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TheVillage Gardening

My fruit garden

Posted on September 17 2012 at 2:03:24 0 comments

First raspberries

Hannah Genders provides an update on her new plot . . .

I always appreciate it when Village readers come up to me and say how much they enjoy reading these articles. A number of people lately have also asked me how my new garden is coming along, so I thought I’d let you know the progress on some of it!

I think I am about halfway through all the work that needs to be done.

A while ago I wrote about the walled garden area we inherited with the house, which had lots of potential. This walled garden is at the back of the house and is actually quite a new wall but built by the previous owners in old brick – some of the bricks still have blue paint on them, which I think is an attractive feature.

The area is accessed from the back and so is almost like a secret garden.It had a cherry tree in the middle of the lawn and a few nice old roses and perennials in the borders around the edge, but most of the other shrubs that were largely hiding the lovely old bricks were rather boring.

The two main walls face south and west, but because this is at the back of the house it does get shaded in the winter months. Before I made too many plans I wanted to see how much sunshine it got, as I had the idea of growing some fruit here.

I started by measuring out the area and put some design ideas on paper – I decided to keep the central lawn but remove the tree which was always rather in the way. The garden was really lacking a seating area, so I measured out an area large enough to comfortably fit in our existing bench.

The bricks, which are laid in a basket weave pattern, were all dug up from this garden; we found them buried as we dug out the old planting. I wanted the two main walls cleared so I could use them for trained fruit – an old wall like this is ideal for growing fruit as the bricks store the heat on a sunny day and release it in the evening, giving the area prolonged warmth.

I increased the depths of the beds to allow enough room for the new fruit bushes, and I also decided to keep lots of flowers in with the fruit as I wanted the area to look attractive as well as being productive.

I kept the old scented roses, but took out any unscented hybrid tea roses and replaced them with some English roses; Gertrude Jekyll had to go in as it is one of my favourites.

In front of the wall I planted currant bushes; two white, two red and two black. These had a small amount of fruit this summer but should do much better next year as they will have had more time to put some growth on.

I replanted a fig tree we had in a pot against the wall – it was looking very sorry for itself but has come back well this summer and my intention is to espalier it against the wall. I will do this by training it to one main stem and several horizontal stems to contain its growth and get the fruit clear to ripen.

On the other side of the bench I planted a peach tree, and again I will train this on the wall as it grows. The variety I chose was Peregrine; it is one of the best for our British climate and I can vouch for the flavour. We only had three peaches from it in this, its first year, but they were absolutely delicious.

The west-facing wall at the end has a loganberry planted against it and two rows of raspberry canes in front. These we put on posts with three wires to train them up in future years; most of them have taken but I will have to replant a few this winter that didn’t come through.

I have planted different varieties to try and get fruit through the summer and into the autumn. Polka is a good one for late July and Autumn Bliss, as the name suggests, will give you fruit well into October during a mild year.

I moved the rhubarb from the top end of the garden and covered it with old chimney pots, which “forces” the stems (blanches them as they grow for the light) and they are much sweeter. There is one area that doesn’t get much sun, so I am trying a Morello cherry here as I have been told they can survive in shade, producing fruit that is good for jam making.

Along with the perennials and roses I left in, I planted summer bulbs and some annuals to attract the beneficial insects you need in a fruit garden for pollination and of course to keep it looking nice through the summer months.

The conversion of this area to a fruit garden has cost me very little: the bricks were dug up, most of the flowering plants were moved from other areas of the garden, and I planted all the fruit bushes in the winter as “bare root”, which is much cheaper than the container-grown varieties and will take just as well if you water them in.

I shall be doing the first year’s pruning in the next few months and then adding some well-rotted manure as a mulch and a feed. Then, hoping for some summer sunshine, it will be interesting to see what it can produce next year.


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