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PLUMS, GAGES and DAMSONS

Type of tree: Bush, half-standard and fan-trained (not damsons).

Pollination: All damsons, and some plums and gages are self-fertile. The remainder need the pollen from another variety flowering at the same time to produce a crop of fruit.

Climate preferred: Temperate.

Aspect: Sunny, or facing east or west. The ‘Victoria’ plum will produce a good crop even on a north-facing wall.

Soil: Well-drained loam or clay containing a little lime.

Yield: One tree will supply enough fruit for the average family.

Planting and cultivation

The trees should be planted in well-prepared soil in late autumn or early winter. In early spring top dress the soil with general fertilizer at the rate of 135gm per sq m (402 per sq yd) under the spread of the branches. In mid-spring put down a thick moisture-retaining and weed-suppressing layer of compost. Soil cultivation should be avoided to prevent damage to the trees’ surface roots. Thin the crop in early summer if necessary to take the weight off any obviously overladen branches. Leave the remaining fruits about 5 cm (2 in) apart.

Harvesting

Pick the fruit carefully by the stalk to prevent bruising. Dessert plums and gages are best left on the tree until they are completely ripe; cooking plums and damsons should be gathered while they are still hard.

Pruning

Bush, standard and half-standard trees need little actual pruning apart from the routine removal of dead and crowded shoots. Young trees should be pruned in spring, while established trees are best pruned in summer to enable the pruning cuts to heal and so prevent disease. Fan trees should have outward-growing shoots removed in spring. In midsummer all side-shoots which are not required should be pinched back to the sixth leaf. After the crop has been harvested, cut back by half all those shoots which were previously pinched back.

Pests and diseases

Aphids, birds and wasps (protect the fruit on fan trees with fine netting or plastic mesh netting). Little or no blossom indicates bullfinches (cover trees if possible with mesh netting in late winter and early spring).

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