A beginner’s guide to growing fruit trees
There’s nothing more rewarding than enjoying the crop from your very own fruit tree, and yet so many of our customers avoid planting fruit trees for various reasons: some say that it’s too difficult and others say it will require too much maintenance, but this blog post is all about dispelling the myths and giving you all the advice you need to start growing your own fruit.
We want to make one thing clear: planting a fruit tree does not mean compromising the ornamental value of a tree. So many fruit trees have decorative foliage or showy flowers, that you actually get the benefits of an ornamental tree with the bonus of your own crop. Believe us when we say that you’ll never look at supermarket fruit in the same way once you’ve tasted your own home-grown fruit.
The first thing that you need to know is that some fruit varieties need pollination partners to be planted nearby in order for them to produce a crop. This post recommends a range of fruit trees, some of which need pollination partners, but as this is a beginner’s guide, we have also included some recommendations for trees that are self-fertile, meaning that they won’t need to be planted near a suitable pollination partner and will produce fruit without pollination from another tree.
The second thing that you need to know is what a ‘rootstock’ is. Essentially, fruit trees come in different types, called rootstocks, and each rootstock has different qualities. For example, you can have a Braeburn apple tree on different rootstocks, and you can pick a rootstock based on what you want from your fruit tree. Some rootstocks are ‘dwarf’ so that the tree remains small, others are more vigorous, and some are used for their disease-resisting abilities. You can find lots of information about rootstocks on the RHS information page by following this link.
Finally, in order to keep your fruit tree healthy, we would recommend applying some mulch after planting. Mulch is a covering which goes on top of the soil and it has many benefits, including: retaining moister in summer, suppressing weeds and improving the soil texture. We would recommend wood chippings or compost, but you can find a more information on mulch and its benefits here.
Now you know the basics, you need do make the big decision of what to pick.
Best for smaller gardens:
If you’re short of space, you can’t go wrong with a G5 ‘Stella’ cherry tree. To explain that a little more, G5 stands for Gisela 5 and it’s a dwarf rootstock, meaning that the eventual size will be around 3m high and around 2.5m wide: perfect for a small space. You will need a sunny spot for this cherry to thrive and, ideally, some shelter (planting it near a south facing wall would be ideal). The best bit about the Prunus ‘Stella’ is that it’s self-fertile, so you don’t need to worry about having a pollination partner. All our trees come with a planting booklet, so you can follow the step-by-step guide to planting your new tree when it arrives.
Best for a heavy crop:
If you have a little more room and want something that’s a heavy cropper, go for a ‘Scrumptious’ apple tree on the M106 rootstock; this rootstock is semi-vigorous and it is widely used for its ability to thrive in poorer soils. Scrumptious apples are renowned for being one of the tastiest dessert apples around, and they taste even better when they’re fresh from the tree. The ‘Scrumptious’ is in pollination group 3, so you could plant it with Malus ‘Crispin’ for a bumper crop. As with most apple trees, Malus ‘Scrumptious’ produces delightful flowers in April and May: the white flowers have a pink blush to them and add interest during late spring.
If you would prefer a pear tree, the wonderful ‘Conference’ pear tree is certainly worthy of planting. This is a partially self-fertile tree, meaning that it will produce fruit without a pollination partner, but if you want it to fulfil its heavy cropping potential then plant it alongside another variety like the ‘Williams Bon Chretien’ for cross-pollination. The fruits of the ‘Conference’ are absolutely delicious and you can watch them grow over summer and pick them in late September: a real autumnal treat!
Easiest to grow:
Not only is the ‘Lapins’ cherry tree an easy one to grow, it also produces the most divine dark red-black fruits. Lapins is a self-fertile variety and it produces a good crop with very little effort. Once you’ve planted your tree in a sunny spot, make sure you keep it well-watered and that you apply mulch to retain the moisture. The fruits will be ready for picking in July: avoid pulling the fruit when you pick them and instead pick them by the stalks (to avoid bruising). You can enjoy your cherries fresh or store them in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. If you see any branches that need pruning, do so from late July (after crop) until the end of August. Then all you have to do is keep the tree well-watered when it’s dry and wait for the next lot to appear the following year!
Key things to remember:
- The sweeter the fruit tastes, the more sun it will need
- If you’re short on space, choose a self-fertile variety
- Keep your tree well-watered and make sure it doesn’t try out at all
- Choose a rootstock that is appropriate for your garden’s size
Now that you’ve got all of the essential information, get choosing! We would also love to hear from you and see pictures of your first crop.
- Jordan Holmes