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Fruit

You need space to grow a lot of fruit but even the smallest garden should be able to accommodate the new, narrow-growing apples like ‘Ballerinas’ and ‘Minarettes’, or plums, peaches, apples and pears in containers on dwarf root stocks. Strawberries can be cultivated in growing bags and cane fruit trained on the house wall. Espalier and fan-trained forms also make good wall plants. There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of picking and eating something you have grown yourself.

What to grow

Soft fruits. Into this category come strawberries, and also raspberries, blackberries and hybrid berries such as loganberries, boysenberries and tayberries, which are also known as cane fruits because of their growth habit.

Bush fruits. These are soft fruits which grow on a low woody bush, e.g., blackcurrants and gooseberries.

Top fruits – those which produce their fruits on a tree-like form, e.g., apples and pears, and also stone fruits.

Stone fruits – those having a hard stone in the centre, e.g., plums, cherries, peaches and apricots.

Vine fruits — grapes.

Miscellaneous — e.g. figs.

Soft fruits (including bush fruits) can be grown in most parts of Britain. Strawberries do not have to be strawed down but it keeps the fruit cleaner and healthier and makes picking easier. Black polythene or tarred strawberry mats can be used instead if straw is unavailable. Strawberries also make excellent container plants.

Raspberries require the support of posts and wires. A similar system can be used for blackberries and their relatives, or these can be grown against a wall or fence, again trained on to wires at intervals.

Bush fruits must be given adequate space to develop – 6 feet (2 m) is not unreasonable. Their flowers are easily caught by late frosts, so choose a site which is not a known frost pocket.

All fruit in these categories prefer an open position in full sun, though blackberries will tolerate some shade. The soil should be in good condition, with plenty of organic matter added, and a slow-release, high-phosphate fertilizer or quick-release, balanced food incorporated at planting time, depending on whether this is autumn and early winter, or late winter and early spring. In subsequent years a balanced fertilizer can be given in spring.

The traditional planting time for soft and bush fruits is autumn, with spring (March, usually) a good second choice. Most strawberries and raspberries are still obtained as bare-root plants, but there is an increasing tendency towards containerization, which means that in theory you can plant at any time of the year providing weather and soil conditions are favourable, if you are planting strawberries in the spring, do not be tempted to take a crop off them the first year. Strawberries are technically herbaceous perennials, cane and bush fruits are shrubby plants, and so the general rules of planting for these types should be followed. They will all require plenty of water to give good fruit. Conserve the moisture around strawberries with straw or black polythene; other soft fruits benefit from mulching, which also helps to keep the weeds down.

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