Plum trees pro­duce plenty

Central Otago Mirror - - CLASSIFIEDS - Jane Wrig­glesworth

For a re­li­ably pro­lific fruit tree, plant a plum for an abun­dance of sum­mer fruit.

Bare-rooted plum trees are in store now, so head to your lo­cal gar­den cen­tre and pick one or two out.

There are nu­mer­ous species to grow, but the two most com­mon for the home gar­den are the Ja­panese plums and the Euro­pean plums.

Ja­panese plums are soft and very juicy and their large fruit are great eaten straight from the tree. Their flesh ranges from tart to sweet, and while they can be used for cook­ing, they gen­er­ally lack the dis­tinc­tive flavour of Euro­pean plums.

Ja­panese plums bloom early, so the flow­ers can be dam­aged by late frosts.

Euro­pean plums typ­i­cally have thick, firm, very sweet, aro­matic flesh, which is ideal for dry­ing or mak­ing pre­serves. Fruit size ranges from small to large, oval to round. They en­com­pass prune plums, which con­tain high su­gar lev­els, which al­lows them to dry well with­out spoil­ing – al­though they can be eaten fresh or bot­tled as well. ‘Ital­ian’ is the world’s most pop­u­lar prune plum. It has dark pur­ple skin with light am­ber flesh that turns red when cooked. It’s a heavy bearer, with medium to large fruit that’s very sweet – per­fect for dry­ing, eat­ing of bot­tling.

The ‘Dam­son’ plum is part of the Euro­pean group as well. It’s es­sen­tially grown for bot­tling and other culi­nary uses be­cause of its tart, acidic flavour. ‘Green­gage’, on the other hand, also a Euro­pean plum, is a de­li­ciously sweet, suc­cu­lent fruit, which can be plucked from the tree and eaten on the spot.

Euro­pean plums are gen­er­ally late flow­er­ing and have a higher win­ter chill­ing than Ja­panese plums.

So how many plum trees should you plant in your gar­den? While many Euro­pean plums are self-fer­tile, Ja­panese plums al­most al­ways re­quire cross-pol­li­na­tion. Even self­fer­tile plum trees will crop bet­ter with an­other tree planted nearby. Euro­pean and Ja­panese plum trees won’t cross-pol­li­nate be­cause of the dif­fer­ent bloom­ing times, so to pol­li­nate a Euro­pean plum tree, you need to plant an­other Euro­pean plum tree. To pol­li­nate a Ja­panese plum tree, you need an­other Ja­panese plum. Plant them within bee-fly­ing dis­tance.

Plums like a free-drain­ing, fer­tile soil, so dig in com­post and fer­tiliser at plant­ing time.

If you wish to es­palier your plum tree, choose a fan shape for train­ing pur­poses, as the plum’s more brit­tle wood is dif­fi­cult to train hor­i­zon­tally. Avoid dwarf va­ri­eties, as these com­pact trees will slow down the train­ing process. Self-fer­tile Euro­pean va­ri­eties, such as ‘Dam­son’ or ‘Ital­ian’, are ideal, but you can try other va­ri­eties, so long as you have pol­li­nat­ing part­ners close by.

Young plum trees ben­e­fit from an an­nual feed of a gen­eral bal­anced fer­tiliser at the start of the grow­ing sea­son. As trees ma­ture they pre­fer a greater pro­por­tion of ni­tro­gen and phos­phate, so check that your fer­tiliser has a higher N and P value. An ad­di­tion of blood and bone would be ben­e­fi­cial, as would or­ganic mulch – but keep it clear of the main trunk to avoid dis­ease.

And don’t for­get to wa­ter your plants, es­pe­cially in the early years.

(Photo by Bud­dhika Weeras­inghe/Getty Im­ages)

In full bloom: This plum is at Ayabeyama in Tat­suno, Ja­pan.

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