growing the many Fruits we can choose for fruit-cage and orchard
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.
There is one question which regularly appears in every batch that I receive in the post or answer at GQT events. It may be phrased differently but it keeps on re-occurring as regularly as night follows day. But it rarely appeared in lists of questions found in old magazines and is quite a recent phenomenon.
There is a lot to be said for growing fruit, and for the lazier gardeners amongst us, even more so. You will get crops of many fruits regardless of whether or not you do a good job. But the quality and value of those crops may vary tremendously, and their season of use. The skill is not just growing apples; but in producing sufficiently good enough apples to store and eat over the most months of each year. Each fruit varies with it’s more crucial cultural aspects. Variety, micro-climate, pollination, watering, feeding, pruning, each have greater or less importance for every type of fruit.
Most gardeners are well aware of the benefits of thinning when applied to seedlings. Few of us allow our sowings to remain as congested a stand as a good germination can give. We soon learn to thin them out to give each sufficient space to develop, and if in their final site to mature. If we have ever left any too crowded the detriment is only too obvious with the plants becoming spindly, weak and often bolting into early flowering rather than growing on strongly.
One of the things that may discourage gardeners from growing some sorts of fruit is the apparently elaborate pruning methods that seem to be involved. Whole books are devoted to this esoteric art and offer many different methods, especially for grapes and pears which seem to have attracted more different and diverse pruning regimes than all other fruits put together. In these complex instructions, that pruning, which is the truly necessary minimum, has become overtly complicated - mostly because of the desire to train fruit trees into constricted forms.
The Ribes or currants are the poor relations of the kitchen garden relegated to shady places and planted in otherwise unproductive areas if grown at all. Not often are they regarded as one of the more important inhabitants and rarely esteemed as fresh or dessert fruits. Which is rather a shame as they are easy, reliable, nutritious and indeed even quite tasty when fully ripe.
To all intents and purposes there’s only one perennial vine for a kitchen garden, a grape-vine. All the rest pale into rightful insignificance by comparison. The kiwi and it’s relatives are fair croppers but the others are only of academic interest. Which is a shame as vine crops are convenient in small gardens where they can be trained up, and or affixed to perimeters, to catch most sun.
Associated by name and preferred conditions these berries are reliable croppers of versatile strongly flavoured fruits for dessert and culinary use. They’re best under netting or in a cage as the fruits are so soon stolen by birds and worse, in some seasons by the less easily stoppable wasps. They all prefer moist, loamy, Ph neutral to slightly acid, leaf mould rich soil and benefit from thick mulches. (Though with a gooseberry on a single stem keep the mulch from touching this to prevent rooting or rotting.)
There are many fruits that taste considerably better off the tree than their equivalent shop bought. Most commercial fruits are picked too young, and after shipping, storage and display can only be a poor substitute for what they could have been. But a fresh home grown apricot rises above such mere distinction, the texture as well as the taste becomes sublime. You have not lived till you have eaten a sun warmed apricot fresh plucked from the branch. The sweet, tart and aromatic flesh can be so gorgeous you barely believe it is the same fruit as the supermarkets sell.
Almost every garden most of will ever have known, at least those other than the very smallest, will probably have had an old apple tree or even several in it. These will have cropped for decades with no or little attention and so often get overlooked except when a few fruits are taken for use. Again most of us, given some space, will plant a few apple trees, but often with little consideration as to their variety and later usefulness.