All soils will grow some kind of fruit and every garden, however small, can produce something. The individual requirements of each fruit need to be understood, but once the principles of cultivation are grasped subsequent maintenance is quite simple.
The main operations are pruning in winter, spraying in winter and spring, feeding in spring and autumn, thinning in summer, gathering and storing.
In making a new garden, give careful consideration to planning the fruit section; this is a permanent crop which, once established, cannot be disturbed and planting should not therefore be undertaken too hastily.
A good loam with careful cultivation will grow practically all fruit ; but even a clay, gravel or chalky soil will produce .certain fruits. It is important to choose, therefore, the most suitable type, and it is a mistake to try to grow every type and few of them well.
Although in most gardens it is difficult to select the ideal aspect, the most can be made of any situation by careful choice of fruit to be grown. Frost and the consequent thaw cause damage to the blossom, but this can be avoided to a certain extent by planting so that the trees are not exposed to the early morning sun. Protection from cold north winds can be afforded by shelter belts.
In a small garden where space is limited the few fruits grown should give crops in succession, bearing in mind those that will keep in store.
Plant mostly dessert varieties rather than cooking, in order to get the full value of really fresh picked fruit from your garden.
The following are fruits in order of ripening :—
Strawberries, cherries, gooseberries, black currants, red currants and raspberries.
Plums, apples, pears, according to variety.
STANDARD AND HALF-STANDARD
Modern fruit production is based on the correct use of stocks, that is to say, the ultimate size of the tree, the quality of the fruit and the age at which the tree comes into bearing can be determined by the different root-stocks used for grafting. It is therefore essential to purchase trees from a reliable nurseryman telling him the space you have at your disposal as well as particulars of soil, locality and the type required. Research stations have done years of work on this subject and produced a range of suitable stocks.
Cordon trees can be trained to suit various positions, and produce fruit in places which would otherwise be unproductive.
The double horizontal cordon shown above is used as an edging. The branches may be tied along wires stretched at the correct height, or fastened to a peg by tying the tips to a stake. Protect the shoot with felt before fixing the string.
LAYING OUT AN ORCHARD
When laying out an orchard the positions of the permanent trees must first be considered. Full grown standard trees need to stand 30 ft. apart ; as they take some years to come into bearing, the usual practice is to interplant with bush trees of apples and pears, which produce crops more quickly, or with bush fruits such as gooseberries and currants. These will give crops for the early years after laying out the orchard, while the permanent trees are growing a framework of strong branches and producing no fruit.
When trees are planted on the quincunx system alternate rows should be bush trees ; these are left to grow as long as space permits, and on their removal it is seen that the standard trees are left at the required spacing of 30 ft. each way. An alternative method is to plant five currant or gooseberry bushes between each standard tree in the line, and use the space between the lines for vegetables.
In all cases where interplanting is practised avoid the temptation of allowing the catch crop to stand too long; remember that the standard trees are to be the-main source of income, and must have light and air for full development.
Where standard trees are planted in an open position exposed to winds, a double stake will give better support. Two stakes are driven in, one on either side of the tree and when in position their tops should not reach into the branches. To the top of each stake a crossbar is nailed and the trunk of the tree is tied securely to this. Before tying wrap a piece of felt or rubber round the bark to prevent injury.
While the trunk of the tree is smaller than the upright stakes a crossbar may be nailed on each side of the stakes ; this will help to ease the strain of the tie against the young trunk. In districts where rabbits are troublesome fine mesh wire netting should be wrapped round the stakes, so as to enclose the trunk, to a height of 2 ft. 6 in. This will save the trees from having the bark, eaten.
Planting and staking should be done together. Both are important operations ; the life of the tree depends on them. After a hole sufficiently large to take the roots well spread out has been made and the tree set in position, a stake should be driven in without injury to the fibrous roots. It is impossible for the roots to become established unless they are well anchored in the soil, and the stake should therefore be at least a ft. below ground. The soil is replaced gradually, worked among the roots and trodden down layer by layer. Never plant on a wet soil or during frost ; if trees arrive from the nursery during bad weather heel the roots in, or, if this is not possible, cover them with sacking or straw to keep them damp to plant in time.
There are many ways of staking fruit trees, but only four will be dealt with here. In fairly sheltered districts one upright stake, such as the one shown on the left, is sufficient. Where there is a prevailing wind a stake should be put in slantwise against the wind. In. more exposed districts it is necessary to provide more elaborate forms of staking.
A tripod can he formed of three posts or two upright posts can be joined by a crossbar. Whichever form is adopted the stakes must not reach higher than the top of the trunk and the bark must be protected in some way or other. Wire or twine will cut into the bark and cause irreparable damage, so it is necessary to encase the stem in a wrapping of sacking or rubber. These ties must be examined periodically, because the stem will expand, and the ties must then be loosened.
It is in fact advisable to renew the tie every year, so that there is no danger of hurting the bark as the tree swells in size. Always use a soft cord and make sure that there is an adequate underwrap. , Before being driven into the ground, the stake should first be pointed off, to facilitate driving. It will wear better if it is dipped into creosote or tar up to 2 ft. from the tip. It is possible that the mallet may roughen the top of the stake when this is knocked into the ground ; if this happens smooth off any roughness, so as to avoid possible damage to the bark.
After frosts both stakes and trees may be found to be rather loose. It is a Wise precaution to go round and test for this, and where necessary to stamp the soil firm again. Always remember that fruit trees are properties that will last a lifetime, and that they are therefore worth much trouble.