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Add some fruit to your garden diet

PUBLISHED: 12:37 22 April 2014

Archant

Why an apple tree could be a good choice for your garden

The first blossom on fruit trees is always a welcome sight – more confirmation that spring is here and summer can’t be far behind.

It’s probably about this time that many people wish they had a fruit tree or two of their own.

Much as we love them trees can be difficult in town gardens, but fruit trees are good because in tree terms they’re small. They’re also beautiful and they give you something other than just shade and troublesome roots.

As your garden comes into full bloom is a good time to work out where one or more fruit trees might fit into the grand scheme.

Fruit trees generally need a sunny spot. You also need to be aware of the how big your tree will grow to and whether it’s self-fertilising. Self-fertile trees will produce fruit without the need for another tree to pollinate it. But if your tree is not self-fertile it will need to be paired with another one, which means you’ll need double the space.

You can also train fruit trees against a sunny wall or agains a fence, which can be an attractive, useful way to divide different areas of the garden – the vegetable plot, for example. You can buy trees that are ready trained.

The main thing to consider when choosing what to grow is what you like to eat. The most commonly planted fruit tree is apple – you could also try pear, plum, cherry, fig and medlar. Different varieties produce fruit at different times of year and it’s worth remembering that the fruit of early ripening trees tends not to keep as well as later ripening varieties, which can be stored over winter.

A key factor for success is the tree’s rootstock. To ensure a productive tree, nurseries graft their stock to get a healthy rootstock of one tree and the tasty fruit of another. Rootstocks come in various sizes – those labelled M27 or M9 suit most gardens.

Buying and planting

Fruit trees can be bought either in a container or bare-rooted. Look for well developed, fibrous roots and choose younger trees, which tend to establish quicker.

Soak the roots before planting. Bare-root trees can be planted late autumn to early winter when the tree is dormant, container-grown trees can be planted at any time of year except when it’s frosty or the soil is either too dry or too wet.

Placing your tree in a sunny and sheltered position will maximise ripening time for fruit.

Dig a hole a third wider than the roots and to the same depth as the tree’s roots, firming the bottom of the hole into a slight mound. Place the tree in the hole with a stake. Fill the hole with soil, mounding it towards the base of the tree and attach the tree to the stake.

Caring for your tree

To protect your fruit tree from moths that will destroy the fruit and leaves, in late October apply a grease band 45cm (18in) above soil level to the stake and trunk of your tree. This sticky paper or glue will stop wingless female moths reaching the branches of the tree to mate. It’s the caterpillars that eat the leaves and fruit. A plant oil-based winter wash in December or January will also kill off overwintering pests.

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