A PLAN FOR FRUIT GROWING FOR SELF SUFFICIENT GARDENERS

SOIL that produces decent vegetable crops will do the same for fruit. Like some vegetables (such as the potato), some varieties of fruit have their likes and dislikes concerning locality and so on; any such peculiarities can be learned from neighbours who have had a few seasons’ experience of fruit growing in the neighbourhood. Considerations of space come next. On the allotment, if tenancy is reasonably secure and the crime of produce stealing not too rife in the district, a row or two of small fruit such as raspberries, gooseberries, currants, could be planted with considerable profit.

In the home garden the plan would be to scrap worn-out, unprofitable fruit bushes and trees and replace them with healthy, up-to-date types. Every fence, whichever way it looks – north, south, east or west – is capable of helping in the production of excellent pickings of blackberries and loganberries. The house walls should carry their own loads of fruit, ripening them to perfection.

A single apple or cherry tree would give welcome summer shade on a grass plot, in addition to its fruit. If all other space were filled, room might still be found for a row or two of strawberries.

The Cost of It.

The only fruit plants, bushes or trees worth buying are those offered by reputable nurserymen. They are true to name, thoroughly healthy, and will bear fruit when expected. Thoseold enough to carry a little fruit naturally cost more than very young ones. The most expensive are those bought as job lots with no manner of assurance as to what they are.

With good plants the first cost is the last, apart from possible small expenses in connexion with spraying against disease or insect pests.

How to Save Space.

Trees and bushes trained in the nursery to grow flat against a wall, fence, or strained wires or other form of support, take up the very minimum of space. The simplest form of flat-trained tree is the cordon. This has only one, two, or three stems – single, double, or triple cordon respectively.

The cordon has no other branches, only a main stem or stems carrying the fruiting spurs. The single cordon is trained to grow horizontally, the stem being bent at right angles about 18 in. up; or it is trained to grow upright, or obliquely – at an angle of about 45 degrees with the ground. Double and triple cordons are intended to be grown vertically, that is, upright.

Apple, pear, gooseberry, red currant and white currant, cherry and plum, can all be grown in these space-saving forms. Single- cordon apple and pear trees can be planted as close as 2 ft. apart; single cordon gooseberries and currants 1 ft. apart, double cordons 2 ft. and triple cordons 3 ft.

Espalier and Fan-trained.

Espalier, or horizontal-trained trees have a single central stem, with branches growing out horizontally to left and right – in tiers, about 1 ft. apart. This suits apples and pears especially, and the trees, in line against a wall, or against strained wires in the open, are planted about 10 ft. apart.

Fan-trained trees have branches which radiate sideways, like the ribs of a fan. Apricots, plums, cherries, nectarines, peaches and figs can be grown thus, at from 15 ft. to 18 ft. apart in line.

South Wall-trained Trees.

The house, garage or other building with a south-facing wall offers the ideal position for a trained plum tree or apricot, nectarine, peach, fig or grape vine. Cordon gooseberries and red and white currants with this warm backing fruit very early; a south-facing fence is equally suitable for them, as it would be for the others if the fence were high enough.

East and West Walls.

Here again trained gooseberries and red and white currants are perfecdy at home, also cherries, plums and early-ripening pears.

North-facing Walls.

Gooseberries and currants in this position give a late crop of berries; thus, by varying the aspect, these fruits can be spread out over a long period of the summer. The north wall also suits morello cherries and early pears.

Fences with any aspect can be clothed with blackberries and loganberries, the growths fastened back fan fashion or horizontally, and planted about 8 ft. apart.

Small Fruits in the Open.

Ordinary bush currants and gooseberries are planted in the open at about 5 ft. apart, preferably in rows; raspberry canes (these need supports) about 18 in. apart in a row, with 5 ft. between rows.

Strawberry plants are set out. 15 in. apart in the row, 21 ft. between rows.

Round Trees.

The typical standard tree, with all-round branches has an unbranched stem of about 6 ft. and is on the large side for the ordinary small garden, where it is less profitable than the smaller and quicker fruiting bush and pyramid forms. Standard apple and pear and plum trees need to be spaced at least 18 ft. apart; that may seem an absurd waste of space when young standards are planted, but they need it all by the time full growth is attained. Standard cherries, and apples of more spreading growth, need to be separated by 25 ft.

Half-standard trees have an advantage over full standards in that their branches are within easier reach; they have clean but it does not always receive sufficient thought at planting time. The shade it will cast, the area which its extending roots will occupy and the demands it will make on neighbouring soil must be considered. If the young tree has got to’fight for light and air and food with strong-growing herbaceous perennials it is likely to be a failure from the start. It is not advisable, then, to dot fruit trees or bushes about a vegetable or flower border unless they can have – that is, unbranched – stems of about ft. Half-standard apples, pears, plums and damsons are planted about 15 ft. apart.

The space-savers in the round tree class are bush and pyramid apples, pears, plums, cherries, at about 10 ft. apart. The pyramid form has one main, central stem which goes straight up, with side branches radiating from it in all directions. The bush form consists of half a dozen stems rising from a very short leg, with an open centre] there is no long main stem.

Vegetables Among Fruit.

Space that is vacant between young trees for the first three or four years after planting can be occupied by vegetable crops of a not-too-tall or vigorous nature. Rhubarb would not be out of place between standards or half-standards; between bush and pyramid trees salad crops could be grown. But to attempt any crowding is futile; neither fruit trees nor vegetables would succeed.

The same applies where flowers are concerned. A young fruit tree or bush planted during the dormant season when it has not a leaf upon it, in the mixed flower border, occupies nothing like the space it will require when in full leaf. And that space will increase from year to year. That is obvious enough, abundant space to themselves alone.

Intensive Planting.

The ideal is to have a piece of ground devoted exclusively to fruit. If the essential spacing at first appears to take up more ground than can be spared, raspberry canes or gooseberry or currant bushes could be planted – as temporary occupants only – between the young fruit trees. They would have to be removed before the trees needed the full space, but meanwhile they will have given crops over a number of years – the number of years depending on how far apart the young fruit trees were planted and their vigour of growth. It might even be necessary at a later date to remove a tree here and there, for the sake of the remainder.

When intensive planting of mixed fruits is undertaken the piece of ground should be dug all over and put into the best possible condition before anything at all is planted.

Extending the Fruiting Season.

By selection of suitable varieties of any particular fruit, and planting these in varying positions (north, south, east or west) so far as any special requirements of that fruit allow, the season of ripening can be greatly extended.

There are, for example, varieties of dessert apple which ripen in early August and will not keep for more than a week or two, such as Beauty of Bath, and others which are not at their best until December and which keep well until February, such as Orleans Reinette and Laxton’s Superb. There are cooking apples, such as Monarch, which are at their best as late as January and will store until April.

Choosing Varieties.

To make the utmost of small space, varieties that are famed for their cooking or dessert qualities should be planted. Just any old sort will not do.

Of even greater importance is the necessity for ensuring that the flowers of apples, pears, plums, cherries are fertilized with the pollen from flowers’ of another variety of the same fruit. Many varieties of these four are self-sterile – that is, they are quite incapable of setting their fruit with their own pollen.

For example, the famous Cox’s Orange Pippin, claimed by some to be the best dessert apple in the world, is self-sterile. Pollen from the flowers of one Cox’s Orange Pippin cannot fertilize the flowers of another Cox’s Orange Pippin, though the trees be the closest possible neighbours and the pollen be produced in the greatest abundance. To get this variety to fruit it is necessary to plant near to it another variety whose pollen is known to be capable of doing what is required; such as Bramley’s Seedling, always a sure cropper, and said to be the best cooking apple in the world.

A few varieties of apple are self-fertile – they set their fruit with their own pollen, Bramley’s Seedling being one. Among pears, Louise Bonne of Jersey is self-fertile. Victoria is one of the very few self-fertile plums. Cherries are specially tricky in this matter of cross-fertilization, and two or more different varieties must be present near by.

It is not essential that both mates should be present in the one garden; pollen is carried by bees and wind, and these will effect the as a four-year-old plant. This hurrying on of the fruiting date, accompanied by a restriction in growth, which makes the pear cordon or dwarf bush admirably suited to the smallest garden, is the result of the special stocks (root and stem) on which the varieties are budded or grafted in the nursery; a matter which is fully explained under How FRUIT TREES ARE RAISED at p03. A Fruiting Hedge.

A dividing hedge between gardens, or between parts of a garden, that will not only be ornamental but profitable is worth consideration. Either cobnuts or filberts will form such a hedge; but it cannot be clipped like privet and it likes to become tolerably thick, which perhaps puts it out of count for the very small garden. Where space can be spared, a nut hedge gives fine dividends. It can be planted on poor, stony ground, or on a rough bank, and still be fruitful.

Restoring Order Among the Fruit.

It may be less a question of planting fruit trees and bushes than restoring order and fertility among existing plants. Old standard apples and pears and plums may be improved by having their height reduced, and worn out or crowded branches removed ( business of pollination between trees in the near neighbourhood. Full details as to appropriate mates (where essential) are given under names of fruits in die alphabetical section.

Quick-fruiting Pears.

Intending fruit planters are sometimes scared to invest in a pear tree, believing in the old jingle ‘ If you plant pears you plant for your heirs’ – the inference being that one’s children or grandchildren will reap the benefit denied to the planter because of the pear’s reluctance to fruit within a reasonable number of years.

But the pear has been speeded up considerably since that pessimistic jingle was coined. Grown as a cordon or a dwarf bush, the pear will begin to carry fruit very shortly after transference from nursery to garden, especially if it is purchased 233). Other trees may have so suffered from neglect that they have become choked with unprofitable growths; pruning may put this right and make them fruitful again. A jungle of raspberry canes or an almost unapproachable thicket of blackberries is not necessarily to be grubbed out; the congested shoots can be dealt with, and a general clean up be put in hand. Artificial fertilizers will help. Lime may be needed, especially by the stone fruits – the plums, cherries, etc.. Grass may have been allowed to creep up to the base of trees and bushes and to rob the roots of air and warmth and moisture. They may be fighting a losing battle against diseases and pests. The planter may have been so generous with his trees and so niggardly of space that now the sky cannot be seen from between them.

All these things can be put right, as is explained in full detail in the following sections.

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