November – Pick your very own, growing fruit trees in small places

I am very lucky to have established fruit trees, bushes and canes in my garden. I have a Bramley apple, plum and cherry, blueberries, gooseberries and raspberries which I can pick fresh from the garden and enjoy in cakes, pies, jams and chutneys; that’s if they make it to the kitchen! My little boys love picking them straight from the plants when they are at their sweetest.

I have a medium sized garden but with careful selection there are many fruit varieties that can easily be grown in small spaces, including containers on a patio or balcony. You can choose any or all the below to create a mouth-watering fruit cocktail all grown in your own back garden!

Apples, cherries, pears and plums
Apricots, peaches and nectarines
Blackberries and hybrid berries

Blackcurrants, blueberries, cranberries, figs
gooseberries, raspberries, red currants and white currents

Fruit trees and bushes are now dormant for the winter so is a good time to prune them before the very cold weather sets in. It is also the best time to plant new, bare-root fruit trees and bushes, canes for the same reason.

When choosing your tree or bush, ensure it is right for your space. Apple trees, for example, come in lots of different sizes so you need to make sure you are buying a dwarf variety that won’t grow too large for your pot or garden.

To gain the maximum potential from your space, consider utilising a flat, vertical surface of a wall or fence to train a tree as an espalier, fan or cordon. Espalier trees have a series of horizontal branches in parallel tiers; fans are trees that have been pruned to form a fan shape against the wall; and cordons are angled or vertical trees that have very short side branches. All the above sit tightly against the wall or fence and will take up next to no space by intruding into the garden.

Make sure you also choose varieties of tree and shrub that are self-fertile and will pollinate themselves, it’s much better if you’re short on space and will ensure you get a good crop of fruit to enjoy.

Growing fruit in large containers will help keep the plant’s growth reduced too by restricting the roots but you’ll have to remember to feed and water the trees regularly as they will be relying on you their nutrients. Containers also have the added benefit of easily being moved inside if they need protecting from pests, birds and cold, wet winters.

If planting in the ground you can help the plant to establish roots more readily by adding compost or manure into the planting hole before it turns very cold with frosts. For containers use a loam based compost such as John Innes no 2, it’s better than peat based compost for fruit trees in containers.

When planting the tree ensure it is at the same depth as the soil mark on the stem and add a stake approximately 60cm deep to support the tree as it grows. backfill with soil making sure the soil settles in around the roots. Firm down, being careful not to compact the ground and tie the tree to the stake with a belt tie. The trunk should be close to the stake but not touching. Water in well.

Fruit trees and bushes love sunshine. The more hours of sun you can give then the better the results will be with sweeter fruits and deeper colours.

Here are some varieties to look at, all available on dwarf rootstocks:
Apple – Red Falstaff. It’s frost hardy, self-fertile, reliably heavy cropping and the fruits are of great quality. It’s ready from early October & will store for several weeks. The blossom is especially attractive too.

Pear – Concorde is a great garden pear tree and it’s also handily quite compact so combine this with a dwarfing rootstock & you have a great little tree for the garden or patio. Concorde is self-fertile and has an excellent sweet taste; easy to grow, ripens from late September.

Plum – Jubilee it comes from Sweden so it seems resistant to cold. Self-fertile, crops are impressive and so is the quality. The flavour won’t disappoint and you can eat it from early August. Jubilee suits dessert or cooking.