Country Living (UK) - - Contents -

Prac­ti­cal ideas and ad­vice for would-be small­hold­ers

FROM CHERRY TREES cov­ered in blos­som to the boughs of ap­ple trees creak­ing un­der the weight of au­tumn fruit, there’s some­thing won­der­ful about an or­chard. You don’t need acres of land – by se­lect­ing the right va­ri­eties and clev­erly us­ing your space, you’ll soon be serv­ing up ap­ple crum­bles, pear tarts, plum jam and cherry pies. Oc­to­ber is the per­fect month to plant your or­chard, as bare root trees are avail­able.


Ob­vi­ously, your start­ing point should be what you like eat­ing, but it’s also good to think about what is trick­ier to find in the shops, such as green­gages, tra­di­tional white cher­ries (ac­tu­ally bright red) and old-fash­ioned ap­ple and pear va­ri­eties. One very im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion is pol­li­na­tion. Some fruit trees are self-fer­tile (they don’t need pollen from an­other tree), but oth­ers, in­clud­ing many ap­ple trees, re­quire cross-pol­li­na­tion from a dif­fer­ent cul­ti­var that flow­ers at the same time. So you ei­ther need to have space for two trees (see below) or make sure a neigh­bour has a com­pat­i­ble tree.


Most fruit trees aren’t grown on their own roots but are grafted onto an­other tree. It’s this ‘root­stock’ that de­ter­mines the size, so if you’re short on space opt for dwarf root­stocks – some­thing like an M27 root­stock on an ap­ple tree, for ex­am­ple, will only grow to about 1.8m. Look out, too, for ‘fam­ily trees’, where two or three cul­ti­vars are grafted onto one root­stock. The re­sult is one tree with dif­fer­ent fruit on dif­fer­ent branches – a great talk­ing point, but also a prac­ti­cal way of grow­ing a mix­ture of va­ri­eties that need each other for pol­li­na­tion.


Train­ing trees into spe­cific shapes not only saves space but max­imises the fruit yield, too. Cor­dons are sin­glestemmed trees usu­ally grown at an an­gle of 45°-60° against a wall. Es­paliers have pairs of branches trained at right an­gles to the trunk – you can have as many tiers of branches as your wall al­lows. A sin­gle-lay­ered es­palier can be used at the edge of a bor­der to form a ‘step-over’ – a row of th­ese knee­high trees makes a pretty al­ter­na­tive to box hedg­ing.

TIP Con­tainer-grown trees (which are pricier) can be planted any time, but will re­quire less wa­ter­ing if you get them in the ground now

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