Introduction to Growing Fruit at Home
in gardens is becoming increasingly popular these days. Not only that, it’s also a lot easier. This is not just because the number of people interested in has gone up in leaps and bounds, but because fruit growing itself has changed. Undoubtedly the main reason for this is the enormous advances that have been made in the breeding of new and more reliable varieties. Apples are the principle beneficiary, but , and currants (both black and red) have all received their share of new varieties and, to a lesser extent, so have , , and .
A prime reason for the increased popularity of growing tree fruits is that much smaller trees can now be grown. With gardens decreasing in size, the need for suitably sized trees is vital if they are to be grown at home at all. Fortunately, though not for the same reasons, fruit farmers also demand smaller trees which are easier to manage and the last twenty years or so has seen a remarkable change in both the size of commercial trees and the ways in which they are grown. Gardeners have not been slow to take advantage of this innovation and trees are now available which can actually be grown in large pots, tubs or similar containers, throughout their life. This has been made possible largely by the use of less vigorous rootstocks, the ready-made set of roots on which allare grown. Apples, pears, plums and cherries have all benefited from the development of these new rootstocks.
Another, and rather different, factor is the vast increase in the number of garden centres. People are now much more aware that fruit isn’t just something that is bought in a sealed plastic bag in a supermarket; you really can grow it at home. They are also far more prepared to spend money on their gardens. The actual growing of the fruit is also easier. Gardeners are becoming more adventurous and have discovered that producing a crop of strawberries is as easy as growing a row of . This encourages them and they progress to other fruits, which they are finding just as easy to grow.
Equally important is the increasing number of pick-your-own fruit farms. These have come about because of the ever-mounting cost and difficulty of finding experienced fruit pickers. Along with garden centres, these farms are now providing town, as well as country, dwellers with a day’s outing and something to show at the end of it. What could be nicer than pleasant and profitable fruit picking in the fresh air of the countryside? This is something that people living in the country tend to forget, or take for granted.
Then again, even if you can’t be bothered to do the actual picking yourself, farm-gate sales enable you to buy fruit a great deal fresher and often cheaper than you would otherwise be able to.
All this has led to a predictable increase in the popularity of fresh fruit and a consequent rise in the number of gardeners having a go at growing it themselves.’ You’ve seen it; you’ve tasted it; now grow it’ — it’s as simple as that. Nor do you need an enormous garden. The new and less vigorous varieties and rootstocks have made it possible to grow fruit trees quite easily in ridiculously small spaces.
The type of training often needed by these more intensive tree forms, such as cordons, espaliers and spindles, is clearly something that has to be understood and carried out correctly. However, to most gardeners this is all part of the fascination and joy of gardening. ‘Is it going to do what I want it to?’; only the Almighty can answer that but part of the fun is waiting to find out.
Bush fruits, currants and gooseberries in the main, have always been popular garden fruits and different ways of growing some of them (for example gooseberries and as cordons), means that even the smallest garden can now find room for them. Another is the appearance of several new fruits that have not been grown in Britain before. The kiwi fruit, or Chinese (Actinidia), is a good example. Though far from being an established type of fruit in British gardens, mainly on account of its questionable hardiness, a number of the more ambitious and curious gardeners are giving it a try.
Similarly,are attracting a greater interest now that gardeners are finding that they are perfectly easy to grow and that some varieties can be converted into very acceptable wine. Blueberries and cranberries are also increasingly sold in garden centres.
Two of the main drawbacks of growing your own fruit used to be (a), that the trees were often too large for, and (b), that an air of mystique was encouraged to form around the subject by the gardeners of the past who worked in the big houses on huge estates. They regarded anything even remotely technical as secret to all but a chosen few. Some of them genuinely believed that there were only two ways of doing things; their way and the wrong way. Now, though, the age of mass communication has put a stop to all the secrecy. Besides that, we have found much easier and equally effective ways of gardening.
There is no excuse whatever today for pleading ignorance of some slightly off-beat aspect of gardening, such as the summer pruning of cordon; the answer can be found in most gardening magazines or in the nearest library as well as websites like this one.
Easier still, you will find most of the answers here along with everything else you need to know to start you offsuccessfully and enjoyably at home.