Fresh fruit from the garden is always tastier than that bought in shops. Plus with the price of fruit going up all the time, it makes sense to grow some of your own. However small your garden, there is nearly always room for a few plants—how about strawberry plants in a tub on the patio?
If you do have a small garden however, grow bushy varieties rather than tall ones—some apple and pear trees will crop heavily when grown in large pots. Do you have an unoccupied sunny wall? If so, you could grow peaches or apricots against it, although this may not be advisable in certain areas in the country.
Soil for Growing Fruits
Most fruits are not too fussy about soil, and will do well in most kinds, as long as plenty of humus has been dug in. The plants and trees will need a deeply worked soil, as most of them send down their roots to a considerable depth.
Digging should be carried out in the autumn and the clods of earth left and not broken up. The frost will do this. If your soil is heavy, dig in peat and add some lime to all kinds of soil, unless yours is already exceptionally alkaline.
Apples are probably the most popular fruit among American gardeners. They grow best in a rich, well-drained soil. Trees can be planted whenever the soil is in good conditions between November and March. There should be about 15cm/6in of soil over the lower roots. Make sure the hole is large enough for the roots to be well spread out.
Types of Tree
Bush trees are pruned so that their centers are open. The main lateral should be cut back to 50cm/20in, and other laterals will grow out sideways from below this point to form the branches. After two years, the tips should be taken off these branches and new laterals which come out, should be cut back to half their length each winter.
Spur forming apples can be planted as cordons alongside paths. They are trained against wires and planted at an angle to restrict growth. A compact, heavy cropping tree will be built up quickly from a dwarf pyramid.
The leader is cut out when the tree is about 1m/3ft high, and at the end of each summer. All sideshoots are cut back to half the new season’s wood. A standard tree is one allowed to grow to 2m/6ft tall, then the leader shoot is cut out and the tree built up in the same way as a bush tree.
Pests and Diseases
Aphis attacks all fruits, laying eggs in the winter and hatching in the spring to feed on the young shoots. Spray with dormant oil in January for control. Apple suckers turn the flower buds brown. Spraying with dormant oil early in the year gives control. Blossom weevils eat into the flower buds, spray with dormant oil in January.
Codling moth makes apples maggoty; it can be .prevented by spraying with pyrethrin in July. Woolly aphis can cause the branches to crack: spray with dormant oil in January. Brown rot causes the fruit to turn brown in store. Burn diseased fruit and spray the trees with lime sulfur in March.
For chalk soils: ‘Charles Ross’, ‘Barnack Orange’. For clay soils: ‘Newton Wonder’, James Grieve’, ‘Adam’s Pearmain’. On wet land: Laxton’s Superb’, ‘Grenadier’. For sandy soil: Cox’s Orange Pippin’, ‘Worcester Pear-main’. ‘Ellison’s Orange’.
Most varieties need trees of another sort to pollinate them and ensure good crops. Normally, those varieties which bloom at the same time will pollinate one another. Some apples, such as ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ are sterile and cannot pollinate other varieties.
They must be planted with two other sorts to ensure fruit on all. The following groups are compatible amongst themselves.
1) ‘Beauty of Bath’, ‘Laxton’s Fortune’, ‘Lord Lambourne’, ‘Miller’s Seedling’.
2) ‘Bramley’s Seedling’, ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’, ‘Egremont Russet’, ‘Ellison’s Orange’, Grenadier , James Grieve’, ‘Worcester Pearmain’.
3) ‘Blenheim Orange’, ‘Charles Ross’, ‘Laxton’s Superb’, ‘Sunset’.
4) ‘Crawley Beauty’, ‘Edward VII’, ‘Royal Jubilee’.
Pears are grown in very similar fashion to apples, but it is in general the case that they need great warmth and shelter. They also need more humus, and it is very important that the roots should not be allowed to dry out. It is important to bear pollination in mind when selecting varieties.
The following groups are compatible amongst themselves.
1) Beurre Superfin’, ‘Conference’, ‘Louise Bonne’.
2) Clapp’s Favourite’, ‘Josephine de Malines’, ‘William’s Bon Chretien’.
3) ‘Doyenne du Comice’, ‘Dr Jules Guyot’, ’Laxton’s Superb’.
Pests and Diseases
Blossom weevil and Codling moth, see under Apples for means of control. Leaf blister midge causes reddish brown blisters on the leaves and fruit. Spray with lime sulfur in April (not on Doyenne du Comice’). Pear midge maggots burrow into the fruit. Dust or spray the trees with pyrethrin in March to give control.
Tortrix moth and Winter moth feed on the blossom and leaves, control of the first can be gained by spraying with pyrethrin in May, June and July, and the second with dormant oil sprays in January. Canker appears as red bodies surrounding a branch.
The whole branch should be cut out at the stem, and the wound treated with a proprietary sealing product. Scab causes black blisters on the shoots and fruits; control by spraying with Bordeau mixture at bud burst.
Plums can be grown as bush, standard or half standard trees, or as fans against south or west facing walls. They do best in a warm dry summer following a cold winter. They prefer high ground if the site is not too exposed, and if you live in a frost area, plant later flowering varieties such as Oullin’s Golden Gage’ and ‘Belle de Louvin’.
Plums like a heavy loam, and do especially well above chalky subsoil. Add lime before planting if your soil tends to be acid. To plant a tree against a wall, dig a hole 45cm/18in deep, put some mortar (for lime) at the bottom.
Spread out the roots, and cover them with soil mixed with manure or bonemeal. The stem should be 15cm/6in from the wall. The trees will grow to a height of about 3m/10ft. Very little pruning is needed, and if it is done, this should be in March. Early in summer, pinch back the sideshoots to encourage fruiting spurs to form.
Some plums are self-fertile and will set fruit with their own pollen. Others are partly so, and some are self-sterile and must have a pollinator. Plums flower only for three weeks, but this is not a serious problem as most varieties flower at the same time.
Pests and Diseases
Red spider is especially troublesome on trees growing against walls. The red insects suck the sap from below the leaves. Spray with organic fungicide while the trees are dormant. Sawfly attacks the pollen while the trees are in bloom, and should be prevented by spraying with AzaMax in spring.
Brown rot: see under Apples. Canker: see under Pears. Silver leaf is the most serious plum disease, the foliage turning silver, and the tree dying soon after. ‘Czar’ and ‘Victoria’ are the most susceptible varieties. Pruning has to be finished before 15 July, to allow the wounds time to heal to reduce the risk of infection; broken branches should be treated with white lead paint.
Late July to early August: ‘Black Prince’, ‘Czar’, ‘Deniston’s Superb’. Mid to end August: ‘Oullin’s Golden Gage’, ‘Victoria’. September: ‘Bryanston Gage’, ‘Count Althann’s Gage’, Laxton’s Delicious’. Early October: ‘Merryweather’ (a damson).,
Cherries are the most difficult fruit to grow in the garden. They do best as standards or half standards, or fan trained trees against a wall, but can take up to ten years to produce crops of any size. As standards, they grow too tall for the average garden. None are self pollinating, and only limited numbers of varieties will pollinate each other.
Birds are a difficult problem; as the trees grow to a fair size, netting is not really a viable proposition, and you must be prepared to lose some of your crop to the birds. Cherries also bloom early and may be damaged by frost. Having said all this, it must be remembered that there is nothing nicer than a plate of juicy ripe cherries on a July afternoon.
Cherries need a dry sunny climate, and do not often do well north of the Trent. Work in some lime before planting in November, and allow 6m/20ft between standard trees. Pruning is carried out in spring, and it is important not to damage the bark, or bacterial canker or silver leaf may enter the wound and kill the tree.
Where cherries are grown against a wall, they will reach a height of 3m/10ft, and their spread will be the same on either side. Leave enough room! All side growths should be pinched back in June to six leaves, and again to half way in early spring. Fruit is borne on both the old and new wood.
Pests and Diseases
Cherry slug worm is a green larva which feeds on the leaves in July, causing them to turn brown. Control can be gained by spraying with pyrethrin insecticide every fortnight from the time fruiting finishes until mid September. Fruit moth bores into the fruits as they open, making them unusable; spray with dormant oil in January. Red spider: see under Plums.
Bacterial canker appears as yellow circles on the leaves, and eventually spreads to the stems and causes the tree to die. Spray with Bordeaux mixture in November and March to prevent attacks. Canker: see under Pears. Silver leaf: very serious; see under Plums.
‘Amber Heart’, hardy, reliable, yellow; ‘Waterloo’, a good pollinator, deep crimson; ‘Bigarreau Napoleon’, reliable, large red fruits; ‘Roundel Heart’, good cross-pollinator with ‘Waterloo’, purple fruits; ‘Early Rivers’, large black cherries before the end of June; ‘Knight’s Early Black’, black fruits, compact habit.
Peaches need a sunny site and shelter from cold winds. If these conditions are available, they can be grown as bush trees in the open, otherwise they are best trained against a sunny wall.
Planting should be carried out in November, a little bonemeal and plenty of lime rubble being added to the soil. Allow 6m/18ft between fan trees, and 5m/15ft between bushes. Make sure the hole is large enough for the roots to be well spread out, and make sure that the union (point of grafting onto the rootstock) is above soil level. Make sure the trees have plenty of moisture, or the fruits will not swell.
Fruit is borne on the previous year’s wood, which needs to be well-ripened by the sun. At the end of May, new growth formed by the leader shoots should be cut back by one third, and in mid-summer the tips of the growing shoots should be pinched out.
A single wood bud should be retained at the base of each shoot to provide the next season’s fruit (wood buds are small and pointed, blossom buds are round and fat). Thin the fruits after the little ones have fallen off to 15cm/6in.
Thinning is often unnecessary. Pinch out shoots next to a fruit after the second leaf. Peaches do not need pollinators, but if there are not many insects around, it is a good insurance to go over each flower with a camel-hair brush.
Pests and Diseases
Aphis: see Apples. Red spider: see Plums. Scale: white insects which suck the sap. Spray with dormant oil in December or with malathion in early spring. Bacterial canker: see Cherries. Leaf curl: a serious disease, usually prevalent in wet years. The leaves curl, turn brown and die, and the disease can spread to the stems. Pick off and burn any infected leaves, and to prevent, spray with lime sulfur before the buds open.
‘Duke of York’ ripens early and produces large dark crimson fruits: ‘Early Rivers’ is another early variety, yellow skinned with white flesh. ‘Peregrine’ is a large crimson fruit, very reliable, maturing mid August.
Strawberries prefer a light, well drained soil, and need protecting against frost damage. If the soil is not very well drained, work in some peat, and add plenty of humus-lawn mowings and dead leaves are excellent. Strawberries require equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, and as these are all available in farmyard manure, dressings of this will be beneficial.
Plants should be 40cm/16in apart in the rows, and the rows should be 60cm/24in apart. Closer planting encourages mildew. Always purchase stock from a grower who guarantees plants certified by the Department of Agriculture.
The plants will only crop well for about three years. If you wish to propagate your own, allow the runners to form in the third season (otherwise cut them off as they appear), cutting off the plantlets which have formed nearest the parent plant, and planting them immediately.
Hoe between the plants in early spring to break up the soil, and to allow air and moisture to reach the roots. By the end of April, the earliest varieties will be forming blossoms, and some protection should be given if frosts are expected.
Give the plants a mulch after the blossom has set—strawy manure is best—and put down clean straw or polythene around the plants, to protect the fruits from soil splashing and from slugs.
While the fruit is setting in May and June, make sure the plants have plenty of moisture as otherwise, the fruits will not swell. Do not water during harvesting if you wish to freeze the fruit.
Pests and Diseases
Aphids is the worst strawberry pest, feeding on the sap and encouraging virus diseases. Spray with pyrethrin in spring before the blossoms open. Blossom weevil lays eggs in the blossom, reducing crops considerably. Dust the flowers with pyrethrin powder as they open, and again a fortnight later.
Tarsonemid mite lays its eggs in the hearts of the plants as the leaves open. Spray with a lime sulfur solution at this time. Botrytis is a form of mildew, appearing as a powdery mold on the foliage, and causing the fruit to turn brown and decay. Orthocide dust should be applied in spring, especially in damp districts where the disease will be most prevalent.
Early: ‘Cambridge Early Pine’, round, bright scarlet; Cambridge Regent’, resistant to mildew, good for freezing. Second early: ‘Cambridge Favourite’, heavy cropper, large red fruits;. Cambridge Vigour’, crops well in all soils. Mid season: ‘Redgauntlet’, compact, excellent flavor; ‘Royal Sovereign’, very popular with exhibitors. Late: ‘Montrose’, orange fruits, good flavor; ‘Talisman’, heavy cropper, tends to be soft. Autumn fruiting: ‘Gento’, pleasant, acid flavor.
Raspberries flower later than strawberries, so frost is rarely a problem. They do need a spot which is not exposed to cold winds however. Heavy loam is the ideal soil, and plenty of nitrogen should be added.
Plant the canes early in November, always purchasing Department of Agriculture certified stock. Plan the canes 45cm/18in apart, and a few days later, cut them back to 20cm/8in above soil level. This will mean no fruit in the first season, but will ensure strong healthy plants thereafter.
Stakes should be set at intervals along the row, and galvanized wires stretched between them at 36cm/15in intervals to a total height of 2m/6ft. Tie the canes to the wires as they reach them. In November, cut the old wood to 3cm/1in above ground, also any weak new shoots, leaving six or eight strong ones on each plant. With autumn fruiting varieties, do not cut the canes back until March.
Pests and Diseases
Aphis can be recognized by swellings on the stems, apply a dormant oil wash in January. Raspberry beetle is always present as grubs on the fruit, but dusting with pyrethrin as the flowers open will reduce attacks.
Raspberry moth feeds on the fruits and can be prevented from overwintering by dormant oil spraying in January. Cane blight and Cane spot are both fungus diseases, which can be reduced by spraying with Bordeaux mixture at leaf burst.
Early: ‘Lloyd George’, excellent flavor, heavy crops; ‘Mailing Promise’, resistant to virus. Mid season: Glen Clova’, large fruity, sweet and juicy; ‘Mailing Jewel’, large fruits, excellent for freezing and bottling. Late: ‘Mailing Admiral’, virus resistant, heavy cropper; ‘Norfolk Giant’,’ immune to all diseases, good for bottling. Autumn fruiting: ‘Fallgold’, American, yellow berries, good flavor; ‘Zeva’, hardy, continuing until October.
Gooseberries like a light well drained soil with plenty of potash added. Plant in autumn, 1.2m/4ft apart. When pruning, cut back drooping varieties to an upwards bud, and those of an upright habit to an outward pointing bud to prevent overcrowding in the center of the plant.
Pests and Diseases
Aphis: see Raspberries. Sawfly: the grubs cause the blossom to bear no fruit. Spray with pyrethrin insecticide when the blossom opens. Botrytis: see Strawberries. Leaf spot: brown spots on the leaves, causing them to fall prematurely. Spray with Bordeaux mixture after harvesting the gooseberries.
Early: ‘Bedford Red’, compact, good for small gardens, large deep crimson fruit; ‘May Duke’, ready to pick in May for cooking, leave till June for dessert. Mid season: ‘Careless’, very reliable, excellent for bottling, freezing and cooking; Leveller’, huge yellow berries, spreading habit. Late: ‘Rifleman’, large crimson fruits, excellent flavor; ‘Whinham’s Industry’, large crimson fruits, suitable for dessert or cooking.
9) Blackcurrants and Redcurrants
Currants need a sheltered position and plenty of sun. They are deep rooting, so add plenty of humus to the soil when planting, which should be done between November and March. Set the plants 1.5m/5ft apart, and in early March cut back all wood to 8cm/3in above the ground, to build up a sturdy root system.
On established blackcurrants (three years old and more), cut back the older shoots in winter—the best fruit is borne on the new wood. Redcurrants on the other hand bear fruit on the old wood, and all laterals should be cut back to 3cm/1in, and leaders should be tipped.
Pests and Diseases
Gall mite causes big bud, which can eventually kill the plant. Spray with lime sulfur in early spring. Leaf spot and rust are diseases recognized by brown and orange spots respectively, and can be controlled by spraying with Bordeaux mixture after picking the fruit.
Blackcurrants Early: ‘Boskoop Giant’, sweet and juicy, ‘Laxton’s Giant’, good for bottling. Mid season: ‘Blacksmith’, heavy cropper;’Seabrook’s Black’, compact habit, large fruit. Late: ‘Amos Black’, heavy crop, thick skins; ‘Baldwin’, very juicy.
Redcurrants Early: ‘Fay’s Prolific’, neat and compact; ‘Jonkheer van Tets’, large, sweet, juicy. Mid season: ‘Houghton Castle’, spreading habit, very sweet. Late: ‘Wilson’s Long Bunch’, spreading, pink berries, good flavor.