“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”
When we moved in there was a Victoria plum tree riddled with silver leaf so unfortunately that had to go. That left a rather neglected apple tree in the middle of the garden with the most enormous apples I have ever seen. I tried to identify the variety and think it is Howgate Wonder.
There wasn’t room for a specific fruit garden so we had to figure out where to put everything we wanted to grow.
First I wanted red, white & blackcurrants and gooseberries. I bought one of each to take hardwood cuttings that were really successful. The red currants are being trained as cordons so that they don’t take up too much room. They are in the fruit cage with the black currants and raspberries because we have a lot of greedy blackbirds.
The white currants and gooseberries are also cordons and are being trained up the side of the shed. It’s a handy vertical space. Irritatingly the white currants turned out to be red – the wrong label in the pot when it was bought – and the sawfly larvae are a real problem on the gooseberries but I am determined to get to grips with the annual infestation.
Round the vegetable garden, to mask the anti-rabbit fencing, we decided to plant a dozen step-over apple trees. Strictly speaking they are a little higher than a true step-over: only suitable for those with long legs like MLH and me! The trees are all grown on a dwarf rootstock so they will tolerate hard pruning and keep to a compact shape. I carefully researched the pollination groups so that each variety would have at least one compatible partner to help the fruit to set. It’s important to stick to the winter and summer pruning regime to encourage as many fruiting spurs – that’s clusters of flower buds – as possible.
There was room for two pear trees in the vegetable garden. They’re being trained as dwarf pyramids so they don’t get too out of control and eclipse the greenhouse. I LOVE a perfectly ripe pear – which you never really get at the supermarket.
The rest of the fruit trees are being trained up walls and fences: my trusty fig, which survived three house moves in a pot, is finally in the ground in front of a south-facing brick wall and is happy as Larry. Two plum trees are on a west-facing fence: they’re only young but have started to produce sweet, juicy fruit. There’s a morello cherry on the north-facing wall behind the greenhouse and a dessert grape is being trained up the south-facing timber wall of the garage.
Last but not least are my rhubarb plant which nestles beside the greenhouse, and my faithful little strawberry bed. These are the offspring, several generations down the line, of a handful of plants I bought at least ten years ago. It’s wise to replace your strawberry plants every four years and move them to a different bed to make sure they don’t get too diseased.
I have to admit the pruning regime for fruit trees scares me. I can’t seem to commit it to memory and usually start with my trusty RHS manual in one hand and my secateurs in the other.
What I love about growing fruit is the gluts you get. That’s when I reach for my preserving books and the kitchen is full of the lovely steamy aroma of jellies and jams in the making.