Fruits FAQs

We intend to plant two peach trees in our Sussex orchard 48 km (30 miles) from the coast. The summers are usually good. What variety should we buy?

In the south of England it is possible to grow peaches successfully as free-standing orchard trees. At your distance from the sea the risk of wind damage should be slight, and you certainly have one of the best climates for the job. Plant ‘Peregrine’, which is the best outdoor variety. For peach-tree enthusiasts in rather less favourable areas, ‘Duke of York’ and ‘Hale’s Early’ should do reasonably well.

We have tried growing apricots of the variety ‘Farmingdale’ in our Essex garden. In spite of all our efforts, and the advantage of a 2.4 m (8 ft) high south-west-facing wall, we have not been successful. What do you suggest? ‘Farmingdale’ is a good variety, and your Essex climate is better than most for outdoor apricots. The problem with apricots is their time of flowering—February to early March. Between then and May, frost all too often destroys either the blossom or the young fruitlets. Nightly covering with old lace curtains could provide the necessary protection.

We would like to grow a grapevine in our 3.7 x 2.4 m (12 x 8 ft) greenhouse, which is unheated but in a good sunny position. Is it practical, and if so what variety would you recommend?

It is practical provided you plant the vine in the centre of the border on the less sunny side of the greenhouse. The most reliable variety is ‘Black Hamburgh’. Do not be tempted to crop it until the third year. Remember that it will be growing in a small space, so it will be essential to keep up to date with the trimming. A book on the subject would help.

We have tried without much success to grow melons in a cold greenhouse, which is a 3 x 2.4 m (10 x 8 ft) cedarwood model. We raise our own plants of the ‘Ogen’ variety from seed. Can you suggest where we are going wrong?

Melons do best when grown on a mound of old turf. Make the mound during the winter, with all the grass turned inwards. ‘Ogen’ needs fairly hot weather so try ‘Sweetheart’, an ¥x hybrid, and be ready to plant out not later than mid-May. Train the plants on single stems up canes, and pinch out the side shoots two leaves beyond each set female flower. Pollination of the female flowers is essential. This can be done by hand, or by the bees if you leave the greenhouse door open on warm days. Feed your plants weekly with a liquid tomato fertiliser.

We very much want to grow our own green figs, but we have no space for a greenhouse. The best we can offer is a south-west-facing wall in our London suburban garden. What are our chances?

Fairly good if you start with a pot-grown ‘Brown Turkey’ fig, the best outdoor variety. Restriction of root growth is essential otherwise the plant will soon become rampant. Sink a 182-litre. (40-gallon) drum into the ground and plant in that, making sure that there are large drainage holes in the bottom. The old practice of putting in a barrier of well-beaten chalk or lime rubble 1 m (3 ¼ ft) below the soil surface is an alternative method and gives less problems than a container while keeping growth in check.