Growing Your Own Fruit
FRUIT – FRUIT GLORIOUS FRUIT
Growing your own fruit brings its own rewards apart from the basic satisfaction of eating from your very own crop. One good reason is that there is such a limited range of varieties to buy in the shops: you certainly won’t be able to purchase such delights as Ribston Pippin and Ashmead’s Kernel apples or Royal Sovereign strawberries. Again, you may prefer fruit that has not been sprayed.
Don’t be put off fruit growing because it seems complicated or because you have to wait such a long time for results. Neither assumption is necessarily true, so take up the challenge and have a go. Shop-bought fruit will never taste the same again.
WHAT TO GROW AND WHEN
As most fruit plants have a long life, it is important to spend some time planning what you are going to grow and where. Far better to discover your mistakes in the planning stage than ten years later when the tree that you planted to provide cocktail cherries for your parties is in fact a dessert variety that has never cropped.
What you choose to grow will be limited by your local climate, the space available and your type of, as well as your family’s preferences.
Local climate is an important factor for commercial production but less so for the gardener whose livelihood does not depend on regular heavy crops. Nevertheless you will want your crops to be fairly reliable, so it is worth considering in what parts of the country most of the commercial crops are grown. Apples, plums and cherries do best south of a line from the Wash through to Shropshire, while pears are fairly reliable in the south-east, parts of East Anglia and the West Midlands. Cane fruit, such as raspberries and blackberries, grow well further north with raspberries especially famous in south-east Scotland. Currants, gooseberries and strawberries are quite happy in most areas of the country.
Too little rain can result in poor plant growth, reduced fruit size and an increase in , but you can overcome this to a large extent by regular watering. On the other hand, too much rain can encourage soft growth, which increases the risk of diseases like apple scab and bacterial canker in stone fruits. These can be difficult to control.
Temperature affects the length of the growing season: overall lower temperatures in the north mean that the growing season is about fifty days shorter than in the south, so that the choice for northerners may be limited to soft fruit and the early ripening varieties of tree fruits. Altitude also affects the growing season: a garden 150m (500ft) above sea level, for example, will have a shorter growing season (by about forty-five days) than one at sea level.
Winter frosts, when the plants are dormant, are not usually damaging. But spring frosts are, so if these occur frequently in your garden settle for late-flowering crops such as raspberries and blackberries and later flowering varieties of tree fruits. Even so, you may still need to take precautions to avoid frost damage such as covering the plants at night.
You must grow your fruit in a sunny part of the garden if you want large, well-coloured and tasty fruit. In the dull summer of 1980, for example, only strawberries from the sunniest sites tasted as good as they should.
Many fruits can be grown against walls, fences and trellises which not only saves space, but can improve the environment sufficiently to permit the growth of sensitive species such as peaches and nectarines; and also apples, pears and plums if you live in a cool and wet climate. South-facing walls in Britain are the warmest, and are best for peaches, nectarines, apricots, grapes, figs and pears. Soil at the base of south-facing walls, however, tends to dry out quickly so be prepared to water frequently. Similar crops can be grown against west-facing walls, which receive less sun, but are wetter. Cane and bush fruit also grow well in this position. Eastern aspects should only be used for the hardier species, while shaded northern walls are best avoided.