How to Grow Fruits, Nuts and Berries

Cultivating the very finest fruits, nuts and berries

how to grow fruits,nuts and berries - growing apple trees Currants vary little in flavour, apples, gooseberries and grapes vary tremendously. Without trying each and every sort it is difficult to know which are going to be the best from the vast numbers on offer. Over 6,000 names for perhaps 2,000 or 3,000 varieties of apples are recorded, and it is still possible to buy several hundred. You can have a different one for every day of the year! And if you are growing for yourself and ‘commercial viability’ is not in question, then your choice of fruit can be a gourmet’s delight. My ‘Bredase’ apricot bush only gives me fruits one year in six, but in that one they are magnificent with a flavour and texture that puts all others to shame.

When buying fruit trees use the year of introduction as a guide because an old variety must have some good attributes if it is still around. Naturally some new varieties are higher yielding than the old and many offer some resistance to disease. But where flavour is concerned it is a matter of taste, and many of the old varieties were grown solely for that quality. Indeed, that is why they were developed in the first place, whereas modern breeders are after the commercial market which wants high yields and a long shelf life.

The best way to choose varieties is to go somewhere with a wide selection of fruit on trial, such as a pick-your-own farm. Carefully gleaning around local shops and supermarkets may also produce several varieties to taste and, of course, ‘expert’ local recommendation is always worth listening to. Otherwise, read the catalogues carefully; with a sceptical mind to nurserymen’s claims.

When choosing for yourself and family, try to spread the season of harvest by choosing early, mid and late-fruiting varieties. This is especially important for apples: with careful storage you can have them most months of the year. It also spreads the workload as picking and preserving home grown produce do not come all at once. Growing different varieties means there is much less likelihood of all the crops being lost if catastrophe strikes. Even if space is limited, you can still grow many trained forms in a small garden. For real favourites it may be worthwhile also extending the season by planting two trees — one in a warm, sheltered spot and one in a cool, shady place to spread the cropping period by a week or two. It is also worth remembering that the fruits on the sunny side of the tree ripen ahead of those in the shade, so do not pick them all at the same time.

Successful harvesting and storage will affect both the quality of your fruit and its shelf life. Always handle fruit as gently as possible, because the slightest bruise will start decay. Please also note that fruit picked wet rapidly rots, and that fruit kept with other strong-smelling items may become tainted. But if a little care is taken, your home-grown fruit, harvested at the right moment and lovingly ripened, will be beyond compare.


The fruit cage, the garden orchard and the nut patch

Fruit cages

Cage fruits are predominantly the soft fruits, the currants and berries, or bush and cane fruits which like the dappled shade. Birds, which live on the woodland’s edge where most of these fruits are native, are the most likely cause of lost crops, so it is sensible to keep the most vulnerable in a netted cage. Netting draped over bushes can help protect fruit as this keeps some birds out, but is not really effective. Ready-made cages are expensive, but you can easily build your own. Once built, the roof-net is taken off for the winter to prevent snow build-up breaking the cage. Removing the top also allows birds in to eat overwintering pests, and storage of the net reduces weathering, so it lasts longer. However, I rarely bother — I simply shake off the odd layer of snow when it comes.

Cherries are sometimes included in a fruit cage, but tend to make too much growth to be contained, though the newer dwarfing stocks ought now make this possible. Grapes demand the sunniest spots.

Orchard

Although several fruit trees on dwarfing stocks could be fitted into almost any small garden, if you have the space tree fruits are always best grown in an orchard. If planted on half standard or standard with strong roots then an orchard can still be a play area, paddock or wildlife meadow as well. If fruit quality is to be the highest, a fruit cage for each tree or the whole orchard becomes desirable, but this is rarely practical.

When planning an orchard, put the tallest trees on the shady and windy sides, and the tenderer peaches and pears on the sunny and sheltered. Although planting in neat straight lines may seem excessively formal, it does allow for easier grass cutting. However, for modern small orchards with dwarf trees or cordons the area will be more productive and easier to manage if it is heavily mulched instead. Those with very little space can still grow an orchard of trees by keeping them in containers. Indeed, orchard houses were greenhouses used in prior times just to bring on earlier and better crops of many common tree fruits, especially cherries.

Nut patch

Nuts are different to fruits, because we eat the seed, not the covering. Nuts are big seeds which are very exhausting for the plant to make because they are rich in oils and nutrients. So they have a high dietary value to us, but of course that does not help the plant. The tradeoff is that the plant ‘hopes’ that if it produces a lot of tasty, edible nuts, some will escape the slaughter to be trampled underfoot or carried elsewhere and stashed, but never recovered — thus starting new colonies.

Squirrels, rodents and birds all hide nuts and there are plausible stories of attics filled with nuts popped singly through a knot hole for years. Most nut trees are wind pollinated and bear catkins so generally they do not have scented flowers and give little nectar to insects, but of course they are a rich source of pollen.

Unfortunately, though nut trees are little work, most of them grow rather too large, which makes them difficult to protect or grow under nets or cover. Indeed, except as bonsai, nuts are almost impossible to keep constrained. Nuts are more reliable in warmer countries than the UK because they are rather susceptible to frost damage and prefer a hot summer and autumn two years running — the first to ripen the wood and the second the nuts.

05. January 2011 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening | Tags: , | Comments Off on How to Grow Fruits, Nuts and Berries

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