Planning and Planting a Fruit Garden
Growing your own fruit can be extremely rewarding, not least of all in financial terms but, if you want a good crop of fruit next autumn, it takes a certain amount of forward planning and late autumn through to winter is the best time to get you started.
Apple trees are always popular but you can also grow pears, plums, figs, cherries, peaches and nectarines. Plant fruit trees between October and February providing the ground is not heavy with frost. Prepare the soil well with the addition of a good helping of well-rotted manure or home compost. Whether you buy pot grown or bare-rooted trees, make a good sized planting hole, loosen the soil in the bottom of the hole and water the plant well after planting. For bare-rooted trees, make sure the roots are well spread out. Mulch the trees with home compost after planting and every winter thereafter.
Most fruit trees benefit from a sunny spot. If you haven't got a lot of space, you can train them against a wall and prune as cordons or espaliers.
When you buy your fruit trees, check whether or not they are self-pollinating. If not, you will have to buy a companion tree to pollinate the fruit. Check the label for the best companion varieties for your chosen tree.
Raspberries, blackberries, red currants, black currants, white currants, gooseberries, loganberries and quince can all be planted between October and February. As when preparing the ground for fruit trees, dig the soil over well before planting and add some well-rotted manure or home compost. Once again, a sunny spot is preferred. For most soft fruits, you may have to wait until year two before you get a decent crop but you may get something in year one.>
Strawberries should be planted in July. The best way to get started with your strawberry patch is to beg some runners (young plants attached to the mother plant) from a friend or neighbour or buy young plants from your local garden centre. You can grow strawberries in dedicated beds, in containers and even in hanging baskets.
- 1. Prepare your fruit tree by soaking the roots before planting
- 2. Choose a sunny but sheltered spot as this will maximise the time the fruit has to ripen
- 3. Ensure the soil has good drainage so that plants don't get waterlogged
- 4. Prune berry shrubs each year after fruiting to ensure regular crops in the years to follow
- 5. Prune fruit trees in late winter or early spring
- 6. Allow fruit to ripen on the tree or shrub and gently squeeze it before picking to check that its ready to eat
- 7. Pick your berries as they ripen and cover with netting to protect them from insects and birds
- 8. For a small garden consider dwarf trees such as apples, cherries and plums
Julie is a lecturer in horticulture, editor of Gardenzine and author of the book The Plant Listener