This week our gardening guru Paraic has some top tips on how on growing and harvesting your own fruit.
Benefits of growing your own fruit:
A lot of people feel that growing fruit may be beyond their means, but growing your own fruit is an easy, money saving and personally rewarding experience. Once you have tasted your delicious and naturally produced crop you will never look back. You have the peace of mind that they haven’t been sprayed with chemicals or additives and the personal satisfaction you get from harvesting them will have you smiling all day.
Types of fruit:
Apples are the most popular fruit that people choose to grow but you may be surprised at what we are actually capable of growing on a small scale here in Ireland. Pears are also very popular in Ireland and they grow very well in our climate. They have a longer ripening season and are normally picked at the end of November. Some other fruiting plants you may not have thought of growing are soft fruit plants such as plums, cherries and blueberries. If you have a greenhouse or tunnel you can grow grapes, nectarines or even kiwis. Other soft fruit plants such as redcurrants and blackberries produce delicious fruit. Our cultivated versions available at Horkans have none of the prickly thorns associated with their wild cousins, while still delivering beautiful large fruit at the same time. Our featured blueberry plant, the bluecrop variety, produces large amounts of blueberries which are known these days as a “superfood”, rich in antioxidants important for a healthy body and mind.
What is suitable for me?
This is all down to the space available to you but you can manage more than you would think in a small area. When people think about growing fruit they think of large orchards but in reality very little space is needed overall. Even in a small apartment with access to a small balcony or patio will allow you to grow your own and reap the rewards. Smaller Dwarf varieties need less space than larger ones and it is important to consider the space available to you when you are choosing the variety. Once you have the tree in your garden and you take care of it, you have a supply of delicious apples for a lifetime. Our featured bluecrop blueberry plant is a really simple plant to grow. You simply plant it outdoors in a pot or container and add some compost and fertiliser. With limited maintenance you can reap the rewards come June.
Are they high maintenance?
Fruit trees in general are fairly low maintenance but it is important to keep an eye out for pests or diseases all year round. This time of year is perfect to do some pruning. This involves cutting back the branches a little which keeps the tree young and encouraging new growth upon which it will produce its crop for next year. After some heavy pruning, Paraic recommends that you use some Prune and Seal which acts like a band aid for the exposed branch ends. Once you have pruned the trees and the leaves have dropped, Paraic suggests that you add a Winter Tree Wash. A Winter Tree Wash basically washes and cleanses the tree, removing any pests or diseases and gets the tree ready for next season. This can be applied easily using a sprayer or watering can.
What type of yield can I expect?
From our featured Coronet apple tree you should expect a yield of up to 40/50 apples per year and from our dwarf variety you should expect around twenty or so per year. As for our blueberry’s you can expect several large bowls from a single plant which is a good investment considering the present price in our supermarkets. Blueberries fruit over a long period and you can pick them starting in June all the way through until the end of August. As well as the delicious fruit, blueberry plants produce some beautiful autumn colours which add to any garden.
How can I store them for and how long will they last?
Apples will keep for different lengths of time depending on the variety chosen. Cox’s Orange Pippin for example matures fairly early in the year, around August or September, and will last around two months in storage. Some of the harder apples, such as Bramley cooking apples, will keep right through the winter up to March or April of next year if stored correctly. The key with storing apples is to wrap them in paper soon after they have been picked. This prevents any cross contamination if one of them rots. They should keep easily for most of the winter- if you haven’t eaten them first! A timber or cardboard box in a dark cool place away from frost is perfect for storage. An attic or garage is ideal for this purpose but make sure to check them periodically for any problems. Pears will store for around three or four weeks indoors but they need to be used once they become soft or they will spoil. Blueberries can be stored in a fridge or easily frozen for delicious healthy treats that accompany many of your favourite foods.