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Fruit Trees Against The Wall

Dec 14, 2007
Turn the apple 180 degrees and if it comes off the tree it is ripe. Rub it on your sleeve and bite it. You will never taste anything like it from a shop. Crisp, healthy, tasty and unbelievably fresh.

We all know what a commercial orchard looks like - acres of trees planted in regimented rows several metres apart. But not all orchards have to be like this; actually you do not need much space at all to create a small one. Any old wall or fence that gets a bit of sun will do. Apples and Pears, Plums, Damsons and Cherries all grow outstandingly well when trained against flat surfaces. Four or five metres are enough for an orchard with eight varieties of fruit producing enough to feed a family of four.

Choose your fruit carefully. For apples grow an eater that juices well - try James Grieve. Have an eater that keeps through the winter (Winter Gem is delicious and lasts until March) and have a cooker that keeps applesauce, baked apples and apple pies, these are all best in the winter. Go for Lanes Prince Albert. The best pears are Conference, which is an eater that cooks, and Comice, which dribbles down your chin all the way to Christmas. These two will also pollinate one another. Round your orchard off with Victoria plums, Merryweather damsons and Stella cherries that are all self-pollinating. There are your eight varieties.

Grow your fruit trees as cordons. You can buy these ready pruned to shape, or you can prune your own. Cordons are fruit trees that have been shaped to have as many short fruiting shoots as possible. They are planted 2ft (60cms apart) and so can be crammed into a small space. Generally they are grown at a 45% angle which means you get a 3 metre long plant that is only just over 2 metres tall - pickable without a ladder. Because they are so close together, cordon fruit trees make a fantastic screen. Show me a bit of rusty old chainlink fence and I will show you something that flowers its heart out in April and May, is an object of interest in June and July and gives you all the fruit you can eat for the rest of the year.

Cordons are the most versatile of the fruit forms. If you have not got four metres of wall or fence to spare, then try growing them (vertically, not at 45 degrees) on a metal or wood framed arch over a path in the garden. Grow them as a hedge that screens one part of your garden from another. It is probably best not to use fruit trees to separate your garden from someone else's as you might only get half the crop!

Like all fruit trees, cordons like well-prepared ground that drains reasonably well. So dig your soil over thoroughly, removing roots, weeds and large stones. Add a bucket of well-rotted compost or manure per metre run and work it in well. If you are planting them to grow at 45 degrees, it helps to tie them to long bamboo canes at the same angle, which in turn are tied to horizontal straining wires. Always firm the ground around newly planted trees very well and make sure they are watered throughout their first spring and summer.
Once your orchard is established, plant a couple of the less vigorous flowering clematis to ramble over your fruit trees. These can be cut back hard in winter when you prune your trees and then you will have an orchard that flowers in April, May, June, July and September!
About the Author
Anna Stenning is a keen gardener and loves to grow her own fruit trees. To find to out more click on http://store.ashridgetrees.co.uk/
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