Raising Your Own Fruit Bushes
The grafting techniques needed for propagating top fruits, such as apples and pears, are beyond the scope of most amateur gardeners. But even a beginner can increase his stock of soft fruits.
This can be done in three ways:
Pieces of new growth are cut into lengths and inserted in the soil to root. Gooseberries, and all three types of currants, can be propagated by this method.
To increase blackberries and loganberries, bend over the tips of young canes and cover with soil. This induces the tip to root and new canes to spring up at the point of layering.
Raspberry canes push out underground suckers which become the new canes. These new plants can be severed from the parent and planted in a permanent position.
Take cuttings of straight, firm stems of black currants in early October. Trim back with a pair of secateurs any soft growth at the top to just above a bud. Cut at the base below a bud, leaving a cutting 8in (200 mm) long. Remove any leaves, but leave all the buds.
Take out a trench in well-cultivated soil, making one side vertical by pushing the spade straight down. Stand the cuttings 6in (150 mm) apart against the straight wall, with not more than three buds showing above the surface. Buds in the ground will produce new basal shoots.
Fill in the trench carefully, firming the soil round the cuttings with your hand or by treading. If the soil is heavy, sprinkle a little coarse sand round the cuttings as you fill in.
Inspect the cuttings every few weeks, and firm soil cracked by frost.
Black currants root easily, and about nine out of ten should show growth in the spring.
If growth is good during the summer, move the bushes to their permanent positions in the autumn. If it is poor, leave the cuttings in the trench and, during the winter, cut all shoots to a few inches above ground level to promote vigorous growth in the next season.
A gooseberry bush is grown on a single stem, or ‘leg’, and this requires a different preparation from that given to black-currant cuttings.
In October, remove well-ripened shoots about 12in (305 mm) long and rub off all but the top three or four buds from each. These will eventually grow into the main branches.
Bury the cutting to a little over half its length, leaving an exposed stem with the buds at the top. Treat afterwards as for black currants. Results, however, are unlikely to be as good.
Red and white currants
Cut off any unripened wood, which is generally no more than 1in (25 mm) long at the growing tip. Cut just above a bud. No trimming is necessary, however, if the cutting is brown at the tip.
Trim the lower end to just below a bud, and rub off all but the four or five buds at the top. These will eventually form the branches. Dip the lower end of each cutting in hormone rooting powder.
Set cuttings 6in (150 mm) apart in a trench, with the top 5in (130 mm) above soil level.
Cuttings of red and white currants root readily and they can be planted in their permanent positions in the following autumn.
During the growing season, raspberry plants produce new canes at the base of the parent plant, and other canes, called suckers, that spring directly from the roots that spread out beneath the soil.
You can, however, increase your stock by allowing the sucker canes to grow and using the strongest of these as new plants.
In November, lift the suckers with a fork and sever them from the parent cane with secateurs.
Lift them carefully with their roots intact and re-plant, immediately. Grow these new canes only from healthy parent stock.
Always buy raspberry canes which are certified to be virus free. You can safely take new plants from them for the next two or three years, but you might risk spreading virus disease to take them after that.
Blackberries and loganberries
The easiest method of raising plants of blackberries and loganberries is to ‘layer’ the tips of young shoots so that they root in the soil.
Between mid-July and early September — though not before it has developed fully — bend down a shoot that has formed during the season. Mark this spot and make a vertical cut about 4in (100 mm) deep, with a spade or trowel.
On the side nearest the cane, and about 12in (305 mm) from the first cut, make another cut at an angle of 45° so that the two join. Lift out the soil, lay the tip of the cane against the vertical side and replace the soil, firming it in.
Alternatively, simply dig out a circular hole with a trowel, but in this case take extra care to anchor the tip securely.
The tip will root within a few weeks and a shoot will spring up from the ground. In November, sever the new plant from the parent by cutting about 12in (305 mm) from the base. Transfer the plant to its permanent position the following April.
Although stones and pips from tree fruits may germinate well, they will not reproduce truly. You might, for example, sow hundreds of apple seeds and grow the trees to the fruiting stage, to discover that only one or two are worth keeping.
The chances of getting good fruiting trees are much higher than this in the case of a peach. Nectarine stones usually, if not always, produce peaches.
In early autumn, set a stone in a pot of potting compost. Seal the pot in a polythene bag and put in a cool spot about 10°C (50°F).
When a shoot appears put the pot in a sunny window. It can be moved to the garden when 6in (150 mm) high and planted in its permanent position when a year old.