to the trellis, or 15cm out from a wall with a trellis or wires for the plant to climb on; water, then mulch with spray-free straw 10cm (4in) deep, but keeping it away from the stem to avoid rotting.

Support & Training:

They need support in the form of a trellis, pergola, arbour or fence, ideally about 2m (6½ft) high. Help young vines to climb up their support by attaching with soft ties. It has to be remembered that they can grow 1.5-7m (5-23ft) per year once established, but of course they can be pruned back to control them.


Water regularly. Weed regularly to avoid competition.

Mulch: Mulch the plant well, but keep it away from the stem, and water in thoroughly.

Feeding: Apply with extra compost in spring and mid-autumn. Plus two handfuls of blood & bone per square metre in the spring. Several sprays of liquid seaweed from flowering onwards keep the vine healthy, supply trace elements and potassium and reduce disease.

Protection: Birds are not interested.

Pruning: Prune in spring every second year: progressively remove any branches below 60 cm to improve air circulation, and also thin out old branches.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Harvest in the autumn when fully sized and coloured – they are at their best when slightly wrinkled. The Panama varieties however, are ripe when still smooth. The pulp can be extracted and frozen. Passion fruit cheesecake is one of the best uses for the fruit. Mixing the juice and seeds in a fruit salad is good, or pouring over ice cream. Passion fruit curd is also worth Googling and there are many other recipes.


Graft onto yellow passion fruit rootstock to avoid root-rot.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Root-rot: can occur on un-grafted plants.

Brown-spot: and other funguses can be resisted by regular bi-weekly sprays of liquid seaweed during the growing season, as well as pruning and removing infected canes and leaves and opening up the canopy to allow better air movement, which will significantly assist in controlling the problem. Affected leaves retained in the canopy should also be removed to reduce spore numbers.

Corky Fruit: There is also a virus that makes the fruit ‘corky’, unfortunately there is no cure and grubbing up the vines and planting new ones in another site is the only course. 

PEPINO (Solanum muricatum)

This is one of our favourite easy-to-grow fruits. It is a perennial sprawling evergreen shrub related to tomatoes and other members of the Solanaceae family, growing to 1m (3ft) high. The strange 6cm (2½in) oval shaped cream coloured purple-tiger-striped fruit taste like a mild version of a rock melon, juicy and sweet, but with a much longer season and none of the hassles of growing melons. They continue to fruit from early summer to late autumn. In fact we often have some fruit during early winter – and I have just been out to have a look (mid winter as I write) to see if there were any fruits and I found a ripe one hiding under the protection of the leaves up against the sunny wall where it grows. I will now stop writing to eat it.

Soil & Site:

Fork in one or two buckets of compost plus one handful of seaweed meal or rock potash per square metre (yard). Do not use high nitrogen fertilizers, such as blood and bone, fishmeal or animal manure as this will encourage too much foliage and not a lot of fruit and will also encourage diseases. They prefer a pH of 6.5.

Pepinos are very frost tender, so in colder climates you will only be able to grow them in a suitable frost-free conservatory or heated greenhouse, with good light.


El Camino: The medium to large egg-shape fruit turns yellow with purple stripes when ripe.

Incredible Blush: Elongated fruit reaching 10cm (4in) in length, within the average weight of 300g (10½oz). As the cream fruit develops the purple strips darken. When mature there is a rosy blush.

Incredible Ruby: Purple elongated fruit approximately 12cm (4¾in) long when mature. The fruit is juicy with a mild flavour and crisp texture.


Plant in spring after the last frost to ensure they have a good growing season ahead of them. 

Pepino growing on a sun facing trellis

Pepino growing on a sun facing trellis

You can grow Pepino as a freestanding bush, but it is best trained up a low trellis, wires or stakes, tying in the stems as they grow. The best place to grow it is against a sunny wall as in this picture of our Pepino against the wall of our house:


Mulch: 5cm (2in) of bark chips or 10cm (4in) of spray-free straw around the plants after rain or after giving the plant a good watering.

Feeding: One handful of seaweed meal every spring and/or spraying bi-weekly with seaweed liquid will provide the potassium they like plus all the trace elements without too much nitrogen.

Protection: Protect from winds, especially cold winds. Planting against a sunny wall is best. We haven’t had any bird problems, so we don’t use netting, but others might find it necessary.

Pruning: Prune out any unhealthy or dying branches. Trim and shape the bush. When the fruit is growing, you can cut back some of the leaves to expose the fruit to the sun to encourage ripening.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Pick when they have fully coloured up and are just starting to feel a little soft when you squeeze them. Eat them fresh by cutting them lengthwise, scooping out the seeds and then using a spoon to eat the flesh. They make a great addition to a fruit salad. They can also be made into chutney.


It is very easy to propagate pepinos from soft cuttings. In late spring, cut a length of green stem just below a node 8-10cm (3-4in) long, removing all the leaves except the top 4. Plant half way in a pot filled with a mixture of ½ peat + ½ horticultural pumice. Bend a piece of wire over the cutting and into the sides of the pot, water, then cover with a clear plastic bag secured with a large rubber band and keep somewhere warm, but not in direct midday sunlight.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Potato-Psylid: The two most obvious pests and diseases are potato-psylid and potato blight, both of which can affect pepinos. In Europe the potato-psylid is not present, but in the US and New Zealand it is a pest. I kept an eye on our one plant for the last three years, and did not seen any psylid bugs on them, however it looks as though it has been effected and showed increasing symptoms of psylid induced disease and has died. In our experience, if there are tomatoes near by, they will always go for the tomatoes first, then the potatoes, but that does not mean that you should not take these preventative measures:

1. Neem Granules: Sprinkle two handfuls of Neem Tree granules into the planting hole, before planting, or sprinkle three handfuls per square metre (yard) around the plant, rake in and water. The natural organic chemical, Azadirachtin in Neem is absorbed through the roots, helping to kill insects that suck the sap, but you should also use

2. Silica Drench and Spray: Silica is applied in two forms – Soil Drench & Liquid Spray The soil drench is a very fine form of diatomaceous earth mixed with water as a paste. This is watered down and applied as a soil drench at the beginning of each season. This is repeated 1-2 weeks later. The spray is Orthosilicic acid and is sprayed every 2-4, stopping one month before harvest.

3. Neem Oil Spray: Spray every fortnight with Neem Oil spray, with added ‘Rain Guard’ solution to make the Neem last longer.

Raspberry Canes

Raspberry Canes

RASPBERRY (Rubus idaeus)

As soon as you have had your fill of strawberries, if that is possible, along come the raspberries. If you love fruit you must have a good row of raspberry canes.

Soil & Site: Raspberries need a very rich soil high in organic matter and slow-release foods and a sunny position, although they will tolerate a little shade.

The ideal pH is about 6.4. Be sure to thoroughly clear the strip of perennial weeds where you are going to grow your raspberries, because the canes will last ten to twelve years and there is nothing worse than having couch grass, or convolvulus smothering your canes and not being able to do anything about it once they’re planted.

Having done that, dig in as much as a barrow load of compost on 2 square metres (yard) plus ½kg (1 pound) of bone meal and ½ kg (1 pound) of seaweed meal per square metre (yard). This may seem excessive, but your raspberries will love it and reward you over the years. High Nitrogen manures and organic fertilisers should be avoided, as this will lead to lots of vegetative growth at the expense of fruit.


Most of these varieties are older or heritage varieties.

NZ varieties:

Waiau: – Mid to late season maturity. Vigorous upright growth habit. Is one of the easiest of all to grow. Very large light medium red conical fruit.

Aspiring: – Large dark red conical firm fruit. Excellent flavour. Fruits twice a year. Non Suckering: – This has large red fruit and doesn’t send out suckers – so they say! Obtainable from the Koanga Institute

Australian varieties:

These are available from ‘Diggers Club’, which specialises in older and heritage varieties – see:

Heritage: is a very vigorous variety, suited to long hot summers and mild autumn conditions.

Willamette: Last century heirloom variety. Has been the most planted variety in the world. Reliable and heavy yielding, with rich red berries. Mid-summer and autumn cropping.

Chilliwack: Summer fruiting Raspberry that holds its fruit well on the canes, so that they can be picked over time. The almost thornless canes carry sweet fat fruit in mid-summer.

UK varieties:

Malling Jewel: Early/Mid-season, all-purpose variety providing medium to large, high quality fruit of fine, sweet flavour. They are larger and juicier than most while remaining firm. Each cane produces a reliable moderate crop, with the enormous advantage that when ripe, this raspberry will hang on its bush for a good week without becoming over-ripe and mushy.

Malling Exploit: Is a mid summer classic variety. A strong growing and moderately productive selection, the bright pink-red berries are quite large and have a good true raspberry flavour.

Lloyd George: This English heirloom raised raspberry was first introduced in 1919, and has long been prized as an autumn cropper. Although numerous autumn fruiting varieties have since been raised, none carry the intense flavour of the original. Sweet delicate berries with an unforgettable flavour. Too tender for the shops!

US varieties:

Heritage: Everbearing, heavy yielding raspberry producing berries on old canes in early summer and on new canes from August though to the first frosts. Great colour, luscious sweet, red fruits full of flavour that are firm and great for freezing.

Caroline: are an ever-bearing variety very similar to the Heritage raspberries, producing tasty, medium-sized, firm red berries from mid-summer into fall. They are disease-resistant, highly productive and easy-to-grow. The summer crop begins to ripen in late June. The fall crop is highly productive and ripens from August until first frosts.

Autumn Britten: This raspberry originated in Great Britain. It ripens before Caroline and Heritage, bearing fruit from late summer through the fall. It has a large, very firm and cohesive berry that is flavourful. Winter hardy.

Support & Training:

The canes need supporting. You can have a single row of 6cm (2½in) square, 1½m (5ft) long wooden posts 2m (6½ft) apart with 5 wires to tie your canes to – but here is a better solution. We have 2 rows of posts 2m (6½ft) long and 30cm (1ft) apart, with 2 rows of wires spaced every 30cm (1ft) and top wires attached to the top of the posts. The 2m (6½ft) posts are hammered in ending up 1.8m (6ft) high. This may seem high but it is so you can drape netting over the canes when they are fruiting to keep the birds from eating them. The canes fit neatly between the two rows of wires to which they can also be tied if necessary in windy areas.


This is best done in autumn or early winter when the soil is still warm and some root growth is made to get the plants established before spring. Plant out at 30cm (1ft) apart in rows 1.8m (6ft) apart if more than one row.


Mulch: Mulch with 10cm (4in) of spray-free straw, or at least 5cm (2in) of compost to keep down annual weeds and retain moisture.

Feeding: Spraying every two weeks through the fruiting season will help to keep them healthy and provide iron. Also spread one handful of seaweed meal per square metre every spring when changing or recharging the mulch.

Protection: Cover the canes with netting before the fruit is ripe to protect against birds.

Pruning: Raspberries fruit on the young canes that grew the previous season – so each autumn after the harvest has been picked you will have the two-year-old canes that fruited that season plus some new canes. Cut out all the older fruited canes leaving the new canes for fruiting next season. As raspberry canes blossom mostly near the tips, shorten the strongest young canes above the top training wire (not the topmost wire for hanging the netting on), the next strongest to the wire below and the weakest to the wire below that to give three storey’s of fruit.

You will also need to dig out any wandering runners, unless you want an ever-growing thicket. The runners can travel up to 1 metre (yard).

Harvesting & Preserving:

The berries do not all ripen at once. When ripe they should be well coloured and should come away from their plug when gently pulled.

The best is to eat them fresh. You can dry them for muesli etc., make great jam, or bottle them. They are easy to freeze as long as you lay them out one layer thick in a large zip-lock bag placed on a baking sheet and placed in the freezer overnight. When they are well frozen, take out the tray and store in the bag. Doing it this way stops them sticking together in a horrible mess.


This is easy. Just dig up some healthy looking runners in autumn, cut them from the parent plants and replant.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Before reading this section, see the first 4 sections of the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ on how to encourage disease and pest resistance in plants.

Raspberry Beetle: See: BLACKBERRIES

Iron Deficiency: Spraying and applying seaweed liquid and meal will avoid iron deficiency.

STRAWBERRY (Fragaria × ananassa)

As Shewell-Cooper said in his book The Compost Fruit Grower

“There is no fruit like the strawberry for proving the value of organic methods of growing.”

In other words they thrive in a vibrant healthy living soil, rich in humus and well mulched. When we had our farm we grew organic strawberries for sale, so we always had enough for ourselves, but now we are having to learn how much to grow for our own needs.

Soil & Site:

The wild strawberry likes to grow on the edges of woodland, so this will give you some idea as to its needs. They need a well-drained soil rich in humus with a good soil structure that is slightly acid – pH 6.4 will do.

First dig over to make sure all nasty perennial weeds are got rid of. Raised beds in a sunny position are ideal for growing strawberries. Fork in a barrowload of well rotted manure or compost, plus 1½ kg (3 pounds) of bone meal to every 3 square metres.

Your strawberry beds will last for two years, so you will need to create a new strawberry bed in a different location every two years.


NZ varieties:

Tioga: This is an early commercial variety. They are red with white flesh. They taste better than red-fleshed ones, and are very vigorous and healthy growers.

Sundae: Large red fruit with excellent flavour, with firm red flesh in an oval shape.

Royal: Heavy yields of large dark red fruit with traditional flavour. Red flesh. Being a ‘short-day’ crop, make sure you plant early in the season to reap the rewards up to Christmas. This is a compact strong growing strawberry that is resistant to wilt and phytophthora.

Supreme: Very large bright red fruit. Very firm red flesh with excellent flavour. Conical shape. Good resistance to wet weather. Very good yields.

Australian varieties:

Chandler: The most delicious of all the large fruited strawberries. Huge berries, up to 60gms each, that are produced in profusion. Easy to grow in most climates.

Kamu: takes it's name from the aboriginal word for blood red, and this describes the colour of this fragrant strawberry. An Australian bred variety that produces lots of large sweet strawberries through summer and autumn.

Lowanna: is an Australian-bred strawberry with large, glossy-red, perfectly-shaped, conical fruit. It is suitable for growing from Victoria to Queensland and copes well with hot weather. An excellent home garden variety, it crops over a long period. The fruit has a good flavour; the flesh is medium red with a lighter core.

UK varieties:

Royal Sovereign: is a superb heritage strawberry that has been loved for over 50 years and our favourite variety that we grew in the UK. Although the crop is a little smaller than modern varieties, there is a very good reason why so many people still grow it - the flavour is out of this world!

Mid season variety.

Cambridge Favourite: The enduring popularity of this variety has made it one of the most well-known and best-loved varieties available. This mid-season strawberry produces a bumper crop of juicy orange-red fruits with an excellent flavour and texture from mid to late summer. This superb variety is reliable and tolerant of most situations.

US varieties:

Tresca Garden Strawberry: is a super early strawberry variety from Poland. Fruits are a picture perfect shining bright red and bursting with flavour.

Sparkle: strawberries are a classic favourite and have been a popular strawberry variety for over 60 years. The medium-sized fruit is deep red with an excellent flavour. It ripens late. It is widely considered the best strawberry variety for making jam.


Be sure you buy virus and disease-free plants from a reputable supplier.

The best time to plant is February when the soil is still warm and some root growth will occur before winter. Plant out 45cm (18in) apart in rows 60cm (2ft) apart. It is very important to take great care when planting strawberries. The roots need spreading out; this is done by planting in shallow holes with a little mound in the middle. The roots should be spread down the sides of the mound, making sure that the crown is well above the soil level.


Mulch: 4cm (1½in) of leaf mould is the best mulch for strawberries keeping the mulch away from the crowns of the plants to avoid rot.

Feeding: Mulch with more compost in the autumn and another handful of seaweed meal per square metre, again keeping it away from the crowns.

Protection: You will need to net them against birds before the fruit is ripe, by stretching wires from corner posts sticking 45cm (18in) out of the ground and then stretching the netting over, being sure to peg the netting down round the edges to stop the persistent birds from pushing underneath.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Pick regularly as they ripen, making sure to remove any that are rotting or half-eaten by slugs etc., so they don’t rot the others.


Propagate from runners. The one-year-old plants will send out surface runners with a baby plant on the end. You can peg the runners down so the bottom of the baby plants is in contact with the leaf mould or soil, which will then produce roots. Alternatively sink 8cm (3in) pots into the soil where the baby plants are filled with potting compost. A bent wire is pushed down just behind the plantlet on a runner. By striking the young plants in this way there is least root disturbance when cutting off the young plant and transplanting it. They should have well rooted by late summer or early autumn ready for transplanting in their new bed.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See ‘Protection’ for netting against birds.

Slugs: are a big problem in a wet season. Last year we had a wet late spring and the slugs ate the first lot of strawberries until I got wise and placed out several beer traps in saucers buried up to their rims around the bed filled with a 50/50 mixture of cheap beer (the slugs aren’t fussy) and water. In the night the choice between eating strawberries and getting pie-eyed was no contest. You may be woken in the night to sounds of loud singing and way-hays, but they will be drowning happy. The saucers will need cleaning out regularly and replenishing with more beer mix. This is a very effective way of controlling slugs without nasty poisons.

Virus diseases: can infect the plants. Usually the symptoms are the plants becoming dwarfed, or the leaves become crinkled or yellow round the edges. If you suspect virus disease, dig up the plants and burn or throw them away and plant new healthy plants in a new area of the garden.

Mildew: can happen with the leaves becoming covered with a white powder, but regular spraying every two weeks through the growing season with liquid seaweed should keep mildew at bay as well as feeding and keeping the plants healthy. If it does occur – (see the the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ for homemade and bought organic sprays against mildews).