growing the many Fruits we can choose for fruit-cage and orchard
This is probably one of the most important ways you can extend your season for fruits, and vegetables. The original idea goes back to Victorian times when it was noticed that crops housed under cover were far more infested with pests and diseases than outdoor versions. And secondly that hardy productive fruits such as peaches and grapes often failed to thrive in permanently warm conditions. It was eventually realized that many crops physiologically demanded a minimum dormancy, in the region of a couple of months, of actual cold.
The Nuts as a group have one immense drawback to most kitchen gardeners- they generally make large trees. So far none of the true nuts is available in anything like as compact a form as say apples or pears, nor even plums. Indeed most nuts fit better the area beyond the kitchen garden rather than within. However the hazel family can, in theory, be constrained by regular pruning and sweet almonds are relatively small trees, which, if deemed worth the immense work load, can be trained on walls with their fruiting wood continuously replaced on the renewal scheme as for peaches.
As you may have noticed in my previous articles I am obsessed by the need to develop more edible wild plants into garden worthy esculents. Just as we created the modern strawberry, cabbage, apple, sweet pepper, carrot, parsnip and so on. Most of our fruits and vegetables are quite distinctly different from their wild ancestors. They are larger, sweeter and less fibrous and although cultivation helps it is selection and hybridization that have worked the improvement.
(Citrus, guava, loquat, myrtle, olive, physalis, melon and watermelon)
Most of us are quite happy if not overwhelmed by the very wide choice of fruit varieties on offer to us commercially. And if we want even more to choose from there are rare, obsolete and heritage varieties to search out. The internet even offers the possibility of buying (certified for importation to be legal) foreign sorts as well though these may obviously be ill suited to our general growing conditions. So why should any of us ever want to develop our own varieties?
Well perhaps I am exaggerating a little, if not a hundred there are still a host of good reasons for growing fruits. And if I dare suggest anything as radical, there are even better reasons for growing fruits rather than vegetables. I suggest we all make the same error- when we decide to grow food we rush to create a vegetable patch; which may not actually suit our needs, or resources. And when we consider fruit at all it’s when other space is available rather than as a primary goal. Yet I would argue that we should all establish fruit cages and orchards as a priority.
Grapes are one of the most varied of all fruits; they come in a host of different colours, flavours and sizes. They can be grown in almost every part of the world, treated and pruned by all sorts of methods and used in a multiplicity of ways. Although they are easy in pots under cover these do not give the yields of open ground plants. Unfortunately here in the UK we are on the very margin of successful outdoor cultivation. The changeable nature of the infamous British weather makes grapes a difficult crop. But modern varieties are making it much less of a gamble.
Over the last quarter century I have tried many dozen grapevines. Most of them in trials inside, outdoors and many by the orchard house method in tubs. Without doubt climate warming may affect the future weather but over the last few years I have found the milder springs and longer autumns very conducive to grapes with more varieties of them cropping more often.
Recently I was one of several gardeners putting together an excellent book on gardening techniques (-that I'm too humble to mention other than it was associated with a well known BBC radio four gardening programme.......). However the point is that we all had to agree on who was to write on what and on which topics to include or exclude. Most subjects are simple enough to choose but what about grafting & budding. It is done by the millions for commercial purposes for roses, fruit trees and shrubs. Yet it is something hardly any amateurs at all ever seem to do, or even attempt.