Monday, 1 December 2014

Winter-proof your fruit trees

Who knows what this winter will bring? The weathermen certainly don’t! But no matter whether we get a harder than average winter, or a return to milder conditions, a little time and effort spent now may save you anguish next spring.
This post isn’t meant to be alarmist! Nearly all of our fruit plants and fruit trees are fundamentally hardy and, when compared to many of the other plants that may reside in your garden, are probably less likely to be frost and snow damaged than most. But under certain circumstances damage can occur, especially if your stock is newly planted.
For most fruit trees it is the grafting area is most vulnerable. Wrap some horticultural fleece or even tie folded newspaper around it. This will provide sufficient protection to make sure it doesn't succumb during any severe spells of weather. Make sure it is removed in spring.

Apply a surface mulch now. Materials that you can use are many and varied; straw or hay is the the cheapest, easily available and easy to apply as a 3-4” mulch around the base of trees and bushes. It has excellent insulating properties but one drawback – you are likely to hay or wheat seedlings appear next spring which you will need to remove!
Horticultural fleece is available and can be pegged down with wire or weighted down with stones. It does an excellent job, is comparitively expensive, but re-usable from one year to the next.
Whatever you do don’t use plastic because this will trap moisture and water beneath, which will in turn freeze and make the soil temperature colder.
Even if you can only heap extra soil or compost around the base of your trees, this will help prevent severe frosts from penetrating as deeply, make sure you clear it away again next week.
Are more likely to get damaged than those in the ground. As they exist in a much smaller soil area it will freeze solid much more frequently. It is perhaps an easy task to simply move pot grown subjects to a sheltered area, or even in a cold greenhouse if available, just for the worst months of the year, December-February perhaps. You can also wrap the pots in bubble-film or horitcultural fleece.
Certain varieties may have been grafted at the top of the stem – standard gooseberries, currants and family trees being prime examples. Any top grafted specimens will be more liable to frost damage at the union. Protect in the same way as described above.
Are Figs, Apricots, Peach/Nectarine, young Walnut trees and Kiwi Vines.

You may well experience no damage or losses at all – but as they say, it pays to be prepared!

Friday, 28 November 2014

Growing Peaches & Nectarines against a wall

With some basic information it is relatively easy to create a beautiful fan trained Peach, or Nectarine and with the benefit of a sunny south or west facing wall, the crops will be more reliable and extra sweet and juicy! An area of not less than 6 x 6' will be required. Remember that next to a wall the soil may not get much natural rain water so be prepared to water heavily until established and during dry periods.
THE FAN TRAINED TREE. Plant a feathered maiden and in the spring after planting cut back to lateral about 24 inches from the ground. Ensure that you have left one good bud on each side below the pruning level. Any remaining laterals should be cut back to one bud. In early Summer 3 shoots should be selected, train the top shoot vertically and with remaining two, train one to the left and one to the right. Remove all other buds and shoots. In July the shoots will now have lengthened and they should be tied to the support at an angle of about 45 degrees. Later in the Summer, cut out the central upright shoot and protect the cut with wound paint.

THE SECOND YEAR. In the Spring cut back your two side shoots to a bud or triple bud to about 12 to 18 inches from main stem. In Summer, four new shoots on each arm should be selected. The main one to extend the growth of the main arm, two to train above and one below each side of the tree other shoots should be stopped at one leaf.

THE THIRD YEAR. In Spring each leader should be shortened by a third to a downward pointing bud. In Summer the leading shoots should be allowed to extend their growth and every 4 inches a new shoot can be trained to your required fan shape. Do not train more than 3 new shoots from every branch and in late Summer when they have made 18 inches of growth pinch out the growing point and tie them to the cane or wires. These new laterals will fruit the following summer. Your wall will now be covered with your fan shaped tree and future season training is simply a matter of removing any shoots that are growing directly away or towards your wall cutting at 1 or 2 leaves. Replacement laterals can be trained if required and the old fruited wood removed to make room for your new replacement after fruiting.
Pictured is Peach 'Peregrine' one of the most reliable varieties and a delicious white fleshed Peach.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The best mildew resistant Gooseberry varieties

MILDEW RESISTANT GOOSEBERRIES – a boon to modern Gooseberry growing.
American powdery mildew is a bain yo Gooseberries every year, even if you carry out a fastidious spraying programme the older varieties often still get it. It can spoil the whole crop and affect the leaves as well.
But help is at hand. Painstaking selection has resulted in a slew of modern new varieties that remain as clean as a whistle! What’s more they yield more hevaily than many of the oldies with no loss of that wonderful gooseberry flavour. Here are our recommendations:
INVICTA with it’s massed clusters of pale white-green fruits all down the stems, a great variety for all culinary purposes and the number one selling gooseberry variety.
GREENFINCH An earlier maturing variety with bottle green fruits just waiting for a pie.
ROKULA The first mildew-free red Gooseberry, so sweet it can be eaten straight from the bush.
PAX Largely spine free, mildew free and with delicious sweet red fruits, this variety has it all. However it does come with a caution – the recent run of arctic winter has led to young stocks of this variety being decimated so be prepared.
HINO RED A variety from Euorpe which is a lovely hardy clean grower, the fruits are fairly small but very plentiful.
HINO YELLOW From the same stable as Hino Red, with primrose yellow sweet fruits that also suit dessert as well as culinary uses.
JUBILEE A selection from the popular old commercial variety ‘Careless’ only with much better disease resistance. Really good crops of large class-1 fruits can easily be obtained with this good growing Gooseberry.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Feeding fruit for the best crops

So often when reading advise on feeding the information given is frustratingly vague and sometimes even mystifying.
By understanding the basics to plant fertilizers it is much easier to make a self-informed choice as to when and with what to feed your fruit trees and fruit plants.
Fertilizers fall into 3 main categories; Nitrogen, Phostrogen and Potash.
Nitrogen feeds the growth and leaves.
Potash encourages flowers
Phostrogen promotes fruit.
The type of fertilizer you apply will depend on when and what you are feeding.
Very often when fruit plants and bushes and top fruits are concerned the advice is nearly always to apply Phostrogen because it encourages fruit. But this alone isn’t always the best course of action.
If you have plants and trees that are lacking in vigour first and foremost then Nitrogen should be applied at any time during the growing season. This should be applied as part of any basic feeding programme, for even if you need to encourage fruiting of a particular variety or tree, if it isn’t growing well in the first place you need to provide a basic strength and framework from which it can bear worthwhile crops. You can then move on to encouraging….
Fruit and flowering.
One follows the other of course. My own personal regime involves a good dressing Potash early in the spring, or 3 to 4 weeks before flowering depending on what type of fruit you are feeding. Then, I apply Phosphate straight after flowering or during fruit set and development. This double-action method nearly always provides great results as it encourages blossom which in turn sets and is then well-treated to provide large, fully formed and numerous fruits.
If your stock is growing well and vigorously in the first place than nitrogen-rich fertilizers should be avoided because they will only encourage excessive growth at the expense of flowers and fruit.
A good balanced N.P.K fertilizer – which contains a meticulously formulated percentage of Nitrogen, Potash and Phosphates, is perhaps easier to understand and apply and will to a certain extent do all the jobs at once. But for the very best results it’s worth buying nutrient-specific fertilizers and applying them to a specific timetable as described above. By feeding for a certain end goal, and at the right time, you can control the qualities you are trying to encourage at exactly the right time.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Growing compact Blackcurrants

Blackcurrants do not have to be grown in the conventional manner, and with today's moire confined spaces and smaller gardens the compact variety Ben Sarek not only cam into it's own, it also gave rise to an entirely new way of growing Blackcurrants.
Because Ben Sarek is naturally compact it can be grown at a much higher density than standard varieties. With a spacing of just 2.5' between bushes, and a natural height of around 3.5' this heavy cropping variety will easily form a low, easily maintained and harvested 'hedge'. Pruning consists of taking out the fruited canes in winter but this need't bee too thorough, as long as a proportion are removed there will be a plentiful supply of new growths for next years fruiting.
Ben Sarek is mildew and frost resistant; it can also be grown in 15" containers.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Spine-free soft fruits

Whenever a smooth and spine-free version of a traditionally prickly fruit is released it always causes great excitement. Gardeners are instantly drawn to the less-pain and more-gain aspect of the valuable selections which can sometimes be lucky sports of existing varieties, or may have been bred specifcally. Here’s our round-up of the 5 best smooth as silk stockings fruits.
1] RASPBERRY GLEN AMPLE This trailblazing and most-popular variety has combined all the best Raspberry attributes. Huge berry size, the heaviest crop, and ultra-smooth completely spine free canes for sheer harvesting enjoyment!
2] TAYBERRY ‘BUCKINGHAM’ The Tayberry was released maybe 20 years ago which still counts as ‘new’ in the world of fruit growing! It’s enviable crops of decadent purple richly tasting fruit would hang like a blanket all over the plant. The only ‘problem’ was it’s rather nasty spines. So, when along came Buckingham – totally without such hazards, the response was immediately enthusiastic.
3] GOOSEBERRY ‘PAX’ It took a while for people to actually beliebe there really WAS such a thing as a thornf ree Gooseberry. Priklces and Gooseberry Bushes whent together like strawberries and cream! Except Pax seems to have not noticed such traditions. It may produce one or two ‘soft’ spines on new growth but it is 90% thorn free! Whats more, it’s fruits are sweet, red, and mildew free!
4] BLACKBERRY LOCH TAY There are a few thornless Blackberries for gingerly prickle-allergic gardeners. Loch Tay is easily the best producing abundant crops of super-tasy jet black glossy fruits.
5] LOGANBERRY LY654 At the beginning, all Loganberries were prickly. Yes really. Then along came this strangely smooth and innocently without malice spine free selection. It’s rather a pity no-one thought to give it a proper name – LY654 it’s it’s trial-ground moniker.

Monday, 17 November 2014

These desirable, mostly smallish picturesque trees make ideal garden trees and the fruits can be mightily impressive. At their largest, the huge gorgeously aromatic and fragrant golden downy pear-like fruits can weigh more than a 1ib each.
Quinces grow relatively slowly and make much-branched specimens of around 10’ or so when mature. They aren’t fussy as to soil, as long as it is not waterlogged. Although sometimes found in old orchards, they are ideal grown in the ornamental area of the garden. The large pink blossoms are very pretty, and appear in late April & May. The leaves turn a deep rich ochre gold in the Autumn and the whole tree is imbued with a certain unmistakeable character that is most pleasing.
Quince trees are easy to grow and require little or no pruning. Hardy enough for most situations except perhaps the far North. Good varieties include
VRANJA [pronounced Vranya] with it’s large pear shaped fruits.
MEECH’S PROLIFIC Apple shaped fruits, a very popular variety.
REA’S MAMOTH Which bears the most impressive and sizeable fruits of all.
SIBERIAN GOLD Smallish golden fruits and good Autumn colouring.
Quinces have been neglected for many years but are now making a comeback with renewed interest. The fruits can be used to make Quince jelly or added to apple pies and stewed apples. They ripen about Now and will keep a few weeks on a windowsill. I always like to pick 3 or 4 and put them in a bowl in the kitchen, the unmistakeable perfume and aroma fills the room!