September is a fruitastic time of the year. Whether you are reaping the vegetable harvest or making wine and jams, it is a very satisfying time to watch all your hard work come to fruition.
It is relatively easy to create a fruit garden, so why not give it a try?
Unless you have a large garden or allotment it makes sense to plan which fruit you want to grow; gardens are generally too small and there’s usually not enough time to grow everything. It makes sense to grow your favourite fruit and those where freshness is an important part of the appeal. Consider ease of growing and whether special growing conditions are needed. Be aware that some fruit, such as peaches, need a hot, sunny site to do well. If your garden is shady, then stick to fruit that will tolerate these conditions.
Don’t forget that where space is retstricted, you can grow most fruit in containers. Training fruit into restricted forms, such as fans, up walls and fences takes up comparatively little room. Always make sure you choose fruit trees grafted onto dwarfing or semi-dwarfing rootstocks as this ensures trees keep to a reasonable size and are far more manageable than a towering standard tree.
Some fruits are perfectly happy to grow and crop well in a shady spot, whereas others need full sunlight and the warmth to yield well. Gardeners with small, enclosed gardens, balconies or courtyards may have a lot of shade. Even in shady, north- or east-facing aspects, such areas can be used to grow fruit such as alpine strawberries, acid cherries, red and white currants and gooseberries. Sunny, especially south- or west-facing aspects on the other hand, are ideal for growing almost any fruit, but especially sun lovers such as grapes, figs, peaches, nectarines and apricots.
Minimum temperatures are an important consideration – only truly hardy plants will crop reliably in gardens where the temperature frequently falls below freezing for long periods, during the winter. Gardeners in such conditions who want to grow tender crops such as citrus, pineapples or passion fruit will need the protection of a conservatory or heated greenhouse.
To successfully produce fruit, the flowers need pollinating. This is usually done by flying insects like honey bees, bumblebees, flies, beetles and wasps. Whereas most soft fruit produce compatible flowers and pollen and are therefore self-fertile, many fruit trees have self-incompatible flowers, meaning that they need another different cultivar of the same fruit that flowers at the same time growing nearby to pollinate their flowers.
Some fruit trees, such as ‘Victoria’ plums and ‘Stella’ cherries are self-fertile, so that insects pollinating their own flowers will lead to successful fruit set. This is ideal in a small garden as only one tree is needed to produce fruit. However, even self-fertile varieties tend to crop better when another cultivar is planted nearby for pollination.
Crab apples are particularly useful for pollinating apples as they produce an abundance of flowers over a long period.
So what are you waiting for? With all that choice, it really is time to get fruity.