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Fruits for the small garden - Jim Arbury

Our speaker, Jim Arbury, demonstrated his encyclopaedic knowledge of growing fruit in a very detailed, informative and practical way. Having spent much of his career as a fruit specialist at RHS Wisley he was well qualified to pass on his experience and inspire members to grow fruit no matter how small their garden. Furthermore the timing of his presentation in early February coincided with the ideal time to plant most fruits, with some such as strawberries and raspberries that would even produce a modest crop this year.

The introduction of dwarf rooting stock in recent years has made it possible to grow apples and pears in small gardens either in containers or trained up against a fence or wall, preferably in a sheltered spot with a sunny aspect. A range of rootstocks will restrict growth to between 1 and 3 metres in height and trees can be planted as close as 75cm apart. Apples and pears can be trained to grow as cordons at an angle to a wall with the tip ideally facing northwards. Alternatively they can be trained and pruned espalier fashion with horizontal branches at right angles to the main stem.

Strawberries should be grown from virus-free certified stock and are best replaced after 3-5 years. They are ideal for small gardens and patios as they will flourish in containers, troughs and grow bags (4- 6 per bag). Strawberries can be propagated from runners and are best planted by August. Although there are many varieties one to be recommended is Malling Centenary.

Raspberries are the fruit of choice if space is limited to just one fruit on account of their flavour, delicate form and limited shelf life. They require a slightly acid (pH 6-6.5) soil and as they are shallow rooted benefit from being well watered in a dry season. A good mulch of leaf-mould or garden compost is recommended but mushroom compost and horse manure should be avoided. They should be planted 40-50 cm apart and should crop well for up to 10 years.

Advice on growing many other fruits including plums, cherries, black currants, red currants, blackberries, gooseberries and blue berries was also presented but for those with a small garden there are obviously far more enticing fruits to grow than space would permit.

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