On Your Plot – Feeling Fruity

Few flavours compare with that of fruit freshly picked from the garden.

Much of the fruit available in the shops (particularly the supermarkets) has been grown for it’s ability to travel well rather than it’s flavour and may have been picked well before it’s arrival on the shelf. If you fancy apples from your own tree, or a bowl of raspberries fresh from the garden, now is the time to act.

If you are anything like me you will spend ages drooling over pictures of bushes dripping with blackcurrants or gooseberries, trees laden with apples, or bowls full of luscious raspberries but struggle to get to grips with the realities of production on your own plot!

Patience is a virtue that is definitely required for growing your own, and this is particularly so with fruit trees and bushes. I have to confess to having an inclination to move on with anything that requires more than a few months to give a decent crop, but with most fruit you just have to force yourself to take the long term view and now being the proud owner of a 2 year old gooseberry bush and raspberry canes I can assure you that the waiting is worthwhile!

Think carefully about where you will grow your fruit. Trees require lots of space (but are a wonderfully attractive addition to your plot) while bushes may be incorporated in your borders, but will probably need some protection if you aren’t going to loose a lot of fruit to the birds

Late autumn is an ideal time to add fruit to your plot as trees and bushes will be entering their dormant period. It is important to buy healthy plants and to ensure that they are dormant as they will transplant more successfully. If you are ordering from a reputable mail order nursery they are likely to arrange delivery to coincide with the best time for planting. You should also get instruction on how to plant and care for your new tree or bush.

Trees such as apple or plum may be grafted onto a variety of different rootstocks – this sounds complicated but all you really need to know is what effect this will have on the final size of the tree. If you have limited space it is possible to buy dwarf varieties some of which can even be suitable for container growing. Pollination is also an important consideration, some varieties are self-fertile and do not need a pollinator, while others may require another variety planted close by to act as a pollinator. When planting your tree out it may benefit from staking and protection around the base.

One ‘fruit’ that is a little different and very easy to grow is Rhubarb. Rhubarb is actually classified as a vegetable, but certainly tastes good used like a fruit in crumbles and pies. November is the perfect time to plant out dormant crowns. Although these can be bought from nurseries Rhubarb tends to spread well when established and needs to be divided every few years so it is often possible to obtain surplus crowns from friends or neighbours. Plant your crown with the buds just above the soil and water well the first year. Once the plants have become established you can look forward to harvesting a good crop of delicious pink stems from Spring onwards – very welcome as the first ‘fruit’ of the year.

Jobs for November:-
-Start to harvest parsnips after the first frosts.
-Tidy up your greenhouse or polytunnel, wash out pots and seed trays before storing ready for the Spring
-Sow hardy peas or broad beans ready for an early crop next year.
-Use netting or chicken wire to protect your broccoli and cabbages from hungry pigeons.
-If you haven’t already done so, plant garlic and shallots.
-If your rhubarb is taking over, lift and divide the crowns before replanting.