September is the perfect time to start making your sloe gin so it’s ready for Christmas (if you make it last that long!), so why not grow your own blackthorn (or sloe bush) to help maintain your sloe berry harvest.
A native UK plant that is often used for hedges and can be usually found in wild hedgerows, blackthorn is an up-and-coming plant for the everyday gardener. It is versatile, able to grow in any light from partial shade to full sun and can take most soil types except acidic peat. It can even take a rough maritime salty wind, a climate that can destroy many other hedges.
Blackthorn are easy to start growing, you can start off with either a seed or from a an off-cut dipped in rooting powder, no special requirements are needed. It is a great shrub to grow in the garden as it can attract wildlife, pollinating insects and when fully grown it can reach the heights of 4m.
Blackthorn will flower with a white pinkish blossom around March to April and will start to produce fruit from late August, ripening in late September to early October. Birds love sloe berries so you may find you will need to put up a net to protect your harvest.
When the berries are ripe they can be used in jam, mixed with blackberries for a hedgerow jam and probably most famously used to flavour sloe gin.