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Fruit for free

With the price of everything going up in the shops, growing your own has never been so relevant. It’s a bit like dig for victory, though this time it’s more like dig for survival.


Fruit can seem like a luxury in times of hardship, when in fact it is so very important for our health and wellbeing.

When we have space to grow ingredients for our menus, it’s important to factor fruit into the equation, but sometimes it can feel like an expensive addition to the garden. And it can be. But there are ways to get fruit for free with just a little effort, and I don’t mean scrumping! Though scrumping with permission is perfectly acceptable.

It’s also important to remember you don’t need a forest of fruit to make a difference to your diet. Think about the tiny punnets of fruit you would buy in the shops; a handful of raspberries is enough to lift a bowl of cereal into orbit. So, a few plants can really make a difference. 

Free fruit plants

Some of our popular garden fruits can be divided and the divisions shared. A large clump of rhubarb could be split up in late autumn and the resulting plants shared. Locate a healthy local rhubarb clump and ask. While forced rhubarb can cost a lot in the shops, many rhubarb growers are happy to share surplus stems in season making rhubarb (which is really a vegetable not a fruit) your first crop of the season. You might like our Rhubarb Knickerbocker Glory recipe here.  

rhubarb clump
A large clump of rhubarb can be divided and shared. Image: Adobe Stock

Some fruit plants are not just prolific in the fruit that they produce, they also bulk up and spread. And that means you might be able to beg plants from a keen gardener or allotment grower. Raspberries are a great example. When the plants are established, they produce new canes and these are the fruiting canes for the harvest. Sometimes raspberries literally run around the garden. Many growers would be glad to dig a few runners and share them with you. Best time to do this is in the autumn, but canes dug now should produce some fruit this season. It’s very important to keep them well-watered so that they establish. Plant a clump in a container with a central stake and tie them into the stake a bit like a wigwam – it’s a space saving way to grow them.

Strawberries are another group of plants that self-propagate. In late summer established plants make runners with perfect baby strawberry plants attached that root around the mother plant. These can be cut off and potted up to make more plants. You can grow strawberries in planting pockets and vertical plant walls, this is a great way to keep them away from the slugs that might also like the juicy fruits.

cutting strawberry runners
Strawberry runners can be cut off and potted up to make new plants. Image: Adobe Stock

Blackberries are another great running plant. The end of the canes will actually root into the ground and can be cut off, dug up and potted up. There are some lovely thornless cultivated varieties that can be trained against a wall so are ideal if you are short on space.

From pips and seeds

You can grow some fruit trees from pips, seeds and stones but it takes time sometimes 10-15 years and it’s important to remember that many tree fruits, like apples, pears, plums and cherries are actually grafted onto a rootstock for the very best results. But it’s a fun project to do with the kids and who knows you might even grow something really delicious.

Sharing gluts

Every gardener that grows some produce of their own will have times when they have too much of something. When you don’t grow your own that can be hard to understand. But if you’ve got branches laden with plums and you’ve run out of room in the freezer, are sick of plum pudding and really haven’t time to make any more plum jam, you may be grateful that someone can use your excess fruit. I usually find each year produces different ‘gluts’ of something and when it’s fruit it is such a wonderful thing to share. Arriving at a coffee morning with a huge bowl of free fruit creates a lot of smiles. So, get to know your local allotment group and your gardening neighbours who may well be very happy to share their produce with you and if you have something to swap, maybe baking or sewing skills all the better. You could even set up a community group of some kind where you barter excess produce and plants.

plums growing on branch
Plum trees can produce large amounts of fruit that can be shared with others. Image: Adobe Stock

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