Coronoveg: Fruit

Fruit is great to grow, not least because after the initial faff and outlay there’s virtually nothing to do except harvest and enjoy.

I’ll go through each of these in turn in separate posts, but here’s a taster; something to get thinking about.

The very best way to buy fruit trees is bare-root, which is exactly what it sounds like – no soil at all when it arrives. Alas, we’re too late for that this year, it has to be done while the tree is dormant and spring is with us.

That doesn’t mean you have to wait though. Fruit trees can be bought in pots to plant out – we can discuss that later. There’s less choice, but if you buy online there is still plenty to enjoy.

I buy from Keepers Nursery in Kent, who have a great selection. If you don’t want triffids you’ll need to keep a close eye on root stock – if you’d like advice on that, I can do a separate post on that. It looks tricky but isn’t actually too bad.

Some varieties also need a ‘pollinating partner’ – basically so the pollen can be swapped to fertilise the fruit. Some are self fertile but still appreciate a sympathetic friend. It’s reasonably straightforward but let me know if you need suggestions.

Apples and pears are the most popular. Cherries are nice, but you need to net them if you want to see any fruit. The pigeons have a sixth sense for ripeness.

Plums are also good, though there is a nasty fungus called brown rot which has been plaguing UK gardens since all this rainy weather.

Peaches and nectarines aren’t as exotic as they appear, and make good patio trees.

Quince and medlar both grow pretty big but are well worth trying. Mulberries are nice for the patient. Damsons crop very well once established and gages are a lovely, old-fashioned fruit you just don’t find in the shops.

Soft fruit includes:

Strawberries – which need to be netted and, preferably, kept off the ground. Birds and slugs like them even more than you do. I don’t find strawberries easy to grow; the slugs always get them before I get much of a crop. Wild Strawberries are fun to scatter in the garden and use in salads but they are dreadful spreaders.

Raspberries – there are two main kinds. Cane raspberries fruit from June. They are a little tricky to prune and can get out of control but they taste great. Bush raspberries tend to fruit in the autumn. l like these best because pruning is so easy – cut everything down to the ground after fruiting.

Blackberries – garden varieties are much bigger and tastier than the wild sort. Sorry, foragers.

Loganberries. The loganberries on my neighbour’s plot are to die for.

Grapes. Grow wine grapes to eat – they’re lovely and sweet and grow better than table grapes in this country if you don’t have a greenhouse. Don’t like the pips? Get over it, these are lovely.

Blackcurrants – need a lot of room but are a very good bet. Any of the ‘ben’ varieties will be good.

Photo: Paul Lindus

Redcurrants, like blackcurrants, need netting. A very good variety is ‘rovada’.

Whitecurrants are the easiest to grow, gorgeous and very heavy cropping but I’ve never worked out what to do with them. Never use them in ice cream if you want to keep your teeth.

Photo: Paul Lindus

Gooseberries are lovely and easy – watch out for the spines in old varieties. Standard (grown like miniature trees) are great for gardens as you can grow stuff under them.

Blueberries need ‘ericaceous’ (acidic) soil. This usually means peat-based. Growing more than one will make both plants crop better.

Figs need to have their roots contained so they are great for large pots. If you want to plant them in the garden you’ll need to make a container for them, otherwise their roots spread out, they become lazy and refuse to fruit. They are very rewarding though – put them against a sunny brick wall and they’ll give you a great crop. Don’t get ‘Brown Turkey’, try ‘Brunswick’.

Think you don’t like rhubarb? Don’t dismiss it until you’ve eaten it forced to bubblegum pink. If you plant it now you’ll not get any til next year but it is well worth the wait.

Photo: Paul Lindus

Finally – stuck indoors? Try a citrus plant. Oranges, lemons or just ornamental, they smell heavenly. So what if you only get one lemon a year. Cut it into slices and have a virtual G&T party.

I’ll go through each of these in turn but for now, get dreaming. If you have an awkward space, let me know and I’ll come up with suggestions.

BTW if you’re wondering what I’m ‘harvesting’ in the cover shot it’s firethorn – not recommended for humans – it just made a good photo. Leave ’em for the birds.

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