About Fruit Trees
Fruit trees, especially the good old British apple, are adapted to local conditions and some varieties will only thrive within a small area, that’s why it pays to buy your trees locally at Cleeve Nursery, where our experience counts.
And we can advise you on other aspects of stocking your ‘orchard’ (even if it’s only a tiny one). Not only do you have to consider the kind of fruit you want to grow, the size of your garden and the growing conditions, but will your trees find the pollinators they need? Most need pollen from another variety that blossoms at about the same time – for instance, two Cox’s apple trees won’t pollinate each other, but a Cox and a Bramley will. Look at your neighbours’ gardens to see if they grow possible pollinators, but to be certain of a crop, plant at least a pair.
If you are fortunate to have a garden that will take several large trees, the delight of massed spring blossom and autumn ripe fruit can be yours, but give a thought to how you will pick your bounty.
Even small gardens can supply a satisfying and varied harvest. Apples and pears have traditionally been grown as fans or inclined cordons for hundreds of years – trained flat against a wall, trellis or on stake-and-wire fences and carefully pruned to provide maximum fruiting on the minimum of branches. The latest idea is to grow vertical cordons (upright columns or super columns), called ‘Minarettes’. The leading shoots of Minarettes are left unpruned, but the fruiting laterals do need to be pruned in the summer. Planted 0.6-1m (2-3 ft) apart or in large, sturdy containers and underplanted with a ground-cover herb to attract the bees, they should crop well. But remember that, like bigger fruit trees, they will need companion pollinators.
Fruit trees like as much sun as possible (shade always reduces cropping), ideally with a south-east to south-west aspect. Avoid frost hollows and make sure there is shelter from wind.
Fruit trees need a well-drained soil and an annual rainfall of less than 40 inches. Where the soil is poorly drained, raise the tree on a mound, surrounded by a drainage trench.
Look for the root collar on each plant – a bulge in the trunk just above the roots – and plant so that the surrounding soil is lower, or no higher than the root collar. It is far better to plant too shallow than too deep. Firm saplings in well, so that the roots are in contact with the surrounding soil, and give them support to prevent them being rocked by the wind.
Keep the weeds and grass away – if possible, one square metre around each tree – and make sure the roots have enough water. Although the soil and subsoil should never be waterlogged, in a dry spring, water heavily every few days and water young trees weekly from April to September, a minimum of 10 to 15 litres per week – even more in hot periods. Finally, it pays to fit the trunks with rabbit guards, which also keep them safe from domestic animals.
Plant our healthy, 2 to 3-year old apple trees and they will crop the next year, whilst pears, plums and cherries will take another one or two years to mature.
Ever popular, the apple is the staple fruit and if you stock your garden with care you can enjoy an extended harvest from July to December. The blossom is particularly beautiful and the familiar, wide apple tree shape evocative of West Country orchards.
Apples keep well in a cool, dark, airy garage or shed, so you could be eating your own fruit for most of the year. And selecting a range of apple varieties means that, even if there is a late frost that ruins the blossom on some trees, you will still get some fruit.
Consider a trio of a cooking apple, a crisp green desert and a contrasting golden, red or russet apple.
Watch a short video on how to tell when apples are ripe and how to store them easily.
Belonging to the same plant family as the apple and very similar in cultivation, propagation and pollination, pears trees are medium sized, and can reach to up to 17m tall. They normally have a tall and elegant, narrow crown, although some are shrubby.
You can buy plum trees to suit nearly every type of garden, from trees and bushes to cordons and espaliers, which, on a south or west-facing wall, only grow to around 2m high and 3m wide. Ideal for larger gardens, bush-trained plum trees grow to up to 4m in height, or for a really large tree try half standards (up to 6m), or even standard plum trees (8m).
The choice here is sweet cherries for eating or sour cherries for cooking and making jam. The best and most famous sour cherry is the Morello, which, being a later-bloomer, is very hardy and also self-fertile. There are many varieties of sweet cherry, several of which need a partner for pollination, so be sure to ask our advice and buy two that flower at the same time.
Once again, available space will determine the size of tree that you can grow. Half standard cherry trees will reach about 5 metres high. Bush cherry trees, being short with a trunk about 1m high and a final height of about 3m, are suitable for the average garden and easy to harvest. Fan trained cherry trees, grown flat against walls or fences, are good for smaller gardens – choose the smallest tree and prune it into the desired shape for this option.
An unusual, but once highly prized fruit, medlar trees are usually grown for their ornamental value these days, which is a shame because the fruit is sweet and sharp and delicious. However, to make it edible it has to be bletted – that is kept until the skin is wrinkled and brown and the flesh is mushy.
The tree is low, twisty and spreading, with interestingly gnarled bark, and pretty white flowers in May-June. The thick, downy foliage goes through several attractive colour changes throughout the year, with stunning autumn hues of pink, red and orange, exotically striped by the green leaf-veins.
Medlars are deciduous and self- pollinating.
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