Quick Guide To Fruit Growing
Apricot. Apricots are grown only as wall trees in most British gardens, preferably fan trained and 15 ft. apart on a south wall. They like rather dry soil in summer. To encourage fruit, allow one stem of one-year-old growth to remain at each joint on the main stems. The fruit should form on this stem, and when the flower has opened, all leaf buds, except one at the tip and two at the base, should be rubbed away. After the fruit has stoned, the top can be cut away and the basal buds will grow into fresh shoots. Both or one of these can be retained again when winter pruning is done.
While the tree is young, some new growth should be allowed on the leaders, but long spindly new growths at the tip should be shortened severely, and the feeding of the tree adjusted accordingly. The use of stable manure often causes vigorous growth, but too rapid expansion may mean that too much wood remains between the joints, so that fruits are sparsely situated on the mature tree.
Cherry. Cherries are grown as standards, pyramids or bushes, and as fan-trained trees on walls. A full-grown standard cherry takes up a great deal of room-30 to 40 ft.—and the cherry in this form is therefore not very suitable for small gardens. The Moiello cherry, which makes an ideal fan-trained tree to grow on north walls, is on the contrary one of the best of small garden fruits.
Cherries, like most stone fruits, should be pruned as little as possible, and it is best to prune only young wood. If an old branch must be cut away, the wound should be clean and lead paint or other preservative which will exclude moisture and germs should be used immediately over the scar. This will prevent disease from entering. Such cuts on stone fruits are inclined to bleed,” and should only be made where absolutely necessary.
Sweet cherries are particularly infertile when planted as isolated specimens, and they should always be planted in pairs. Morello cherries can be pruned as already advised for apricots. They are self-fertile.
The cherry sawfly is the chief pest that attacks cherries. Derris dust used over the foliage when the maggot is first seen is a useful deterrent. Arsenate of lead sprays are also effective, though arsenic is generally to be avoided in the small garden. Soil fumigants help to keep down the pest.
Lime is essential for success with cherries except where they grow on chalky subsoil. Other artificials can be used as recommended for apples.
Peach. Peaches and nectarines are, in most districts, only suitable for south walls. They are usually fan trained, though occasionally cordons are obtainable. They are cultivated and pruned like apricots, but whereas apricots after a few years of pruning begin to make spurs like apples, nectarines and peaches do not do this but fruit along the wood of the last summer’s development. These trees prefer plenty of soil moisture, and a mulch of stable manure in summer is a help. Otherwise use fertilizers according to the condition of the tree as described for apples.
Pear. Pears are grown as pyramids, bushes, standards, espaliers or cordons, the distance for each being similar to that needed for apples. They will grow well on walls facing east or west, and though the instructions given for pruning apples also apply to pears there is often little need after the head has been formed.
The pear sawfly is sometimes very troublesome, and is difficult to cure. It attacks the pears early, and the maggot causes the young pears to drop. Dressing a soil fumigant over the soil surface when the blossom is open is a deterrent to the fly which causes the trouble.
Plum. Plums and damsons are definitely labour-saving fruits, since they need a minimum of pruning when once the skeleton of the tree has been formed. They are best grown as standards or bushes, from 10 to 15 ft. apart. Finger and thumb pruning in the early stages of the tree’s life is the best pruning, as these fruits are very liable to gumming. Kainit and basic slag in winter, with an annual dressing of lime given also during winter, preferably a month later, is good for plums. Tar-oil as a winter wash is desirable, to keep down pests.
Gooseberry, Currant and Raspberry. These soft fruits are best grown in separate plantations. When planting they should be spaced about 5 ft. apart each way, the raspberries being set in groups of three canes with this distance between the groups. Alternatively, the raspberries can be grown in lines, allowing 5 ft. between the rows and 18 in. between every two canes.
Fertilizers can be used according to the behaviour of the plants, remembering the need for potash as well as for leaf-forming nitrates and flower-forming phosphates. Liberal use of stable manure as a summer mulch pays with all these fruits.
Gooseberries and red currants are pruned in winter, side growths of the previous summer being cut back sufficiently to keep a cordon-like skeleton of branches.
Black currants fruit on new wood of the previous season’s growth. After the fruits are gathered, as much old wood as possible should be cut right away, leaving only new stems to carry the next season’s crop. Unless water and food supplies are good, there will not be sufficient new growth for the purpose, and stable manure as a summer mulch is therefore particularly good for black currants.
Raspberries fruit on new canes. The way to prune them is to cut out entirely all the old canes when the fruit has been gathered, and then to pull out any canes that are not required to take their place, leaving only about half a dozen canes to each stool.
The chief pests of these soft fruits are big bud and raspberry maggot. Big bud is a mite that causes black currant buds to swell instead of developing properly into leaf growth. It is kept under control by spraying with lime sulphur in spring when the foliage is the size of a shilling.
Raspberry maggot hatches from eggs deposited by beetles that visit the open blossoms. Dusting Derris powder well into the open flowers is the only satisfactory cure, but as the flowers open in succession for many days, the dusting must be repeated about every two days during the blossom time.
Loganberry and Blackberry and similar hybrid fruits are grown and pruned much like raspberries. That is, they develop long canes from the base, and these are cut away each season after they have carried their fruits, the new canes being tied into their place on the provided supports.
These fruits can take almost any amount of feeding, and will respond accordingly. A heavy mulch of stable manure in summer and occasional pailfuls of water at the roots will result in exceptionally good crops. The raspberry maggot also attacks these two fruits.
Strawberry. The strawberry is a fruit which commends itself to the home gardener chiefly on account of its superior flavour when freshly gathered. It takes a considerable amount of garden space, and must not be relegated to any shady, or even half shady, position. Strawberries do not last in full bearing more than three seasons, and the common practice is to plant one-third of the strawberry patch fresh each season. This is generally done in August or September after the crop, when freshly rooted runners are available.
The plants are set in rows 21 ft. apart, 18 in. being allowed between the plants in the row. They are grown on with ordinary care over hoeing until the flowers appear, and then clean straw is laid down along the rows, so that the fruits will not be damaged
by mud splashes when rains occur. Any runners that are seen are cut away the first season, and in the second and third season only a few runners—sufficient to re-make one-third of the patch—are allowed to develop. These will root themselves naturally as a rule, but it pays to peg each one into the soil, and give it a little fresh sifted soil to help the roots to form. When this has happened, the new runners can be moved at once to their intended quarters, or, if more practicable, they can be potted up temporarily and grown on until the plot is ready for them.
Good fertilizers for strawberries are an ounce of sulphate of ammonia and three of superphosphate per square yard in spring, and an ounce of sulphate of potash in winter. Should growth be poor, use a little nitrate of soda in liquid form after the fruit has set.
Some of the less common fruits may commend themselves to the garden maker. Nuts of various kinds, quinces, mulberries, outdoor grapes, Figs and medlars can all be grown
with ease in most gardens.
The ways and means of protecting fruit bushes from the ravages of birds is always rather a problem in the small garden. The best time to think about it is before the bushes are planted, as by far the most effective method is to build a wire cage over the whole fruit area. It should be high enough to allow a person to go right in and pick the fruit comfortably.