Growing Berry Fruit and Grapes

Soft Fruit are growing in popularity. They are well known for their great taste and health properties and are easily grown making them a must for all edible gardens.

As gardens become smaller and with space at a premium, if you choose the right spot, soft fruits will produce a bountiful crop from small easy managed plants.

Which Berry is the Best Berry?

Strawberries have always been popular, but raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries, currants and blueberries are increasing in popularity due to their rich vitamin and anti-oxidant properties.

Most berries like most types of soil, with currants needing a good chilling in winter to thrive. It really does come down to a matter of taste.

How to Care


Soft fruit like a warm sunny position, sheltered from strong winds. Brambles, (raspberries, boysenberries and blackberries), will grow in most soils like the support of either a fence or stakes.

Blueberries don't like wet feet and require a moist, free draining, acidic soil.

Strawberries require free draining soil with lots of nourishing compost. They do not like to be grown in the same soil for more than two consecutive years.

If you a looking to plant in an area with clay based soil, raising your planting beds and using lots of compost will ensure your plants provide a bountiful crop.

When to plant?

Brambles can be available as bare root plants in winter, but usually Harrisons have them available in pots from late spring.

Blueberries and grapes are available nearly year round, but are more commonly found at Harrisons in summer when the plants are at their best. Refer to ‘How to Plant’ in our Garden Care section for more detailed information.

Feeding and Watering

All berries (except blueberries), like an annual dressing of lime or gypsum in August, followed by an application of general fertiliser or Tui Novatec in September.

Blueberries do not like alkaline foods like lime, gypsum or dolomite.  To keep your blueberries happy, use an acid fertiliser like Tui Acid Fertiliser.

Many berry fruit plants can withstand considerable dry periods, but regular watering will greatly improve the performance of your crop.

Pests and Diseases

Although there are a number of pests and diseases that can attack berry fruit, they tend to be minor or easily controlled. If you do encounter persistent problems with diseases, spray with Yates Fungus Fighter or Growsafe Freeflo Copper The major pest is birds.

Blueberries, currants, and gooseberries will almost always require netting for protection. All other berry fruits may require netting if there are lots of trees and a decent sized bird population nearby.

Raspberries, blueberries, and currants are relatively pest free, although raspberries will get botrytis, (grey mould), if there is wet weather during picking. Boysenberries and blackberries may suffer from dry berry disease, caterpillars, and mites. Gooseberries are attacked by powdery mildew although some varieties are resistant.

Strawberries can suffer from soil fungus diseases. These are best avoided by not growing the plants in the same soil for more than two consecutive years. Other diseases of strawberries are leaf spot and botrytis, (grey mould), in wet weather.

Grapes may suffer diseases and pests in wet or humid weather. The main ones which are likely to affect the size and quality of your crop are - downy mildew, botrytis grey mould, and black spot.

  • For aphids mites and caterpillars spray with Yates Mavrik. 
  • For downy mildew, dry berry, leaf spot, and botrytis grey mould - spray with Yates Greenguard. (These sprays are all low toxicity and environmentally friendly, but observe the waiting time between spraying and harvest, listed on the label). 

Refer to the Fruit Pest & Disease Control in our Garden Care section for more detailed information.


Mulch with compost or straw in October. This will suppress weeds and conserve moisture in the soil, providing great benefit to your plants.


Generally, berry fruits grow on bushes or vines that require little shaping. For continuous crops, and to keep the plant under control, we recommend pruning.

Pruning Guidelines

We suggest pruning takes place for all Soft Fruit plants in July. Raspberries fruit on the new season’s growth that originates from the previous year’s new canes. In July, cut out all the old canes that carried last season’s crop.  These canes will be grey in colour and are usually dry and brittle. The canes to keep are the ones that are light brown and still very green and alive.  Shorten these to around 2/3 of their height.

Tie 5-6 canes together at the top to help keep them upright when spring growth occurs.  The new canes for next year’s crop will start emerging from the soil in late Spring/Summer.  They may require tying for support.

Boysenberries and Blackberries require support for their long limp canes.  They fruit on the new season growth that emerged the previous Summer/Autumn.  In July prune out all the old canes that carried fruit last season and tie up the new canes that have grown through Summer/Autumn.

Currants fruit on wood grown the previous season. In July prune out all old wood and shorten the bush by about 1/3.

Gooseberries fruit on spurs which last several years.  The best fruit is grown on the young spurs so cut out aged wood.

Blueberries fruit on wood grown the previous season. To keep the bush under control and to maintain good fruiting, prune the growth that has carried the crop as soon as it is picked in summer.  This will encourage new autumn growth from a lower level and keep the plant compact.  Water well in summer to encourage this new growth.

Grapes require a support like a fence or pergola. They fruit on new season’s growth. When the plant is young, prune initially to establish the main leaders. Once these have been established, each July cut back to within one or two buds of the main leaders.