Growing Fruit In Your Garden

Fruit

There are few home pleasures quite so satisfying as picking the first bowl of raspberries of the season or a ripe juicy pear from one’s own tree. As with vegetables, both soft and top (or tree) fruit used to be kept well away from the house. Exceptions were in cottage gardens where a delightful miscellany of fruit and flowers were quite customary and today some of the most successful of country gardens, often around renovated old cottages, still enjoy this mix. It has much to commend it.

Even in the smallest courtyard it is possible to use a wall for a plant that will give fruit as well as looking good; after all it has got to flower first. Similarly if a garden has room for only one tree (at the back, it should be said; fruit in the front garden is far too tempting for local lads) might this not be a pear or apple, or in sheltered positions a peach grown as a standard. All these are lovely in the spring (like the conventional flowering cherries) and the autumn crop of fruit is then a bonus. Sweet cherries are also a possibility, but a single tree attracts birds from all around who are not averse to gobbling the fruits just before they are ripe. To see this happening before one’s eyes is as frustrating an experience as can be imagined.

 

Trained Trees

fruit growing

All fruit trees are bought either grafted or budded onto a rootstock. Each tree is a combination of a rootstock which controls the ultimate size and the scion which is growing upon it. This will be the variety such as cooking apple ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ or dessert pear ‘Conference’ for example. Correctly chosen rootstock make it possible to grow tree fruit in very restricted ways such as cordons, pillars, dwarf pyramids and espaliers. Vigorous stocks are used for standards or half-standards.

 

As with vegetables in the French potager, fruit trees are used as part of the basic design and are trained into a number of forms. Again, whilst not advocating a slavish anglicisation of the gallic mode, it does offer ideas in the use of trees as screens, wall coverings, division within the garden as well as full trees to give the vertical dimension which new gardens in particular lack. Pears and apples take kindly to trained forms; they can be bought with the shape already begun and subsequent pruning is not difficult.

Stone fruit — plums or peaches — are much less easy to deal with. There are no fully satisfactory dwarfing rootstocks for these. Although fan-trained peaches are universally recommended, in all but the coldest areas and those subject to late-spring frosts, an open ground bush form in a lawn or as the tall plant in a small shrub, border is perhaps better. It is also less difficult to prune and often producing very good crops. In all normal situations plums have to be grown as full-sized, small trees.

 

Pollination

Top fruit offer one further problem when grown as single specimens or in small quantities and that is that the flowers of many varieties are self-sterile. This means that pollen from another variety which is compatible with the self-sterile tree must be available if fruit is to develop; and that, after all, is the whole point. So if planting is to take place in an area away from other suitable trees, a self-fertile variety must be chosen from the catalogues. It is not enough just to find a good-looking tree in the local garden centre and hope for the best.

 

Soft Fruit

Soft or bush fruit is generally little trouble: annual pruning of raspberries, blackberries and loganberries is simple, consisting of cutting out all growth that has fruited as soon as the crop is picked.

Blackcurrants are treated similarly and red and white currants and gooseberries are not very difficult. These last three flower and fruit on spurs which develop on mature branches rather in the way of pears. They can, like pears, be trained as cordons or with several stems against a wall forming a fan. A well-fruited redcurrant in such a position can look magnificent and offering a difficult choice — whether to leave them a bit longer to adorn the garden or pick them at once for the table.

 

Situation

Wall and fences of most aspects offer sites for fruit. Redcurrants and gooseberries, morello cherries and the hardier apples will take the north side. Eastern aspects which catch the early-morning sun are best avoided because spring frosts on the flowers will not have time to thaw gently and the potential crop will be ruined. South and west aspects offer sites for the choicest apples and especially pears. Many of these, such as Williams’ Bon Chrétien and Doyenné du Cornice, have French names indicating their southern origin.

 

Exotic Fruit

Even more exotic fruit are possible in warm positions. They may not give a certain crop every year, but taken as a part of the ornamental garden they are frequently of sufficient general interest in themselves, not to make this vital.

Figs have striking foliage; Chinese gooseberries (Actinidia chinensis is one of the New Zealand hermaphrodite forms), persimmon and, of course, grapes are possibilities, as are open garden trees — medlars, quince (no fruit smells better) and delicious mulberries. The range of plants is ‘extraordinarily wide and emphasises that the normally few really interesting trees seen are by no means the only things worth planting. A difficulty is to find a source.

12. May 2011 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Organics | Tags: , | Comments Off on Growing Fruit In Your Garden

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