Expert Tips for Growing Fruits Successfully in Your Fruit Garden
The Fruit Garden
Judging by the sales of fruit trees, more and more people are obviously growing fruits or attempting to grow at least some of their own. True, many gardens are not big enough to sustain large trees, but the smaller bush-trained trees and even the cordons produce considerable quantities of fruit; often enough to supply the needs of a small family for a good many months of the year.
Varieties are much more limited today than say 80 or even 120 years ago, when it was a matter of concern and pride to grow varieties of apples which would mature during every month from August until April of the following year. Growing fruits such as apples and pears, was definitely easy, as they not only have times of ripening but also times of maturity after storing. And once upon a time when there were many connoisseurs of fruit, they would be rejected from the dining room if they were the slightest bit mealy, which means that they were literally ‘over the hill’ and as unappetizing as a fuzzy turnip. Nowadays hardly anyone knows whether they are eating a crisp apple or coloured fuzz ball and even with a beautiful apple like a Cox, half the time it is eaten in a state that a discerning palate would reject. It is a case, I suppose, of where ignorance is bliss.
If the pattern of the last few years is followed, a considerable number of fruit trees will be planted and although the range of varieties is greatly restricted, it is well worthwhile checking up on the particular qualities and maturing times of those varieties selected or offered.
So, you are now successfully growing fruits, and In the case of apples, if you have no possible way of storing fruit, then it pays to grow a variety that you can eat off the tree such as James Grieve, Worcester Pearmain or Beauty of Bath, which literally have no shelf life. Blenheim Orange, on the other hand, is a dual-purpose apple (cooker or eater) and will keep well into the New Year and improve for the keeping. For the early cookers, Victoria or Keswick Codling are amongst the earliest and there is, of course, nothing to beat a good Bramley followed a close second by Lane’s Prince Albert. There are, many others, but suppliers tend to, what is termed, ‘rationalise’ their list and cut down on varieties offered for sale.
Obviously, before you can store fruit it must be gathered and the decision when to gather is not an easy one to make, as not every apple on the tree matures at the same time. If you have five hundred acres to pick, a compromise must be made, but in the home garden with fewer and more accessible fruits, they can often be taken at the peak of ripeness.
When ripe, apples and pears should part readily from the branch without tearing off a chunk and should be handled carefully without squeezing. They should be placed gently in a basket lined with two or three folds of soft material, like a piece of blanket. When picking and storing fruit, don’t use anything as rough as a sack as the skins of the fruit, especially when gathered warm, are very tender and the slightest bruise will reduce keeping time. Similarly when removed from the basket they should not be tipped out on to a hard surface.
The fruits generally stored today are apples and pears. The requirements for successfully storing fruit, are that the place should be cool, dark and with ventilation, but without moving air. The latter tends to extract moisture. The materials on which the fruit is laid should be clean, sterile and free from taint; so disinfectant or strong soaps should not be used to scrub boards and wood wool is out because that, too, may be strong smelling due to possible resin content. Similarly musty sacks or baskets should not be stored in the same place as fruit but, on the other hand, it is as well to remember that other things can also take up the smell from ripening fruit. The places in which fruit can be stored range from a cellars, cool cupboards or a properly constructed fruit house.
Fruit Tree Forms
The choice of fruit tree for the small garden, as far as apples and pears are concerned, is generally limited to either the dwarf open-centred bush or one of the more restricted fruit tree forms which are generally summer pruned. The restricted forms most generally planted are the cordon, the dwarf pyramid, the espalier and the fan. The spindle bush is not generally well-known to the home grower. However, it is now being widely used commercially as it is perhaps the most productive form of growing fruit trees, although not suitable for every variety of apple or pear.
Without doubt, the dwarf open-centre bush with its varying length of leg is the simplest form to maintain and is probably the most productive. It is available on varying rootstocks but M9 is probably the best. Unfortunately this information is not always available at garden centres and you should always enquire what stock the tree is grafted on as its dwarf nature depends upon this.
Cordons and dwarf pyramids are two other useful forms which can be planted closely together. Cordons should be spaced 2 or 3 ft apart in the row while dwarf pyramids need to be planted 31/2 to 4 ft apart in the row with 6 or 7 ft between rows. Both require a lot of attention in the way of summer, for if this is neglected the trees soon get out of hand.
The espaliers and fans can be grown against walls or used to define boundaries. They can be planted behind aor even to edge paths where they can look most attractive; but again they require a considerable amount of attention otherwise the fruiting spurs become very long and are not nearly so productive as the bush form.
The spindle bush is basically very much like a pyramid with a vertical central stem on which are carried the cropping laterals. The central spindle must be supported by a stake and it may be necessary to insert more canes to tie down the young laterals in the formative years.