If you’re looking for something a little bit different to grow on your vegetable plot then the tayberry is well worth considering.
Tayberries are a “hybrid” fruit – they were originally made by crossing a blackberry and a raspberry plant. Quite why someone might want to do that becomes clear when you lay eyes on these fantastic fruits, as they seem to have inherited the best of both worlds.
Firstly, tayberry fruits are large and juicy – typically much bigger than commercially-grown blackberries or raspberries. Fruits up to 4cm long are not unusual. They also have a distinct, very sweet flavour, which is quite different to either of their parent plants.
Named after the River Tay in Scotland, tayberries really are an exciting treat and a very rewarding crop to grow.
The fact that tayberries tend not to be grown commercially also makes them something of an exotic treat.
You’ll rarely find these delicious fruits in your local supermarket. Instead, while the odd farmers market might have a small number available in summer, most people have to grow their own in order to enjoy these summer highlights.
When to Plant Tayberries
Like most soft fruit, the best time to plant tayberries is in the cooler months. Autumn and Winter is typically best, and gives your plants time to establish themselves before the growing season.
Note that tayberries are not grown from seed. Typically one will purchase small pre-grown bushes from garden centres or specialist soft fruit nurseries.
Thereafter they can be propogated by taking cuttings. As with raspberries and their kin, there are two possible routes. Firstly, one can bend down an existing cane to ground level and then bury part of it. Normally within a few months the area under the ground will produce roots, and the cane can then be cut from the main plant.
Alternatively, use secateurs to take cuttings of around 12″ in length, then plunge these into well-drained soil. You’ll want to ensure that at least a few inches are under the ground, where most will start to produce roots soon enough.
As a result of how simple tayberries can be to propogate, even just a few plants can quickly turn into quite an impressive collection.
How to Grow Tayberries
Tayberries aren’t overly demanding with their requirements, and will grow in most environments. That said, they tend to perform most strongly in well-drained soil, and when planted in full sunshine. Such an arrangement will lead to the best possible crop.
While tayberries will fruit even in relatively poor soil, providing regular feed can be beneficial for growth. Add rotted garden compost or a fertilizer such as pelleted chicken pellets around the base of your bushes and watch just how lush their vegetation becomes, and just how many fruits are produced.
Really the only difficult thing about growing tayberries is properly supporting and pruning them for maximum yields, disease resistance and fruit production.
Pruning and Support
While tayberries tend not to suffer from many pests and diseases, all soft fruits can suffer from mildew etc. if the canes are too dense. In damp weather, this moisture sits on the canes rather than evaporating away, potentially causing problems.
In addition to this, the one weakness of growing tayberries is that they are covered in very sharp spines. Therefore a very dense tayberry plant can be difficult (and painful) to pick from. Once again, opening up the bush by intelligent pruning and support and help to make picking rather less of a chore.
Tayberry fruit tend to grow on second-year canes. In order words if you buy a brand new tayberry bush then it’s unlikely that you’ll get fruit in your first year. However, by the end of the first year you’ll be seeing additional canes growing up.
The goal in pruning is to cut back the canes that have fruited this year to about 5cm above ground level, while leaving this year’s new shoots to grow out and produce fruit the following year.
By carefully pruning in the Autumn or Winter you’ll not only be able to keep your bush open, making harvesting easier, but you’ll also keep the plant vigorous so that it produces as much fruit as possible in the coming years.
Tayberries tend to keep less well than more established commercial soft fruits. That said, they can have a surprisingly long fruiting season, carrying on for many months throughout the summer.
The best tip when it comes to harvest tayberries is therefore to harvest little and often, so that the fruit doesn’t have time to turn. Consider wearing good-quality gardening gloves for harvesting to avoid the thorns, but appreciate that these are delicate fruits which can easily be crushed. In other words, be gentle and take your time.