Propagating Soft Fruit
‘Soft fruit’ is the collective term used to cover bush fruits (currants, blueberries and), cane fruits ( , , loganberries, tayberries and the other hybrids) and . All of them need to be propagated vegetatively to maintain trueness to type, but this can be achieved much more easily than by the budding or grafting needed with trees.
Although all the actual methods are perfectly simple, it is vital that only the most healthy plants are used for propagation purposes if the results are to be what you want. Any that show the slightest hint of disease, either fungus or virus, should be rejected. Bearing this in mind, it will be readily understood that buying ready-made plants from a reliable nursery or garden centre is far and away the safest system to adopt.
Let us assume, though, that all is well and that propagation is about to be undertaken.
Red Currants and
These should be propagated soon after the leaves have fallen in autumn by taking ripe (hardwood)of the present year’s growth. As this is also the time to prune the bushes, the prunings usually make good propagating material.
Cut off the bottom inch or so of curved wood and as much of the top as is necessary to end up with a cutting consisting of 10-12in (25-30cm) of sturdy and ripe growth. As the bushes are going to be grown with a leg (a short trunk), remove all the buds except the top three or four.
Having prepared as many cuttings as you want, make a vertical V-shaped slit in the ground with a spade. Push the cuttings in so that there is about 5in (13cm) between the ground and the lowest retained bud. Firm the cuttings in with your heel.
A year later, either lift the bushes and put them in their final positions or into nursery rows for a further year In either event, all new shoots are cut back to 2-3in (5-8cm).
The cuttings are prepared from similar material and in the same way except that all the buds are left intact. The V-shaped slit is also the same, but the cuttings are pushed in so that only the top 2-3in (5-8cm) are showing. This gives a bush with no leg and many of whose branches come from below ground.
A year after inserting the cuttings, they will have good root systems and all growth should be cut back to about 1in (2-3cm). The plants may be lifted then for transplanting but, if you inserted them originally 6-8in (15-20cm) apart, they are best left for a further year, at which time they can be moved to their final places.
This system will quickly give you a strong young bush with plenty of young shoots coming from below ground.
Propagating raspberries is hardly worthy of the term; all that is involved is digging up surplus canes in the early autumn andthem as and where required.
There is, though, rather more to it than that because scrupulous care must be taken to avoid any canes that are showing a hint of virus — the scourge of raspberries. Only strong and healthy canes should be used.
The normal practice is to dig up the canes that appear away from the rows. They have to be removed anyway, so why not make use of them?
Immediately after planting the canes, cut them down to 1ft (30cm) to encourage quick establishment and not too many berries in the first year.
Other Cane Fruits
The propagation of these differs from that of raspberries because of their different habit of growth. Whereas raspberry canes are numerous, short and erect, those of blackberries and the hybrids are sparse, but much longer and more supple. This
lends them well to tipand, in fact, it often happens naturally if they somewhat neglected.
If your soil is reasonably Iight, there should be no problems but, if it is heavy, it will need someand sand dug in to lighten it.
During July or August, the tip of a new cane is bent down to the ground and inserted into a hole 5-6in (13-15cm) deep. Make the hole sloping towards the parent plant so that the tip lies easily in it. Replace the soil and tread it down lightly so that the tip is held in place. This will root and develop a dormant bud which will grow out either later in the same year or in the following spring.
Always push in a bamboo cane by the layered tip and tie the two together The tip will not root if it moves and you will also see just where the layered tip is when weeding, cultivating, etc.
Once enough root has formed in the autumn to sustain the tip or new plant through the winter, sever it from the parent, but do not move it until the spring, or even later, to ensure that it is self-supporting.
These are the easiest of all fruits to propagate because they dictate the best method themselves. They have small plants at the end of runners which, if pegged down, will soon form roots and grow into new plants.
They may be pegged down in June or July, as soon as the mini-plants on the runners can be handled. This will ensure strong plants six to eight weeks later which should be planted out before mid-September to give a full crop in the following summer. However, this will often be a nuisance during picking, so I normally delay layering until after I have cleared away the straw, rubbish, etc, after fruiting.
If the soil is sufficiently good, the runners can be pegged straight into it, but, if not, sink 3-4in (8-10cm) pots into the ground near the plants and fill them with used seed or potting compost. The runners are then pegged into the compost. This method has the advantage of making the plants mobile when they have rooted so they do not need to be planted straight away.
There we have the main and recognised ways of propagating your own soft fruit plants; be they bushes, canes or strawberries. All are perfectly simple operations, but remember the point about only using healthy parent material; this is the key to success.