With the right container, the right potting mix, and the right variety, any fruit can be grown in pots to provide fresh pickings in even the very smallest of gardens. Today we’re going to explore some of the best beautiful berries that will crop for years: raspberries, blueberries, and currants.
Raspberries are a surefire winner! Like all berries they’re absolutely loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, they’re highly versatile in the kitchen and, given how expensive they are to buy from the grocery store, they give you plenty of bang for your buck too.
Look for smaller varieties that are recommended for container-growing. Some varieties only reach around 3ft (1 metre) tall, which means that unlike traditional varieties with longer canes, there’s no need for supports. A wide container that holds about 30 litres (8 US gallons) of potting mix should give plenty of space for both the roots and the canes to spread out.
Raspberries prefer a slightly acidic soil to help avoid nutrient deficiencies. A general-purpose mix can work well, but you might also like to include some peat-free potting mix for acid-loving plants (also sold as ericaceous, or rhododendron or azalea mix) at a ratio of roughly 80% all-purpose to 20% ericaceous mix.
Planting your raspberries couldn’t be simpler. Remove them from their pots, then pick away at the roots if they have been very tightly coiled up against the sides of the containers to help them to find their way out into the fresh potting mix that little bit faster. Set them into your potting mix at the same depth they were in their nursery pots, firm them in, then water thoroughly to settle the potting mix. If you’re planting a bare-rooted plant you can tell where the previous soil level was by the dark mark on the canes – make sure all of the darker area is covered.
Finishing off with a natural mulch such as a bark chippings not only gives a really smart finish, it will help to keep the roots cooler in hot weather too. Organic mulches will naturally rot down over time and help improve the structure and nutrient content of the potting mix.
Red and White Currants
Red and white currants are superb container fruits. They can be trained into compact cordons and fans, or grown as standard bushes. What patio, terrace or balcony wouldn’t look better for having one of these! Blackcurrants are also good to try but they are very vigorous and cannot be trained, so choose a more compact variety.
Use a soil-based potting mix in a container that’s at least 18in (45cm) diameter. Plant it in the same way as raspberries, teasing out the roots then settling it in at the same level it was at before, before finishing off with a mulch of bark chippings.
Currants grow best in a sheltered, sunny spot. During the growing season they will need to be watered regularly to prevent drying out. In autumn and winter the bigger danger is getting too wet from heavy rains, which can cause the roots to rot. Make sure excess water can easily drain away by simply raising the container up onto pot feet or pebbles.
If you’re gardening somewhere that gets very cold winters, move your pots under cover or insulate them with something like bubble wrap to prevent the roots from freezing too hard.
Water on a liquid tomato feed every few weeks during the growing season, or tickle in a slow-release balanced fertilizer at the start of spring.
Beeeautiful blueberries - they’re just magical! Who could resist snaffling them straight off the bush? But if they do make it into the kitchen, remember they (and all other berries) can also be frozen just as they are – no prep needed. They’re such great freezer staples and can be on hand at any time of the year to bring a little burst of sweet joy whenever needed.
Blueberries need a really acidic soil to thrive, ideally with a pH somewhere between 4.0 and 5.5. Get this right and offer them a sunny spot and they’ll thrive. So for blueberries you’ll once again need an acidic or ericaceous mix, but you can make it go further by adding 30-40% garden compost to the mix, or even some composted bark.
My own blueberry cropped for the first time this summer. It was re-potted into a larger container in the spring, so should be happy to remain there for another season, but it’s a good idea to freshen up the top layer of potting mix in the container each year by scraping it out and replacing with fresh. A lovely woodchip mulch finishes it off handsomely.
To keep the soil acidic and plants happy, it’s best to water blueberries using rainwater – and the same goes for all of our berry fruits. From spring, feed every three weeks or so during the growing season using an acid-loving plant feed.
Birds are notorious for stealing ripening berries. The simplest way to keep them off is to cover your plants with netting, but don’t just drape the netting straight onto the plant - instead, create a framework to suspend it from. That way, the birds won’t be able to peck through it and there’s less risk of them getting caught up in it too. A cane teepee can work well for single plants, or you could create a box framework if you have several potted fruits to protect by attaching horizontal canes to upright ones, and then draping the netting over that.