Pruning soft fruit bushesPosted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg, Seasonal Tips
Assuming the weather is kind, I intend to prune some of my soft fruit bushes during the lull between Christmas and the start of the new year. The plants are dormant at this time of year – the perfect time to get them into best shape for a good crop of plump berries this coming summer. All that is needed is a pair of well-maintained secateurs - but I’ll be wearing stout gloves when it comes to pruning my gooseberry bushes!
It goes without saying that different varieties of fruit bushes require pruning in different ways, but the starting point is basically the same for each: begin by removing the ‘three Ds’ - all dead, diseased and damaged growth – as well as branches which are crossing over and rubbing against others, or growing towards the soil.
The other golden rule with pruning fruit bushes is to open out the centre of each to allow as much light and air in as possible. The desired shape is similar to an upturned hand with the thumb and fingers out stretched and is often referred to as a ‘goblet’.
My blackcurrant bushes have been in the ground for many years, so I will be aiming to remove roughly a third of the old growth each year. Selecting where to cut may seem a complicated matter, it is actually quite straightforward as the oldest stems take on a darker appearance than more recent growth so these are the ones to consider first. Once I have an idea which stems I intend removing, I target the ones which are impeding growth or restricting light and air from the centre of the bush. I then cut these low down, just above the point where the branch emerges from the soil, using a pair of loppers or small saw.
Pruning young blackcurrant plants is simply a matter of removing any weak or straggly-looking stems and encourage between six and ten strong stems to develop.
Redcurrants fruit on old wood, not new growth, so I’ll be using my secateurs to cut all the previous season’s growth back to two buds in order to develop strong stems.
Young gooseberry plants should be trained to produce five or six main stems which need cutting back in spring. Once established, do the same as for redcurrants, keeping the image of a goblet in mind when aiming for the completed shape of the bush. Prune all side shoots by cutting them back to two or three buds from the base and shorten branch tips by one quarter to a healthy looking, outward facing bud.
Mulching and feeding
When I’ve finished pruning, I’ll add a deep layer of leaves which will deter weed growth and help conserve moisture. In late spring, I’ll treat my soft fruit bushes to a good feed – wood ash from the bonfire on which I burnt the prunings will be perfect to boost healthy growth. Job done for another year.