THERE should be some fruit grown in every garden, for no garden is too small and no garden too difficult for its cultivation, with the possible exception of the very tiny and overshadowed town garden.
Most fruits demand a certain amount of sunshine, and most of them like a good deal of fresh air. At the same time there are fruits which will flower and bear good crop3 on walls that face north, and in other seemingly uncongenial situations.
Even in a small garden where it is not desirable to allocate a particular area for fruit cultivation, some fruits can generally be introduced as wall plants, to cover fences, or to cover a division screen between one section of the flower garden and another.
Before choosing the kind of fruits to be grown in any garden a general survey of the plot should be made. Fruits like a soil that is fairly rich, and well drained, and supplied with lime. It is probable that any garden soil could be brought into this condition by good cultivation, and the natural soil should not therefore greatly affect the choice of fruits.
At the same time in the case of a garden which is occasionally flooded, as are many riversido gardens, the black currant would be good fruit to grow in quantities, as the flooding would not adversely affect this crop, which revels in moist soil.
The aspect is of more importance than the soil in connection with the choice of fruits. Where there is a warm sunny aspect facing south, particularly where a wall is available with a southern aspect, such fruits as apricots, peaches and nectarines can be grown in the open. In fairly sunny garden facing southeast or south-west, mixed plantation of bush apples, plums, cherries, and soft fruits could be arranged. A wall facing east can be used for the cultivation of pears of certain kinds, and even the wall facing north can be used, for it is an ideal position for the Morelle cherry.
Where there is a choice of elevation, fruits should be grown at a high level. As the farmers say, Frost falls, and fruit trees grown in valley are much more affected by late spring frosts than are trees grown on higher land. Certain districts are considered better for certain fruits, the stone fruits usually growing best where there is a chalky subsoil.
Apart from these considerations, however, the chief thing3 which affect the choice of fruits in the amateurs garden are the area available, and the needs of the household. It should no longer be thought that the planting of bush trees 24 of apples, pears and plums is unwarranted expenditure on the part of tenants.
Modern varieties of fruit will come into profitable bearing within a year or two of planting, and the householder who intends to occupy a house and garden for five years can be satisfied that he will repay his initial outlay if he plants a mixed orchard.
In the case of soft fruits a good return is, of course, obtained the second year after planting, and small landowners often plant bush trees with soft fruits between them, so that a quick return is obtained from the soft fruits while the larger trees are maturing.
Roughly the order of preference which might be given to fruits by the owner of the small garden, taking into consideration economy of space, quick return, market value of the fruit crop, and the superiority of home-grown supplies over market supplies, would be as follows: Loganberries, Raspberries, Blackcurrants, Apples, Plums, Gooseberries, Cherries, Pears, Red and White Currants.
Advisable to buy trees for an orchard garden from a reliable nursery. Research carried out of late years amply confirms the fact that trees are affected by the stock on which they are grafted, and by the treatment they receive in the first year or two of their growth, and specialists who have a name to maintain pay particular attention to these points. They also endeavour to protect the buyer from diseased stock, and to supply only fruitful strains.
For all this work it is worth while to pay, since the utmost care given to the cultivation of worthless stocks will not give satisfactory results. Only a nursery that is inspected by the Ministry of Agriculture, which issues certificates to stocks of sufficiently high standard, should be approached.
The choice of fruit trees of particular plums, etc., are trees that have one stem types and ages depends on circumstances. Only, the result of a seasons growth from First-year trees in the case of apples, pears, the grafted bud of the variety. These can be trained to any desired shape, but the amateur seldom cares to undertake this work, and to do so means delay which is generally to be avoided.
Three-year trees will be generally trciined sufficiently to be more or lese foolproof in the hands of the novice at pruning, and as they come into bearing almost at once, they are recommended.
As to the form of the trees, bushes are preferable where there is sufficient space, cherries, (partly for their ornamental value), fan-trained Morelle cherries for north walls, with the use of loganberries or other hybrid berries on other fences.
Planting of any kind of fruit tree or bush can be done during the winter months, preferably in October or November. Never plant while the frost is in the soil, but wait for a mild day. If the plants arrive during unsuitable weather, heel
Fruit trees are trained In various ways. Thus they can be accommodated in large or small gardens.
Since their training is simple, they are very prolific, and easy to manage in the matters of pruning and gathering. Standards are more ornamental, and may be liked where the fruit forms a part of the flower garden design, but the fruit is Jess easily gathered.
Cordons, espaliers, fans, and other trained trees are very prolific when well and constantly pruned and cultivated. They are useful where time and labour are more available than garden space, but any omissions in pruning may easily ruin either the shape of the trees or the crops.
For the novice I should recommend bush apples, pears, and plums, standard them in, that is, cover the roots with moist soil, until the weather changes.
Plant firmly in ground that has been deeply dug. Spread the roots out to their fullest extent horizontally in the hole at planting time, covering them with fine soil that is well trodden to make it quite firm. Stake all bushes and standards at once, twisting the tying material between the stake and the stem so that it is firm, but not too tight.
Pyramids and bu3h trees are planted from 10 to 12 feet apart, standards such as cherries, which will grow to a great size, are planted as far as 24 feet apart. It may be necessary after a few years to take out alternate trees of the bush type, if they grow very large, and if this is not desirable, more space can be left between them in the first place, the ground being occupied with small fruits such, as gooseberries and currants. Gooseberries and currants are planted 5 feet apart each way, raspberries in rows 5 feet apart, leaving 18 inches between each plant. Loganberries, and the various hybrids of this type are planted 10 feet apart along a fence, and if more than one row is grown as in a fruit plantation, 8 feet should be allowed between the rows.
Cordon and other specially trained trees and soft fruits are of course planted nearer together, according to circumstances, and the method of training, and full instructions for these can be obtained from the nursery when the trees are bought.
Pruning the first spring after planting consists in shortening the branches about 6 inches in March, removing at the same time all shoots that cross or over crowd each other. Try to produce a tree in which every branch is a cordon, with fruit spurs the whole length of the branch.
This is done by shortening the long growths to encourage the breaking of dormant buds on the lower portions, and by cutting back the laterals (or side growths from these long shoots) to three eyes in summer, and further back during the winter. This causes the development of spurs, and the process can be repeated yearly until the branches are well spurred along the required length.
Manures. The question of soil treatment is important in fruit culture. Before any planting is done, the soil will have been deeply dug. At the same time an effort should be made to lighten heavy sticky clay, or to add humus, i.e.. decayed vegetable matter, to light soil so that it retains moisture.
The effect of each process is to make a soil that is well drained but will hold sufficient moisture in dry weather for the plants to draw on for food supplies. All plant food taken from the soil is in liquid form. At the same time, for all fruits, lime will be added. Where the fertility of the soil is in doubt, basic slag on heavy soils, and bonemeal on either light or heavy soils can be added, and as both are slow acting, their effect will be felt for several seasons.
Subsequent feeding of orchard trees depends on the condition of the trees and the growth they are making. If a fruit tree fails to make good growth, for instance, if a young apple tree does not make a foot of growth on each of the main branches in the season, it may be taken that nitrogenous food is required. If, however, the tree makes good or excessive growth, but fails to fruit, it may be receiving a superabundance of nitrates but be lacking in phosphates.
An annual mulch of animal manure, which contains each of the three essential plant foods, is generally recommended, but the effect on the trees must be considered, and if the growth is excessive, the stable manure should be discontinued for a time,. and more phosphates and potash given in the form of artificial fertilizers. Potash is very vital in the orchard, and half an ounce of sulphate of potash should be applied per square yard each spring.
Lime is also important, and in old orchards, where the deficiency in lime is sometimes apparent by the yellowing of the leaves, nitrate of lime, an ounce to the square yard, applied in spring, will have a remarkable effect.
Pollination. No fruits can mature unless the blossom sets, that is to say unless fertilization takes place. This means the transfer of pollen from stamens to pistil, and though in some cases fruit will develop when pollen from the same flower is placed on the pistil, in most cases fertilization is effected by the visit of insects, chiefly bees, from one flower to another, the fertilization taking place more readily when pollen from a different tree is carried to the flower.
For this reason, it is advisable to grow more than one variety of each fruit, in many cases, and in fact there are some fruits which will not mature at all when planted alone. A good deal of research has been done, and is still being done, in this connection, but sufficient is known to make it possible for the amateur to grow varieties which he can rely on to fertilize each other, or in the case of isolated trees to choose varieties which are known to be perfectly self-fertile.
It is not possible here to give the results of the research work in detail, and amateurs are advised to consult the nurseryman on this point when selections are made. A few of the most completely self-fertile varieties are mentioned in the following hints, concerning the fruits that are most desirable, and most generally planted in the amateurs garden.