Things to think about

The benefits of planting trees and the nutritional value of fruit has reawakened interest in fruit gardening, but many people still believe that they do not have enough space to grow fruit in their garden. However, with modern stock and training this is not a problem. It is possible to include fruit even in the smallest gardens by making use of dwarf stock and single-stem cordons.

To create cordons, when a young tree is growing, remove sideshoots and train to grow as a single, rope-like stem.

The smallest garden, patio or balcony can produce enough apples, pears, plums or cherries for the average family. An increasing variety of small trees are grown on dwarfing root stock so that pruning and picking are easy too. Miniature or dwarf fruit trees will produce regularsized fruit on smaller trees.

Fences and walls can be put to good use for growing fruit in a small garden. There are fruit varieties for every aspect, from full sun to full shade. Cleverly used, walls and fences can extend the fresh fruit season. Sunny walls make it possible for plants to crop much earlier than is possible in the open, and shady walls extend the season after the normal crop has been gathered in.

The soil at the base of walls and fences is almost always quite dry. Until fruit trees have been able to establish strong roots, they will need a considerable amount of water.

Fruiting plants prefer cool, fertile soil that retains water. Add as much compost, mulch and well-rotted garden manure as you can.

Thick mulch is essential as fruit plants are shallow rooted and mustn't be allowed to dry out. Mulching will also suppress weeds.

Good drainage is important as fruit plants will not survive with wet roots. Dig in plenty of sand and grit and consider raised beds.

Plan a fruit garden carefully as planting trees and bushes can be costly and timeconsuming. Careful planning for positioning will ensure the best results for minimum effort.

Good planting will determine the future health and productivity of a plant. Dig a big hole, mix garden compost with the soil and plant at the same depth as plants are grown in their pots. Gently pack the soil around the roots, filling and firming as you go. Don't allow weeds or grass to grow within a circle around the plant, as wide as the plant is high, for three years.

Generous watering for the first year after planting is crucial.

Plant & grow apples

Apples are the most popular orchard fruit. They suit the British climate and although they prefer rich, moist, well-drained soil, they still manage to crop well even in poor conditions.

1

Apples are easily grown on dwarf stock in large pots and special varieties have been developed that need very little pruning.

2

For beauty and productivity in small gardens, apples are best grown as espaliers as they benefit from the protection of a warm fence or wall.

3

Well-established trees in containers can be planted at any time of the year if the roots aren't damaged or the surrounding soil disturbed.

4

There are no special planting requirements except that the graft (the distinctive swelling on the stem) is not planted beneath the soil.

5

With no other special planting requirements, water generously to help trees establish and make good growth, and add a heavy mulch.

Plant & grow strawberries

Strawberries are easy to grow. To ensure you have sufficient plants to pick enough fruit for the needs of a family of four over the summer, plant around 100 plants in a strawberry bed.

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Begin with freshly rooted plants and don't keep plants for more than three years. Renew a third of the bed each year for the best productivity.

2

Ideally plant in early autumn; if not, in late summer or spring. Dig a hole large enough so that the roots can spread outwards and downwards.

3

Stop the crowns from rotting in winter by planting level with the soil. Keep them well watered and free of weeds, but don't waterlog the soil.

4

Place straw or matting around plants as they begin to flower to encourage root growth, suppress weeds and keep fruits off the ground.

5

To protect the crop from birds or squirrels you will need a fruit cage, or spread small meshed garden netting over a suitable frame to cover the plants.

Plant & grow raspberries

It is surprising that delicious raspberries are not grown more. They are among the easiest fruits to care for and, as they flower late, it is possible to get good crops in areas where other fruits fail.

1

Plant in rich, well dug soil. Cultivation after planting is tricky as raspberries make a mass of fine roots. Moisture is vital, as is good drainage.

2

Plant canes 60cm apart in rows 2m apart. Spread roots wide and cover to a maximum depth of 5cm. Make sure soil around plants is very firm.

3

After planting, cut the canes back to within 25cm of the soil so that there will be plenty of young growth to fruit the following year.

4

The brittle canes are easily trained on pairs of wires stretched between garden stakes 2.5-3m apart. Set wires 60cm and 1.5m from ground.

5

Spread grass cuttings or straw over bed in spring to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Weed to protect shallow roots. Keep birds away with netting.

Plant & grow blueberries

Acid soil, suitable for heathers and rhododendrons, is essential to successfully grow blueberries. If such conditions aren't available, a substitute of peat and leaf mould will be productive.

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In a garden with an alkaline soil, blueberries should be grown in containers filled with ericaceous compost or they will not survive.

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Blueberries are most productive if you grow different varieties together to ensure cross pollination and heavier fruiting with bigger fruits.

3

Blueberries are generally pest and disease free and require little pruning or training. Remove dead or damaged growth in the winter.

4

Water copiously for good crops, but avoid using tap water, which might contain lime. Instead use rain water, which is naturally acidic.

5

Mulch heavily with chipped bark to maintain the acidity of the soil, retain moisture and suppress weeds. Keep birds from fruit with netting.