A Fruity Time in the Garden
Nowadays buying fruit (and vegetables for that matter) can be something of a lottery. We are all familiar with freshly bought, luscious looking apples which taste like wet cotton-wool! Rock hard pears and sour plums are other sources of disappointment. Local fruit is rarely available for sale now and the specimens which appear in our supermarkets have often been bred for just about every trait other than taste, picked under ripe and then flown thousands of miles in refrigerated containers.
It is amazingly satisfying and economical to grow your own fruit and it is not essential to have a huge garden. The key is to plan carefully and choose the trees which will be suitable for your garden. A "standard" tree can grow to about 25 feet across, so according to the space you have available it is worth considering buying trees grown on "dwarfing" root stock. It is rarely possible to obtain fruit from planting only one tree (although a few varieties are self-fertile). This means that when buying fruit trees at least two must be bought and they must be compatible. It is always best to buy from a good nursery owner who can guide you as to the best selection for your garden.
The intended site for fruit tree planting needs consideration. Some gardens are in a so-called frost pocket. Later-blooming varieties should be chosen to overcome this problem. A plot with a very open aspect can be problematic but windbreaks, both natural and artificial, can help to protect the new trees. It is probably best to buy bare root trees and plant them in the winter whilst they are dormant.
Growing a selection of apples, pears, plums, cherries and peaches should be well within the grasp of a keen novice gardener. More exotic fruit such as grapes and figs are quite easy to grown although for both these fruits a warm sunny aspect is essential and grapes need something fairly substantial to climb up.
One essential aspect of fruit growing which is often overlooked is the care needed in choosing varieties. It is necessary to select the varieties grown not only so they are compatible with each other for pollination but also to make sure that they meet your needs. A very good idea is to plant several varieties which can be harvested from late summer until late autumn. With apples, plums and pears you can choose a mixture of cooking and dessert fruit and some varieties of apple and pear can be carefully stored and used during the winter. Once you have chosen and planted your trees (with the guidance of your nursery) be sure to make a note of the varieties and their positions in your garden so you don't forget. Also write down whether they are cookers or eaters and when the fruit should be harvested. This should help you identify the various fruits more easily in future years and enable you to pick them at the correct time and put them to their correct use.
The best advice is to look around online or at your nursery and see what types of trees are now available. New varieties appear all the time and appeal to most tastes and needs. Some trees are even grafted to offer a number of different varieties on the one tree!
Best of luck and happy growing!
See also:Orchard Chutney Recipe
Keepers Nursery (external link)
Real English Fruit (external link)
Planting Directions and FastGrowingTrees.com (external link)