Click here for the May 2nd 2015 Gardening Feature for DonegalDaily Gardening with Gareth Its your duty to be Fruity! and for those outside Donegal, this is the Derry
Ever since Eve bit into the forbidden fruit apple trees have been a source of myth and legend. Top fruit is easily grown in any garden and depending on the type selected they can happily grow in pots or big tubs on the patio. Perhaps Apple are the most common top fruit that we plant and grow, with pears, plums and cherries making up the other popular types. Heres some simple suggestions on selecting and caring for apple trees...
When we first go to select apple trees the first decision is how big do we want them to grow, a Semi-dwarf apple tree grows on a specially selected root-stock which helps to restrict the overall height to around the 10-12' mark when grown in open ground, you can see in the picture one of these planted in the grounds of St Pauls Primary School, this tree is 5 years old and is a nice 10' high. Further information on root-stocks and their role in fruit production can be found here on the Royal Horticultural Society Site
For the small garden or for growing in Patio tubs look no further than dwarf apples, types like this Golden Delicious variety can be happily grown in containers and pots on the patio or in open ground in small gardens. These trees are grown on a dwarf root-stock so the growth is limited to around the 6' mark - the pictured tree is a Spur apple, which has an upright habit but doesn't spread out....so really suited to a confined space.
Another type of dwarf fruit tree is the Coronet Apple Trees, these are grown on a Dwarf rootstock and will grow to around the 6' mark. These again are ideal for the smaller garden and for large pots on the patio. The habit is small and open, they look just like a small apple tree, and the fruit is regular in size. These can be grown in open ground but they soil has to be rich. The rootstock are slow growing so the roots arn't able to go for large distances and source their own sustance so if your growing in open ground ensure the local area aroudn the tree (1mx1m0.5m) has been well enriched and is well nourished
Once you've decided how big you want your tree the next decision is to decide how your going to grow them. If you're choosing a Coronet Apple Tree or a Spur Apple Tree chances are your growing them in big pots on your patio, but if your choosing a semi-dwarf apple tree then you can decide to either grow them as a traditional apple tree in open ground or perhaps espallier against a south or west facing wall or fence (like this picture taken in Glenarm Castle). Espallier is a great way of maximising your garden space, its how I grow my fruit trees in the garden at the house. You can buy pre-trained espallier and fan fruit trees from quality mail-order suppliers such as Blackmoor Fruit, or you can source a regular fruit tree and train them yourself, depends where you think your ability is at! Spacing wise you're looking to plant espallier fruit trees at least 12' apart, and for traditional orchard trees your looking at at least 12' apart also. Great advice on planting a fruit tree can be seen here. Where space is really limited, and you only have space for 1 tree then why not grow a Family Apple Tree, on the one tree you can have 2 or3 different varieties of fruit grafted together, so your guaranteed fruit year after year (weather permitting of course!)
Selecting what varieties to grow is a matter of first deciding how many cookers and how many eaters you want to grow. The important thing is that the varieties you select will all cross-pollinate. To achieve this you have to ensure that they will flower at the same time (an early flowering apple tree may be passed flower before a late flowering fellow breaks bud...and then you'll have no fruit!). More details on the apple pollination groups can be found here on the RHS website. If I had to select 6 apple trees to plant I'd Plant Bramleys Apple Tree, Discovery Apple Tree, Egremount Russet, James Grieve, Worcester Pearmain and Katy. I'd suggest these as there all varieties I've grown lots of before and I know them all to grow and crop well in our climate. However apple tree variety selection is such a personal choice that you should give it some good thought, remember that this apple tree is going to fruit for the next 25 years or more so careful selection now will stand you in good stead for years to come. Browse a great selection of fruit tree varieties and rootstock choices on the Balckmoor Fruit website and also the GardeningExpress Website
Apple Trees should be pruned each Winter to ensure an open goblet shape, this ensures the trees is less 'packed' with branches and that any flowers which appear can be easily pollinated and the fruit receives enough sunshine to ripen properly and to a good size. Summer pruning is more important on espallier and smaller fruit trees
Winter wash fruit trees after leaf fall with Winter Tree Wash, this helps to kill any overwintering pest and diseases, and helps to control moss, lichen and cankers....our wet weather is wonderful at promoting these!
Mulching and feeding of fruit trees is essential to help promote healthy plants, and Autumn and early Spring is a busy time in the fruit tree world with this task.
Remember....Its your Duty to be Fruity!!!
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