Growers of soft fruit have been ever more enterprising in introducing new varieties especially suited to small city gardens.
Compact raspberry Ruby Beauty reaches no higher than 3ft yet produces a crop of full-size berries in early summer and is thornless for easy picking. All you require is a roomy container, a bag of No 3 John Innes compost and a cane or three to prop up the overloaded stems.
Blackberries need serious space to throw out their lengthy brambles, but a breakthrough in breeding means variety Reuben, with far shorter, upright stems, is compact enough for pots and fruits on new stems each autumn.
Patio gardeners could also try Blackberry Black Cascade, designed to flourish in a hanging basket. Every stem produces berries, and the word from the breeders is that one bush produces up to 1.3kg of berries, sweet enough to eat straight off the stem.
Those of us who have grown strawberries in hanging baskets this summer know there is one huge benefit: no slugs or snails beneath the leaves, gorging on the fruits. A new must-try variety is cultivated from the woodland fraises des bois, has the same sweet, aromatic flavour and produces luxuriant and productive runners.
Masses of trailing small fruits all through summer make Scarlet Beauty the strawberry equivalent of a tumbling tomato. If you don’t fancy a hanging basket, give it the steep walls of a large longtom. As an evergreen, it’s worthy of a place on the patio year-round, and is happy in light shade.
Put aside another pot, however, for full-size strawberry Cherry Berry, but don’t pick the berries until they’re a deep claret — it is purported to get sweeter as the fruit gets darker. You could be a culinary show-off and contrast, on the plate, Cherry Berry with novel strawberry Snow White, the red-flecked white strawberry with a distinctive pineapple flavour.
Heavy-cropping Invicta is the gooseberry bush to grow when space is limited, but now you can buy it as a standard 3ft tree with a single stem, which frees up the base to grow another crop beneath. Try it in a tub as a focal-point fruit tree.
You could also try another kind of gooseberry, the Cape variety, aka physalis, with its familiar round, golden fruits within those ornamental lantern-like husks. Fruit nursery Lubera recently produced a compact variety called Biscuit that reaches just 20in high, so is worth growing in a container, although protect it over winter.
The country’s favourite plum for both eating and cooking is now available as a container tree. Sibley’s Patio Plum Victoria — a maximum of 4ft high — produces comparatively heavy yields of flavourful plums in late summer. Delicious quince jelly can be yours if you grow Sibley’s Patio Quince, that has also been bred to be disease-resistant. In a large container, it can be kept to 4ft and supplier Pomona Fruits claims it produces up to 50 fruits within three years.
Double-duty shrubs and trees are always good news in small spaces, and fig Madeleine de Deux Saisons can produce two outdoor crops of pink-fleshed fruits in mid-June, and mid-September, but fruits best in optimum conditions of a warm, sunny wall.
You could also try another hard worker for a small space: Plutot Pink Candy, a compact hybrid tree combining the luscious taste and fragrance of an apricot with the juiciness of a ripe plum.