Fruits can be successfully grown in confined spaces, and produce crops within one to three years after planting. While they generally crop best in sunny positions, gooseberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and strawberries grow satisfactorily in light shade. Shelter from cold north and east winds, particularly at flowering time, is necessary to ensure pollination and fruit set.
Most cultivated land is suitable, as long as it is free-draining, with 25 cm (10 in.) of topsoil. Soil preparation, including weed eradication, should be thorough, as fruit trees occupy the land for a number of years.
Selection and purchase Points to consider when selecting fruits to grow and deciding where to plant them include personal preferences, available space, ultimate plant size, length of time from planting to picking, suitability of climate and site, and cultural requirements.
The ultimate plant size depends on the variety and plant form. Bush apples require more space than cordon, but both are best when budded or grafted on to dwarfing root stock. Cordon and wall-trained fruits require more attention.
Purchase healthy, well-shaped plants, with good roots. Blackcurrants, raspberries and strawberries should be Ministry-certified as disease free. Many tree fruits cannot set heavy crops without pollen from another, closely related variety.
Family trees, having branches of two or more different varieties on the same plant, overcome the pollination problem and avoid the need to plant two trees. Planting is best done in autumn, although pot-grown fruits can be planted whenever the soil is not frozen, waterlogged or baked solid. Stakes and supports should be in position before planting. The planting hole should be large enough to hold the roots comfortably. Make sure the plants are the same depth after planting as before their move, and water them in unless the soil is very moist. Care and cultivation Hoe bare ground around all fruits to kill weeds and loosen the soil surface. Apply 70-100 g/m2 of balanced compound fertilizer, and mulch fruits each spring. Water new plants in dry weather until well established.
It is easiest to buy trees and bushes with a ready-formed framework of branches. Subsequent treatment consists of cutting out dead and inward-growing shoots of bushes and trees. Cordon and wall-trained fruit should have new growth shortened by half to two thirds in summer. The stumps are then cut back, when dormant, to within two or three buds of the main branches or stems.
Black currants should have their fruiting branches cut out completely every year after harvesting, and the same is true for fruited raspberry and blackberry canes. Remove surplus strawberry runners from between the rows when picking ceases and the beds are cleaned up. Cut off all the old foliage to minimize the risk of disease and infestation setting in the following year.
Harvesting and storing Plums, cherries and berried fruits are picked as they ripen; some form of protection from birds is usually necessary. Gather apples and pears when they part readily from the tree, but some varieties need to be stored before being eaten. Avoid storing damaged or bruised fruits as they quickly rot and infect others. Cool, frost-free storage conditions are best.
Exercise care when picking fruit from tall trees. Make sure that the ladder is secure. Well cared for older trees can give substantial yields of fruit. In order to get the best from your trees, harvest at the correct time.