The motivation to plant The Soft Fruit Garden in 2005 was precipitated by the announcement from our Irish soft fruit suppliers that they were no longer going to grow, but rather import, soft fruit. Given our commitment here at Ballymaloe Cookery School to supply the best and freshest organic ingredients to our students and visitors, we decided to simply grow our own, and a small area of ground was designated to the production of soft fruit to cover at least some of our requirements here at the Cookery School. While we pick and use fresh fruit during the summer, we also freeze a considerable amount for use during the Winter months.
Visitors to The Soft Fruit Garden will see many rows under netting, while our blueberries enjoy the protection of a cage. Blueberries, it seems, are a favourite fruit with birds! Pigeons generally are a problem in this garden as they tend to break the fruit bushes when they land on them. As blueberries thrive in acidic ground (pH -7), many feet of soil were dug out and filled in with ericacious compost before our blueberry bushes were planted.
Visitors may notice that we grow Autumn raspberries instead of Summer raspberries in this garden. Growing Summer raspberries results in a significant amount of time spent pruning whereas autumn raspberries are cut to the ground each Winter and produce fruit in the next year's growth.
The Soft Fruit Garden provides a small amount of local employment each year as we always require fruit pickers to help us bring the ripe fruit in before the birds beat us to it!
Of note, we have recently started to experiment with growing our very own vines! As you walk from the Celtic Maze towards the Old Pleasure Garden, you will pass rows of Orion, Bacchus, Solaris, Rondo and Pinot Noir. Watch this space for developments!