Garden grown fruit can be roughly divided into two types ie. Tree Fruit—covering Apples, Pears, Cherries etc., and Soft Fruit—which include Black and Red Currants, Gooseberries, Blackberries and of course many others. Even in the smallest garden some of these can be easily grown, and without much effort can be supplying the family with delicious fresh fruit in a surprisingly short time.
Shapes of trees
Having decided on the space available a careful choice should be made to give the widest possible variation and, if your garden is small, fruit trees can be used not only to provide produce but also as a decorative feature. Trees can be planted onbut in this case it would be best to buy half standard types as it will be found difficult to mow the lawn around the low branches of those with a short main stem. Espalier trained trees make an ideal screen for the vegetable garden. These are usually bought from the nursery with their branches already trained to grow horizontally, and when ordering them it should be noted that they are best planted at intervals of about 14 feet. Single Cordon trained trees are also very suitable for this use and these take up even less space, being planted at intervals of about 2 feet. These are usually tied to supporting wires and encouraged to grow at an angle of 45°. Often trees of this type are trained with two main stems and are called Double Cordons which take up more room but naturally enough give a good deal more fruit. Both Espalier, Cordon trees and Fan trained trees grow well against walls and fences and can be most useful for camouflaging unsightly sheds etc.
The favourite of most gardeners, apples are one of the easiest types of fruit to grow and if a little care is taken over planting and general well-being the trees will repay the grower with a good crop of fruit for many years. The only demands they make are to be planted in well drained and weed freewhich has been dug over and had some fish meal added. Never add any artificial fertilizers to the hole in which trees are to be planted. Only after the tree has been planted can these be broadcast in a fairly wide circle around, and not touching, the stem of the tree. The rain will then carry the fertilizer down to the root system.
Choice of apples
If a very small number of apple trees are to be grown it is most important to choose types which will be self-pollinating. Many varieties need to have other suitable trees planted nearby to allow them to cross pollinate, and this is most important to these particular types. The other consideration should be whether they are required for eating or cooking, and whether it will be possible to store some of the crop for use during the winter. Some apples keep very well if wrapped in paper and placed in trays. They should not however be too closely packed together and should be kept to one layer only. This will help to keep them fresh and from time to time they should be inspected and any apple which appears to be going bad instantly removed.
The following list, although in no way complete, will help in the choice made:
Blenheim Orange – Medium sized apples of a crisp and juicy nature which can be used for either cooking or for dessert. The season for these apples extends from October to December.
Brantley Seedling – Probably the best cooking apple of all with the added advantage that it will keep very well. Many people are still using these apples in April following the fruiting season. Easily recognisable they have rich green skins and often grow to a very large size. This type, like the Blenheim, requires other varieties to help in pollination.
Cox’s Orange Pippin – Undoubtedly the most popular eating apple of all time and with good reason. Although small in size these apples have a delightful flavour and also keep well. The Cox’s Orange Pippin is a very effective pollinator of all other varieties of apples but nevertheless needs some help to pollinate itself. Suitable trees for this purpose would be Worcester Pearmain, Lans Prince Albert or James Grieve. Season – November to January.
George Cave – A very early fruiting apple of delicious flavour which can be picked by August. Early varieties of apples should, however, be eaten as soon as possible after picking as they deteriorate rather more quickly than later types.
Grenadier – A cooking apple of good quality and very juicy. It will be ready for use from August to October, and it is lightish green in colour and crops heavily.
James Grieve – This apple has a good flavour slightly acid, and can be used for cooking or dessert. A very useful tree for cross pollinating with Cox’s Orange Pippin.
Lane’s Prince Albert – A fine cooking apple of delicious flavour. Keeps very well and the season extends from November to April.
Laxtoris Superb – A well flavoured dessert apple somewhat larger than the Cox’s Orange Pippin to which it is closely related. A good keeper, it will be in its best condition from late December well into March.
Monarch – Fine flavoured cooking apple of great merit. Keeps well from December to the end of April. Heavy cropper of medium to large fruit.
Scarlet Pimpernel – An early dessert apple of good flavour. Its season is from August through September.
This should not be taken as a complete list of varieties. Indeed there are many others, some well known, which have been omitted for one reason or another. A few are susceptible to disease, some of questionable flavour and out of the remaining list of good all-round types, these have been chosen as particularly suitable for the average garden.
Buying the trees
As far as apple trees are concerned it is most important to order these from a good nursery. During the early part of their life they have been grafted onto stronger root stock and only the best disease-free specimens are offered by the more reputable firms.
Apple trees can be planted at any time from the middle of October to about the middle of March, but undoubtedly the most satisfactory time is certainly during November. At this time the soil has not yet been affected by cold frosty weather and the young trees can be planted without much fear of the soil being too wet as can happen later. As soon as possible during the summer, make a choice and place your order with the nursery for delivery in November.
Whenever possible buy young trees as they establish themselves with far less trouble. If the choice is for bush or cordons buy these when they are about two years old. Half standards or full standards should be one year older as they need to have a longer main stem, and because of the nursery training necessary buy four year old espalier trees.
Planting the trees
When the trees arrive from the nursery the weather may not be suitable for planting directly. In this case dig out a large hole in the most sheltered part of the garden and put all the trees into this as closely as possible. Cover carefully with soil and await the first opportunity to plant.
When the trees arrive, and this is most important if they have had a long journey, plunge the roots into water for an hour or two before planting. Dig a large enough hole for the roots to be spread out well and into this drive a good strong stake, one that has been treated with wood preservative will last considerably longer. Now, lower the young tree into the hole making sure firstly that the hole is wide enough to take all the roots easily and secondly that when finished the swelling at the base of the main stem where thehas been made must be a little above soil level.
These points having been checked, slowly fill in all round the roots with soil, each time treading down to make sure that no unfilled pockets remain. When the hole is finally filled it should be very slightly mounded up to make sure that when in a few days settlement takes place, there will not be a depression around the tree which would fill up with water. Tie the tree to the stake firmly in the way shown either with a bought fastener or with sacking and rot-proof string. The top of the stake ought not to extend above the beginning of the branch as this could cause damage. If in fact this is likely, the top of the stake must be cut down. Finally water liberally.
Each winter the apple trees should be examined and where necessary pruned. One of the reasons for pruning is to make sure that enough light is available in the centre of the tree and encourage it to grow in an outward direction. Any very weak or obviously diseased wood should be cut out and the previous summer’s growth lightly pruned. The leading shoots in each case should be reduced by approximately one half of their length and at all times cut cleanly with either a sharp pruning knife or good secateurs. Always cut back to a point just above a bud in the way shown. It is always far safer to lightly prune trees when there is any doubt, as to prune hard in a haphazard way can often result in the tree being spoiled for many years, and perhaps even permanently.