Growing Fruit Trees the Self Sufficient Way
One kind of fruit or another can be grown in almost any garden; even the smallest can produceor apples, both of which can be grown in a minimum of space.
Besides being planted for their crops, fruit trees and bushes can be used to make the garden look more pleasing. Hedges can be made with black currant bushes; garden sheds and fence palings can be covered with blackberries or loganberries, and bare walls can be covered by fruit trees instead of by decorative wall plants or creepers.
BUYING TREES AND BUSHES
When buying trees and bushes it is important to deal with a reliable nurseryman who propagates the fruit trees and bushes himself.
Because there are many differing types of serious virus disease that affect soft fruit stock the Ministry of Agriculture licenses growers who produce disease-free bushes and canes, and issues certificates which relate to the purity and health of the stocks at the time of inspection. It is possible to obtain from the Ministry of Agriculture a list of nurserymen who produce virus-free soft fruits.
In the case of apples, pears, plums and cherries, buy young trees and bushes, as they will establish themselves in the garden more happily than older ones. Plants that have been in the nursery for some years are apt to be stunted because of lack of room to develop and may never recover properly.
Advice on buying root stocks is given under the name of the fruit concerned.
The rightconditions are important, and earthworms, which penetrate to a depth of 6 ft. or more, should be encouraged, as they help to ventilate and drain the soil. Constant application of organic matter will encourage earthworms, and the worms in turn will carry any organic plant foods applied as a surface dressing deep down into the soil. Frequent deep cultivation reduces the earthworm population and does not improve the structure of the soil.
PLANNING AND PLANTING
Plant fruit trees or bushes in soil that has been cleared of perennial weeds. Clear the ground either by working on it the whole summer, carefully forking out the weeds, or allowing the weeds to grow in the spring and then applying a strong hormone weedkiller.
The trees and bushes can be planted at any time from October to March, but it is best to plant them in early November, if possible, so that they can settle down and grow roots before the hard winter sets in. Details are given for each fruit.
SUPPORTING THE TREES
Adequate staking is important because if a tree moves even slightly in the wind, its minute root hairs will be torn and killed, and a small depression in the soil may form round the base of the trunk, in which water will collect, causing the death of the tree.
In a large garden fruits should be planted in the higher parts and not in a low “frost pocket”. In gardens situated in frosty areas, part of the base of a hedge or fence on the lowest boundary can be removed to allow frozen air to drain away.
Bush, cane and other soft fruits may be covered with newspaper, dry sacking or polythene on nights when frost is expected. This will reduce losses of heat by soil radiation and will also protect the blossoms.
Where birds are numerous, protect soft fruits, particularly raspberries, red currants and strawberries, with a wire-netting cage. This cage should be 6 ft. high, and as long and wide as is necessary, with a gate at one end. To keep the birds out, the netting should be not more than 3/4-in. mesh. Fish netting is cheaper than wire netting and can be used for the top of the cage, and wire netting for the surround. Each winter, remove thenetting and dry before storing. Nylon netting may be used for the entire cage.
FRUIT TREES AGAINST WALLS
Walls absorb moisture and so the soil at the base of a wall is often dry. To obviate this, bury a 3-in. agricultural drain-pipe upright 1 ft. away from the wall and the site of the tree, and pour in water from time to time during the summer to moisten the soil below. In addition, mulch the surface of the ground with rotted compost, sedge peat or leaf mould.
Prepare the border by deep digging and incorporate some well-rotted manure or compost. Plant the tree so that its base is about 8 in. away from the wall, and spread out the roots fan-wise from the wall. Support the plant with a cane or, if there are horizontal wires on the wall, fasten it to them. Water it in well.
Morello cherries, grown as fan-shaped trees and planted 12 ft. apart, or red currants and gooseberries 2 ft. apart, and grown as cordons are ideal for a north wall.
On a sunny south wall, plant peaches, apricots, nectarines, sweet cherries and figs 12 ft. apart, and grow them as fan-shaped trees; or plant best quality pears 10 ft. apart, and train them as espaliers.
An east wall can be covered with pears such as Conference and Marie Louise, fan-trained plums such as Victoria or Oullin’s Golden Gage, cherries like Emperor Francis or Early Rivers, or red currants and gooseberries.
A west wall is ideal for dessert plums, dessert cherries and first-class dessert apples and pears. In the south or southwest of England, a wall facing south, south-west or south-east can be used for peaches and a south wall for apricots.
FEEDING THE TREES AND BUSHES
Manures and fertilizers are dealt with under the various fruits. Some fruits may need extra nitrogen and others extra potash, but there can be no hard and fast rule about this since a very wet season may well produce high nitrogen conditions automatically and a dry, sunny season high potash conditions. Potash is not easily washed away, and if too much is applied symptoms of magnesium deficiency may appear. Nitrogen is not readily held by the soil so it is advisable to apply it annually.
Deficiencies manifest themselves in the following ways, during June, July and August.
Nitrogen deficiency results in small, pale green to yellow foliage, a few thin, short shoots and small, highly-coloured, hard fruit.
Phosphorus deficiency, which is very seldom seen, results in purple- and bronzy-tinted foliage and thin restricted shoots. Potash deficiency results in sparse, small, brittle foliage, with greyish-brown margins, restricted thin shoots and immature, dull, small fruit. Iron deficiency results in bright yellow foliage, small fruit and a reduced weight of crop. Apples and pears will be pale green with a red flush. The deficiency is mild if the outermost leaves of the tree are yellow and the lower leaves greener. Magnesium deficiency results in brown interveinal scorching near margins and centres of foliage. Browning is sometimes preceded by purpling. Shoots are spindly or absent in severe cases, or elongated and thin in mild cases. Fruit is small, dull and immature.
These deficiencies can be rectified by applying the appropriate organic plant food.
In order to counteract certain pests and diseases it is necessary to spray the trees and bushes from time to time with a machine powerful enough to soak them all over.
When mixing the spray solution follow the maker’s directions carefully. Spray on a calm day and when the spray is not likely to be washed off by rain.
After spraying at the end of the season, pour any unused solution down a drain— do not keep it for the next spraying. Wash the buckets and machine thoroughly and oil all removable parts of the spraying equipment. Keep the hose in a dark place as strong sun is likely to perish the rubber.
POLLINATION AND STERILITY
Fruit trees are divided into two classes: self-fertile—those which set from their own pollen, and self-sterile—those which bear little or no fruit unless they receive pollen from some other variety of the same fruit blossoming at the same time. All sweet cherries are self-sterile; plums are divided into three groups—self-fertile, self-sterile and partly self-fertile; apples and pears are nearly all self-sterile; the great majority of strawberries and apricots are self-fertile.
Fruit trees and bushes are propagated in various ways. Seedling fruits are invariably quite different from the parent varieties and so they cannot be relied upon. It is therefore necessary to resort tovegetative methods of propagation, that is, grafting, budding and the taking of cuttings. Budding and grafting are not easy and for this reason most gardeners buy their plants from nurserymen who specialize in producing first-class trees and bushes.
Black currants, red currants, gooseberries, blackberries and loganberries all grow quite well from cuttings; but apples, pears, plums, cherries, damsons, etc., are budded or grafted on to certain wild types of the same family, which provide the root system known as root stocks.
Root stocks have been classified by the East Mailing Research Station and are usually given numbers and letters as a name.
Thus the apple variety Cox’s Orange Pippin may be grafted on to the M.IX stock. The tree thus produced would be called a Cox on M.IX.
Grafting is carried out during the late winter months or in the early spring, but budding is done during the summer months.
Care in harvesting is very important, as it is not much use nurturing the fruit to the cropping stage if it is to be spoilt by in-correct harvesting. Full details are given under individual fruits, but good general rules are:
Do not pick too early or too late.
Do not bruise.
Do not drop.
Do not pick in wet weather.
Do not leave lying about in the sun.
Do not put diseased fruits in with good fruits.