It is such a shame that we don’t grow more fruits and vegetables in our gardens. If the idea of digging ridges of potatoes and so on does not appeal to you at least seriously consider planting some fruits. They are not as labour intensive and will give a good and healthy return.
Bare rooted fruit trees and fruit bushes can still be planted. In fact you will probably get away with it until the end of March. Containerised fruits however can be planted at any time of the year.
When planting fruits add plenty of organic matter such as leaf mould compost or seaweed and be sure to stake trees once planted. Space fruit trees at approx. 12ft to 15ft apart while fruit bushes can be planted at 4ft intervals. A soil depth of approx. 18 inches required.
I am often asked about what varieties I recommend. There are so many varieties out there but an example of fruit trees that I grow would be Apple Charles Ross, Apple James Grieve, Apple Brambley Seedling, Conference Pear and Victoria Plum. I also grow Blackcurrant Wellington XXX, Gooseberry Carless, Blueberries, Whitecurrants, Raspberry Autumn Bliss and Strawberry Cambridge Favourite among others. The varieties available are endless and can be grown in the open ground or in pots, tubs and boxes. It is worth noting that there are dwarf as well as tall apple trees available if space is a problem for you.
If you already have fruits, their maintenance is very important. Transplant strawberry runners and remove dead foliage. Cut raspberry canes back to the base to encourage the new growth of fruiting canes. Remove old wood from blackcurrants in a method known as replacement pruning and remove growths from the centre of gooseberry bushes in order to aid fruit picking later in the season. This can be carried out from November right through to late March/April. I have not completed all of my own pruning yet but hope to do so any day now.
Prune apple trees throughout the winter/early spring removing one third of all branches. Also remove dead wood and crossing branches. Pruning cuts should be slanted away from the buds in order to allow water to run off the wounds and so avoid rotting.
Pears, cherries and plums should be pruned in a similar manner but in mid summer rather than during the winter months in order to avoid the onset of ‘silver leaf’ disease.
If you have a greenhouse plant Grape Black Hamburg and male and female Kiwi fruits.
Growing fruits really is great fun and children will really enjoy growing and later picking their own desserts. Give it a go!