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Plot Holders' Guide:
Introduction to Fruit Growing

Growing your own fruit is pleasurable and rewarding. It also enables you to grow organically if you choose. Many fruit such as raspberries always seem to be expensive in the shops so they are always a welcome treat. Fruit trees such as apples and cherries can be highly ornamental in their own right making it possible to incorporate them into an ornamental garden. If space is limited many types of fruit respond well to container growing.

Fruit can be divided into two groups:
• Soft fruit
• Tree fruit

Soft fruits include: Bush fruits such as currants and gooseberries, Cane fruit such as raspberries, blackberries and hybrid berries such as loganberries, lastly strawberries, which are in a group of their own.

Tree fruits (sometimes known as top fruit) include: Pome fruits such as apples and pears, Stone fruits such as plums, peaches, nectarines and apricots.

The cultural requirements of fruit

Aspect: The majority of fruit require a sunny position. A light shade will be tolerated by some such as the bush and cane fruit but it may reduce the yield. Stone fruit such as peaches and apricots must have a sunny site in order for the fruit to ripen. A site faces south or southwest is generally best.

Shelter is very important to encourage pollinating insects, which are essential for fruit development. Fruit can be damaged on the bush or blown off the tree prematurely if the site is exposed and windy. Frost pockets should be avoided as many fruit blossom early in the season and if the blossom is damaged the fruit will fail to develop. A semi-permeable barrier is preferable to a solid one as it may cause turbulence. A solid barrier may also trap frost.

Soil: Fruit require a good depth of topsoil – about 50cm or more. The soil should be fertile, well drained loam, which is rich in organic matter. Even if you do not start with such soil the addition of plenty of well-rotted organic matter and careful cultivation can improve it enormously. A slightly acid soil with a pH of around 6.5 is preferable.

Soil Preparation: Thorough soil preparation is essential, as the fruit garden will be a permanent feature. Pay particular attention to the incorporation of well-rotted organic matter, as this will increase both the soil fertility and the soil structure.

Buying plants: It is preferable to purchase fruit trees or bushes from specialist nurseries. Mail order is still one of the best ways to purchase fruit trees and bushes. Tree and bush fruit are generally available as bare root or container grown specimens. Cane fruit are usually bought in bundles with the roots wrapped in polythene. It is wise to purchase younger plants, as they tend to establish better. Autumn and Spring are the most suitable times for planting.

Rootstocks: Many fruit trees are grafted onto rootstocks of closely related plants. These rootstocks impart qualities such as health and they help to control the size of the tree. When purchasing a fruit tree the label should state the type of rootstock it is on.

Tree forms: Unrestricted tree fruit are grown as bush, standard or half standards. They receive formative pruning to develop this shape. Restricted are grown in a highly trained manner and require thorough formative pruning to develop the shape and form.

Protection: Fruit cages are useful for protecting fruit from birds and other animals. They are usually only used for the soft fruit such as strawberries and currants. Horticultural fleece is invaluable for protecting fruit blossom from frosts. Hessian or sacking may be draped over wall trained specimens when frosts are forecast. Individual fruit can be protected with paper or muslin bags, which are secured around the fruit.

Weed control: Weeds compete for moisture, space and nutrients and should be controlled. Total herbicides such as Glyphosate can be used but care must be taken, as they will not discriminate between weeds and desirable plants. Hand weeding or hoeing is often a better choice.

Pests and diseases: Fruit is a food source for pests as well as humans. Diseases will proliferate from time to time. Thorough hygiene is important and will go along way towards reducing the occurrence of pests and diseases.

Pruning: Regular pruning will promote the health of the overall plant and the development of fruit.


Click on the HAHF links or look at the following websites:

BBC Gardener's Calender

Garden Organic

RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM)

RHS Growing Fruit Advice


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