Renovating & Restoring Neglected Fruit Trees

Many people move to new homes where the previous owners or even the builders had planted fruit trees. In pre-war years there was often an emphasis on providing new homeowners with two fruit trees – an eating apple and a cooking apple. The reality is that these trees usually get left unpruned or get hacked about as the garden owners have no time or knowledge to manage the trees. The results of this neglect are either small trees, part dying through branch suffocation or large, unfruitful trees that are completely out of control and are an unsightly mess. And, of course, quite a few gardeners plant fruit trees themselves only to lose control of them very quickly…. this is where I often take over as much of my business nowadays involves restoring old orchards and garden grown fruit trees. Continue reading

A display of apples and pears.

Exhibiting Fruit at Your Local Show

On this occasion I am not writing about growing fruit but asking you the following question – have you ever taken part in your allotment show or local horticultural society show? If you haven’t I am hoping that during the next few paragraphs I am going to be able to persuade you to have a try and at the same time I will suggest a few tips on how to best show off your produce and win a first prize. I’m writing this both as a regular exhibitor and judge. Continue reading

'Black Hamburgh' is one of the easiest vines to grow in a cold greenhouse

Growing Fruit Under Glass

Many gardeners that I come across have a greenhouse of some type and generally it seems that it is used for growing plants such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and maybe melons. Indeed, one of my two greenhouses does just that! But there are alternative, fruity uses to consider which, if simple rules are followed, can be very productive. Continue reading

A fan trained cherry growing against a south facing wall

Growing Cherries in the Garden

Not so long ago the thought of growing cherries in the garden or allotment other than as one big tree was simply a fantasy. Likewise, commercial cherry growers were finding life very difficult with their orchards of big trees and many of them gave up. Large swathes of the UK simply stopped growing this wonderful fruit. The major problem was the height of the trees which made picking very difficult and expensive as agricultural wages increased, plus the desire of large populations of birds to consume the crops before they could be picked. Continue reading

Pomona Fruits

Winter Pruning Fruit Trees

The only fruit trees that should be pruned in the winter months are apples, pears, quince and medlar. Stone fruits – plums, gages, damsons, cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines and sweet almonds – must never be pruned in the dormant season (October to March) to prevent possible ingress of diseases such as bacterial canker and silverleaf. Continue reading

Dieback on apricot tree

Growing Apricots

Despite opinions to the contrary apricots can be grown in the open garden or allotment although in the colder parts of the country they are best grown under glass or a polytunnel. Before I go any further I should warn you that apricots are similar to other stone fruits in that their quality diminishes quite rapidly from the moment that they are picked and as a result they are best eaten direct from the tree although they will store for a few days – however, I can promise you that a freshly picked apricot still warm from the sun tastes absolutely nothing like those that you buy in the shops! In any case remember that apricots are good for you and that is a very real excuse for growing at least one tree! Continue reading

Apple 'Charles Ross'

Planting a Traditional Orchard

Growing top fruit, particularly apples and pears, is a particular joy and this can easily be done at home or in the allotment by using a combination of cordons, espaliers or stepovers. However, if room is available, why not consider the more traditional approach of an orchard of apples and pears using semi-dwarfing rootstocks? By planting such trees a fair distance apart – say 3m (10ft) – you will be able to have grass pathways with the promise of picnicking under the trees in years to come! Using the rootstock M26 for apples and Quince A for pears, trees can be kept to a maximum height of around – 2.4-3.6m (8-12ft) and this is exactly what I have done in three ‘community’ orchards that I have designed and planted. I reckon that if you can find space for at least five trees you have yourself an orchard! Continue reading

Peach Leaf Curl

Grow Your Own Peaches & Nectarines

I suppose that if asked what the most exotic fruit that we can grow in our gardens is the majority of gardeners would say the peach or nectarine, due to their outstanding quality. Asking the same gardeners about how easy peaches and nectarines are to grow, then the answer would probably be to not try growing them in the garden because they are so difficult to grow! Whilst I would agree that to call peaches and nectarines exotic is a very fitting accolade, nothing could be more untrue in saying that they are hard to grow. Indeed the very opposite is true if attention is paid to planting and growing conditions. Continue reading

Silver Leaf infects the wood through wounds and causes silvering of the leaf folliowed by death of the branch.

Growing Plums in the Garden

Plums are a wonderful fruit to eat and cook with and fortunately an ideal fruit for growing at home, so please ignore the pundits who may suggest the contrary! When I refer to plums I use this term to include gages as they are essentially the same fruit. Gages are considered to be so named after Sir Thomas Gage who was a great fan of the juiciest plums and would go out of his way to select and hunt out the finest. Continue reading

Festooning a young cherry tree

Dealing with an Unfruitful Tree

Every now and again you may find that one of your fruit trees fails to produce fruit and this may well happen after several years of good fruiting. This is not terribly unusual and can happen at any time and there are usually very good reasons for this. Alternatively a tree may not want to start fruit production at all so let’s consider what you might do to get your tree into a fruiting habit. Continue reading

Gooseberry 'Hinnonmaki Red'

Gooseberries: A Forgotten Fruit

In my opinion gooseberries have become a forgotten fruit as I rarely see them grown nowadays. I suppose that in a way I can understand why because most varieties have thorny stems, berries that are regularly covered with mildew and are rarely eaten ripe which means that the intense flavours are missed. But don’t let any of these factors put you off because you can grow gooseberries as cordons so thorny stems aren’t a problem, there are varieties which are resistant to mildew and above all there are varieties which are so luscious when perfectly ripe that you will assume they are exotic fruits! I know that I labour the point a  lot about eating soft fruit, in particular, direct from the bush but this is so true about gooseberries – I promise you! Forget those hard bullets that you may be able to find in the shops – grow some large sweet berries in your own garden or allotment. Continue reading