Life can be a bowl of cherries in your own urban orchard

ESIAH LEVY, @CroydonGardener on Twitter, has already explained how even the most modest of town centre homes can have a herb garden and grow their own vegetables with some raised beds. Here, he explains that producing delicious fruit is possible, too

In my average-sized urban garden in the heart of Croydon’s Old Town, I am growing the following:

  • Granny Smith apple tree
  • Red Devil apple tree
  • Keelie apple tree
  • Conference pear tree
  • Opal plum tree
  • Morello cherry tree
  • Lapins cherry tree

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGrowing your fruit is not as difficult as you might think. All the fruit trees above can cope with the harshest winter weather.

You will never want to buy an apple, plums, pears or cherries again once you taste your own produce straight from the trees in your garden.

If you have a larger, suburban garden, these fruit trees can also be grown on borders of a lawn, and make a distinctive feature when in blossom in the spring.

There are many varieties of apple tree to choose from. However, a word of warning: they can grow to be quite large, and the height of the tree will reflect the length of its roots, which can be a subsidence risk if planted too close to the foundations of your house.

The ideal position for an apple tree is a sunny, sheltered site, well away from any frost pockets. Avoid poorly drained or shallow soils.

You will see apple trees for sale in two forms: bare-root stock (as the name suggested, the roots are exposed when you purchase these plants) or in containers. Bare-root plants should be planted from late autumn until early spring; containerised plants can be planted at any time of year, though winter is preferred.

If planting in the garden, dig a hole no deeper than the roots, but up to three times the diameter of the root system (spread the roots out on the ground before digging the hole). If the sides or base of the planting hole are really hard, break the soil up. Place the plant in the hole and refill, placing soil between and around all the roots. Firm the soil gently by stepping on it. Water thoroughly.

This tree is thriving in a garden in central Croydon

This apple tree is thriving with plenty of fruit this summer  in a garden in central Croydon

If you want to grow an apple in a container you must choose one that has been specially grown for a container.

Apple trees are not grown on their own roots. The top of the tree is grafted on to different roots (called a rootstock), and the roots control the size of the tree. So, when you are choosing an apple for a container you must make sure it is grafted on to a container rootstock. Rootstocks called M26 are best suited for containers.

Choose a pot that is at least 20in wide, and which should have a hole or two at the bottom. When planting, place some crocks (old, cracked plates, broken pots, even polysterene from packaging small pieces of broken concrete, clay pots, or even polystyrene from packaging) in the bottom of the container for good drainage. to retain moisture. Use a good-quality compost (John Innes No 3 is recommended), and one-third of grit.

Apples grown in pots can be just as bountiful as those grown in the ground. But a little patience is required. I found it took two years from my Granny Smith tree being delivered to it bearing fruit.

Similar principles apply to buying and growing plum, cherry and pear trees for your garden.

Opal, another grafted dwarf variety,  is probably the best-flavored early plum variety. Crucially, the flavour depends on developing sugars during the short growing period that we have in southern England. Opal plums really benefit from being grown against a south-facing wall or in a sunny aspect. I chose to plant my tree at the back of the garden. In less sunny situations, the Opal plum tree will still give good crops, but the flavour of the fruit may not be as good.

My Conference pear tree (which is a grafted dwarf) also took two years to fruit. This summer, it has at least eight pears.

Pear trees last longer than apple trees, and some pear trees grown in private gardens or orchards can be more than 100 years old.


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