À day out In Àugust, In my chIldhood haunt
oI East ÀnglIa, remInded me oI why I am so
passIonate about growIng IruIt. We had trav-
elled only a Iew mIles when we came across
one oI those old-IashIoned IruIt Iarms that
are now rarely seen In England. From all the
delIcIous IruIts on dIsplay, we managed to
choose Stella cherrIes and Opal plums.
SometIme later, we parked the car to stop Ior
lunch, only to be greeted by a Ieast oI large
blackberrIes In Iront oI us. Lunch was eaten
halI an hour later, wIth purple hands staInIng
our sandwIches. Plums, cherrIes and black-
berrIes, warmed by the hot sun, combIned to
make a wonderIul dessert.
ÀIter lunch we Iound a stall sellIng green-
gages. I Ʃnd greengages IrresIstIble: that
taste oI toƨee apples combIned wIth a
slIghtly sharp |uIcIness sends me Into rap-
tures oI delIght, all the more so when they
are so perIectly rIpe that the |uIce drIps down
your chIn. WhIle out walkIng later on, we
came across wIld cherry plums at the sIde oI
the road. HavIng used up all our contaIners
by now, we tIed the sleeves oI |umpers to col-
lect these delectable IruIts, thoughts oI plum
crumbles never Iar Irom our mInds.
Yet the pIèce de resIstance was stIll to come.
Àt the end oI a deserted lane we came across
a stall laden wIth all kInds oI wonderIul IruIt
and vegetables Irom a garden tantalIsIngly
hIdden behInd a large brIck wall. LImIted by
what we could carry or eat, we chose some
IascInatIng squashes, DevonshIre Quarren-
den apples and ƪat ChInese peaches. Need-
less to say, the peaches dId not last long.
Now all these IruIts were wonderIul, but
they were grown by someone else. There are
so many advantages to growIng your own
IruIt Ř so much Iun Ř though oI course thereśs
also the odd heartache when nature has dII-
Ierent plans Irom you. So, why grow your
own IruIt trees?
Co Iorward [and] graƨe, set, plant and nourIsh up trees In every
corner oI your ground, the labour Is small, the cost Is nothIng.
The commodIty Is great, your selves shall have plenty . . .
John Cerard, *UHDW+HUEDOO (1597)
Left: Nouveau Poiteau pears trained against a wall.
The FruIt Tree Handbook
ShoppIng In the supermarket, you mIght
have a choIce oI halI a dozen varIetIes oI
apple: most oI them wIll have been trans-
ported halIway around the world, sprayed
many tImes, pIcked beIore they are Iully rIpe
and then sprayed agaIn. II you are buyIng
cherrIes, plums or peaches, you wIll be lucky
to Ʃnd any choIce oI varIetIes; you take what
you are gIven.
In your own orchard, you can grow Bardsey
Island apples (a lovely lemony tastIng apple
dIscovered on a remote Island oƨ the Welsh
coast), Court Pendu Plat (an ancIent varIety
that mIght have been grown by the Romans),
or Crand Sultan (a wonderIul cookIng apple
Irom North Devon that Is perIect Ior baked
apples). The choIce goes on and on; you can
grow the kInd oI apple that Is perIect Ior you.
OI course the same Is true Ior peaches,
plums, pears and cherrIes: you can grow
|ust the sort oI IruIt that you lIke to eat.
When dId you last Ʃnd Morello cherrIes or a
medlar In your supermarket?
Not only do you have the en|oyment oI eatIng
your IavourIte IruIt Iresh Irom the tree, but
you also have the satIsIactIon oI nurturIng
somethIng that mIght look rather lIke a stIck
when you plant It, seeIng It grow Into a
mature tree covered In tasty IruIt. You mIght
Ʃnd yourselI becomIng rather attached to
your trees, rather lIke an anxIous parent,
lookIng out Ior theIr |oys and sorrows.
ÀsIde Irom the delIght oI tendIng to your
trees, you wIll also have the pleasure oI theIr
beauty. SIttIng amongst your trees on a
warm sprIng day, you can en|oy the beautIIul
pInk-and-whIte blossom, lookIng Iorward to
the luscIous IruIt that wIll arrIve In a Iew
short months.
By growIng an orchard, even oI |ust a Iew
trees, you wIll be creatIng a habItat Ior all
kInds oI wIldlIIe. BIrds, such as redwIngs,
wIll be attracted to the IruIt and to the Insects
that lIve In the trees. You can manage the
orchard ƪoor to grow wIldƪowers. Even In a
small garden, growIng IruIt trees wIll have a
posItIve eƨect on the ecosystem. On a larger
scale, you wIll be creatIng a habItat that has
now been recognIsed as beIng so valuable
that It has been granted BÀP (BIodIversIty
ÀctIon Plan) status. ThIs Is a book that
encourages you to grow IruIt In harmony
wIth the natural world.
The above are |ust some oI the reasons Ior
growIng IruIt trees. You wIll doubtless have
more oI your own. Whatever they are, you
are lIkely to Ʃnd IruIt growIng a rewardIng
and occasIonally IrustratIng hobby. In these
pages I aIm to provIde you wIth the knowl-
edge that you need, so that you can move
Iorward wIth conƩdence. You wIll know that
your trees wIll pollInate each other, that your
prunIng cuts wIll help and that you can over-
come problems oI pests and dIseases.
ThIs book, as the tItle ImplIes, encompasses
the cultIvatIon oI tree IruIts. Àpples, pears,
plums and cherrIes are all covered In depth,
but aIter those IavourItes It becomes harder
to |udge what can be Included as tree IruIts
suItable Ior growIng In BrItaIn. Some IruIts
are becomIng more suItable Ior growIng here
because new varIetIes more suIted to our
clImate are becomIng avaIlable. Other IruIts
could become easIer to grow here as the
eƨects oI global warmIng unIold. Peaches
and nectarInes are good examples. Peaches
have usually been grown In greenhouses;
outsIde they have struggled to cope wIth
peach leaI curl, partIcularly In the wetter
regIons oI BrItaIn. Now a new cultIvar,
Àvalon PrIde, Is showIng good resIstance
agaInst thIs dIsease, whIch would allow
peaches to be grown outdoors more readIly.
NectarInes are a lIttle more delIcate and stIll
apprecIate the extra warmth oI a greenhouse,
but In a slowly warmIng clImate they mIght
grow well outdoors.
Other IruIts, such as Ʃgs, mulberrIes, med-
lars, quInces, peaches and aprIcots are
Included, whereas more obscure or dIƫcult-
to-grow IruIts such as loquats and cItrus are
not. The aIm Is to help you to grow IruIts that
can easIly be cultIvated outdoors In the BrItIsh
clImate; the sectIon on a changIng clImate
(see Chapter 4, page 52) covers those IruIts
that mIght become vIable In the Iuture.
You will have gathered by now that I care
deeply for our natural environment, and may
guess that I don’t advocate spraying fruit trees
with chemicals. The main reason for this is
that it’s not necessary. If you choose varieties
that are suited to the climate and soil condi-
tions where you live, you will be able to grow
perfectly good fruit without resorting to
chemical warfare. There will be times when
nature, in the form of insects or diseases,
threatens the well-being of your fruit. Rather
than rushing for the latest chemical spray, this
can be a time to consider whether you are more
concerned with blasting away any problem as
soon as it is seen, or could adopt a gentler
approach, of keeping problems under control
as part of a rich and varied ecosystem.
For example, if your trees are threatened by
aphids, there are various alternatives to using
chemical pesticides. Firstly, you could encour-
age insect-eating birds to your orchard or
garden, thus enriching your ecosystem as well
as helping to protect your trees. Ladybirds
and lacewings are other natural predators of
aphids. Secondly, don’t panic! Aphids rarely
cause significant harm, except occasionally to
young trees. Thirdly, if you do decide that
further action is needed, you have a range of
alternatives, including the use of soft soap as
a contact insecticide. You might even decide
that sharing some of your harvest with nature
is a price worth paying for having a garden
teeming with wildlife.
If you do choose to spray your trees, there is
plenty of information in these pages to tell
you how to do it, but I describe only those
methods that are more in harmony with
nature. They might not all be strictly organic,
but they will stop your garden shed looking
like a chemical factory. Sometimes you will
have to use your ingenuity to outwit pests,
sometimes you will experiment to see what
works, but the likelihood is that you will have
fun and will learn to recognise your friends in
the natural world, such as bees and lace-
wings, as well as your foes.

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