Sunday 17 December 2017

The fruits from your labour

By Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Andrew Collyer.
Andrew Collyer.
Strawberry plants.

Narcissus 'Tete-a-tete': in flower already!

I think I have said before that harvesting food from your own garden is extremely satisfying.

For me harvesting fruit from my garden is the pinnacle of this satisfaction.

This may be because fruits are associated with summertime, picking a strawberry or raspberry and cutting a cabbage or Brussel sprout doesn't stand comparison.

May be its just the sweet succulence fruit has over vegetables and the fact that you can leisurely pick and eat as you wander around the garden. To be honest very little fruit makes it to our table as it is always eaten straight from the plant as it ripens. Peas would be only vegetable that fall into this same category in our house and they are truly a seed anyway.

Now, traditionally, would be the time to plant all types of fruit. These plants would be supplied barerooted, without soil attached to the root system, and planted during the dormant season. While these plants are still available more and more fruit is being supplied in containers which means they can be sold and planted at any time of year.

Fruit generally falls into two categories. Top fruit which grows on trees and soft fruit that grows on bushes and herbaceous plants. Apples, pears, plums are all top fruit as are lesser grown varieties like greengages and cherries. In mild locations peaches, figs and apricots can also be grown as top fruit, often trained against a sunny wall.

The old fashioned and generally out of favour mulberry grows on a tree, usually wall trained, which is surprising as the fruits resemble a blackberry or raspberry. Mulberry leaves provide the sole food source for the silkworm so are still cultivated for that reason alone.

Soft fruits include all our favourites, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and the currants. For the more exotic and ambitious gardener kiwi fruit, passionfruit and grapes. Both soft fruit and top fruit come in a dizzying array of cultivated varieties with plant breeders constantly developing tastier, more disease resistant and easily grown strains of our favourite plants. Check out what is available at your local garden centre and prepare to plant your bareroot fruit bushes now.

When it comes to planting, all fruit prefer a sunny sheltered position in the garden and one not prone to waterlogging. Aviod planting fruit in frost pockets or in an area that is likely to get a late season frost. This may well damage the flowers or early fruit set. Prepare soil very well by deep digging and incorporating plenty of organic matter and a slow release fertiliser.

Always mulch and fertilise annually thereafter. Your plants will pay you back for your effort. All fruit trees will require a strong stake and tie, plant trees to the soil mark clearly visible on the stem.

One of the major battles you will have when growing fruit is with the birds and insects. Unless you net your fruit some will be lost. I have found that tinfoil on string bird scaring method does not work. I don't get too hung up about this as it suits my foraging style of fruit growing. I do however protect my strawberries as the blackbirds would literally leave me with nothing.

I'm a great believer that gardening should be a pleasure and fun so don't be over adventurous with your fruit or for that matter vegetable growing. The kitchen garden is often the most time consuming area of a garden and frequently can be the most untidy. Always start small with something you can manage with the time available, you are not growing for a supermarket afterall. Don't worry that you are not serving up brimming bowls of strawberries and raspberries, enjoy the pick, stroll and eat method I employ in my garden.

Take hardwood cuttings now.

Wexford People

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