There’s nothing more pleasurable than strolling out into your garden on a warm sunny morning and collecting a bowl of fresh raspberries for your breakfast. Picking your own fruit – and in particular berries – feels totally indulgent! Why not trying growing your own at home?
As well as the pleasures to be had from growing your own fruit, the methods of storing fruit are delicious. Jams and jellies, fruit pies, bottled fruits and chutneys, are fun to make and marvellous to eat. And nothing will make you feel more virtuous than a row of home-made produce on the larder shelf.
Sensational Soft Fruit
An absolute must for any new fruit garden is soft fruit. Raspberries, Redcurrants, Blackcurrants, White Currants, Gooseberries. This raspberry bush, Rubus idaeus ‘Glen Moy’, is a new early fruiting variety from Crocus. It has no spines, larger berries and good aphid resistance so it’s a perfect starter variety.
For all fruit growing, preparation and choice of position is key. All soft fruit needs to be planted in soil that has been dug and fertilised at least a month before planting. Choose a site that’s in full sun and avoid frost pockets.
Raspberries need supporting as they grow – either on wires stretched against trellises or walls, or better still against a post and wire system. This involves sinking two posts about 10 feet apart and stretching wires at roughly foot high intervals between the posts. As the canes grow, you tie the new shoots into the wires. This makes harvesting and pruning easier. They’ll need protecting from birds.
An Apple a Day
No fruit garden would be complete without fruiting trees. Apples, pears and plums are perhaps best known, but you can also grow damsons, crab-apples and cherries (although these, like the berries, will need netting to deter birds).
Fruit trees come in a variety of sizes – maidens, bushes, half-standards and standards. For most people, the maiden is the best buy. You can train it into a fan or espalier, or let it grow into a normal tree shape.
Apple trees are lovely in flower beds, or if you have the space, planted as an orchard. Remember to plant varieties that will cross-pollinate – trees that are different varieties, but which flower at roughly the same time. If space is really at a premium, it is possible to buy a ‘family tree’ – one on which two to four compatible varieties are grafted.
This apple, Malus domestica Ellisons Orange, is renowned for its frost resistance and delicious fruit. It has pure white, cup-shaped flowers in mid to late spring.
If you’re keen to grow pears, they’re best grown against a wall, which will give them some protection from winds and frosts. They need more sun than apples and are generally more temperamental. The classic way of growing pears is to train them as espaliers. Planted in this way they will give plenty of fruit and they look very pretty too.
Plums are much easier to grow – their only disadvantage is that they might grow too well and get very large. If space is at a premium, you can grow them as a fan shape against a warm sunny wall. This has other advantages too – you’ll be able to net the fruit from the birds more easily.
This Minarette Plum, Prunus domestica Victoria, produces a heavy crop of large, pale red fruit with golden-yellow flesh which can be used for cooking, canning, bottling or just eating fresh.
Figs are one of the most exotic fruits you can grow. They are utterly delicious and to eat one fresh off the tree is an utter indulgence.
But they need careful planting. If their roots are left unrestricted, they will produce roots but no fruits. So plant them in a pot or in a pit lined with paving slabs and floored with old bricks. They are not frost hardy, so you will need to protect tender shoots and embryo fruits with a covering of straw or bracken.
They also need lots of water and may need netting in late summer to protect the harvest from the birds
If you are lucky enough to own a greenhouse or conservatory, there is no end to the fun you can have. Peaches can be trained against a south-facing wall. You can do the same with apricots, or you can grow them successfully in pots. Either way, if you grow them under glass, you’ll avoid the frosts and hopefully have a lovely crop of home grown goodies come the summer.
The Cream of the Crop
Strawberries are the ultimate luxury fruit. It’s best to grow them either on a bed of straw or through slits in black polythene, in order to stop the ripening fruits touching the soil. Their other major enemy are slugs, so you will need to place slug pellets (these can be organic) underneath the straw. Alternatively, grow strawberries in pots.
This seed-raised strawberry produces more and larger strawberries than any other seed strain – and what’s more they have a rich tangy sweet flavour.