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8 forms of capital agroforestry apples beans bees beneficial berries biodigester blackberries blackthorn book review brain budget build building campesino capital Celtic festivals change changes chemical-free chickens circular clay pot climate change climate solutions climbing cob comfrey community compost compost teas connection consciousness conservation cooking coppice coppicing cordial cosmology crafts crisis cultural emergence culture cycles design diary diversity DIY do it yourself earth care Earth's energy economics ecopoetry ecosystem edges education efficiency elements energy ethics fair shares Fairtrade farming feedback feminine ferns figs firewood flowers food food forest forage foraging forest garden forest gardening fruit fruit trees future future care gardening garlic gift economy gin global poverty grapes greenhouse grow grow your own growing guilds habitat harvest harvests hazel hazelnut health healthy soil hedging herbs holistic planned grazing home homestead Hugelkultur humanure IBC tanks Indigenous inexpensive influence jam land landscape life livelihood livestock logs low cost market garden market gardening marmalade mass heater medicinal microbes mimic mindset mitigation money moringa Mother Earth multifunctional mushrooms native plants natural natural building natural fertiliser natural skincare natural swimming pool nature nitrogen no dig no-dig nutrition nuts observe off-grid orchard orchards organic outdoor shower oven oyster pallets pasture-fed patterns people people care perennials permaculture permaculture design permaculture magazine award permaculutre pests pips pizza oven plant profile plants pollinators polyculture polycultures preserving principles propagating pruning psycho-spiritual awareness psychospiritual transformation rainwater raspberries recipe recipes reduce reed beds regenerative agriculture relative location relative matter renewable renewable energy resources reuse revolution rootstock rootstocks roundhouse roundwood runner beans Scotland seasons Sepp Holzer september septic tanks sewage treatment shrubs skincare sloes slugs small solutions small-scale smallholding social justice soil health solar solutions spiritual spring stacking functions straw straw bale sustainable systems temperate terraces thistles timber timber framing toolkit tools trees upcycle urban vegan vermicomposting walnuts waste watering weeds wellbeing wetland wild food wildlife wings winter salads wood stove woodburner woodland woodland management woodlands worms year-round food yield zoning

Topics

8 forms of capital agroforestry apples beans bees beneficial berries biodigester blackberries blackthorn book review brain budget build building campesino capital Celtic festivals change changes chemical-free chickens circular clay pot climate change climate solutions climbing cob comfrey community compost compost teas connection consciousness conservation cooking coppice coppicing cordial cosmology crafts crisis cultural emergence culture cycles design diary diversity DIY do it yourself earth care Earth's energy economics ecopoetry ecosystem edges education efficiency elements energy ethics fair shares Fairtrade farming feedback feminine ferns figs firewood flowers food food forest forage foraging forest garden forest gardening fruit fruit trees future future care gardening garlic gift economy gin global poverty grapes greenhouse grow grow your own growing guilds habitat harvest harvests hazel hazelnut health healthy soil hedging herbs holistic planned grazing home homestead Hugelkultur humanure IBC tanks Indigenous inexpensive influence jam land landscape life livelihood livestock logs low cost market garden market gardening marmalade mass heater medicinal microbes mimic mindset mitigation money moringa Mother Earth multifunctional mushrooms native plants natural natural building natural fertiliser natural skincare natural swimming pool nature nitrogen no dig no-dig nutrition nuts observe off-grid orchard orchards organic outdoor shower oven oyster pallets pasture-fed patterns people people care perennials permaculture permaculture design permaculture magazine award permaculutre pests pips pizza oven plant profile plants pollinators polyculture polycultures preserving principles propagating pruning psycho-spiritual awareness psychospiritual transformation rainwater raspberries recipe recipes reduce reed beds regenerative agriculture relative location relative matter renewable renewable energy resources reuse revolution rootstock rootstocks roundhouse roundwood runner beans Scotland seasons Sepp Holzer september septic tanks sewage treatment shrubs skincare sloes slugs small solutions small-scale smallholding social justice soil health solar solutions spiritual spring stacking functions straw straw bale sustainable systems temperate terraces thistles timber timber framing toolkit tools trees upcycle urban vegan vermicomposting walnuts waste watering weeds wellbeing wetland wild food wildlife wings winter salads wood stove woodburner woodland woodland management woodlands worms year-round food yield zoning

Planting Fruit Trees – Part 1 – Which Fruit?

In a three part series, Patrick Whitefield looks at planting fruit tree, choosing which fruit, which variety and which rootstock. In this first part, Patrick explores which fruits to choose.

It’s still high summer: the garden is brimming with bountiful vegetables and soft fruit, and the apples are still swelling on the trees. Isn’t it a bit early for me to be writing about planting fruit trees? The planting season is the winter so surely autumn is soon enough to start making plans?

Well, that may be OK if you’re happy to accept whatever the fruit nursery has available. But to be sure you get the trees that really meet your needs, it’s advisable to get your order in by August. Beyond that you may well find that the tree or trees you want are sold out. And it’s worthwhile choosing your trees with care. They will last many decades, maybe your whole lifetime or more. If you find your trees yield fruit your family doesn’t like, or too much of it all at one time, or that they grow too big for the space available for them, you will have plenty of time to regret not having taken more care over your choice. 

Apples to peaches

Have you ever wondered why the apple is far and away the commonest fruit grown in Britain? The main reason is that it grows so well here. It’s reliable. To some extent there’s a tradeoff between reliability and deliciousness of the fruit, with a range that runs something like this:

– cooking apples, dessert apples, pears

– damsons, plums, gages, peaches and apricots. 

Some others need special conditions: figs need an almost frost-free microclimate, while cherries will yield nothing if not protected from birds, unless you grow a whole orchard of them, that is.

If you live in a cool, rainy area or your garden is shady, cooking apples and damsons are most likely to yield well. But don’t think of growing peaches and apricots unless you have a favourable microclimate, and preferably a nice south-facing wall onto which you can fan train them and give them all the care and attention they need. Here in Britian they’re far to the north of their natural range.

Food or experiment?

Many permaculturists are fired by an enthusiasm for unusual plants, including fruit. Books such as Ken Fern’s Plants for a Future are full of inspiring descriptions of unfamiliar species that could be grown here. But beware. If a plant isn’t commonly grown it may be for a good reason. It may not taste that good or it may not yield well in our climate.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from experimenting with new fruits. But, before you devote valuable space to a tree that will live for decades, be clear about your main aim. Is it to put food on your table or to experiment? If it’s the former you would be well advised to stick with apples, pears and plums. 

Keeping/storing

Plums and other stone fruits don’t keep. You either have to eat them quickly or preserve them by bottling, freezing or some other method. This requires work and it’s easy to overestimate the amount of enthusiasm you’ll have for preserving when the tree grows to maturity and produces more than you and your family can eat fresh.

Pears keep a bit longer but pride of place goes to apples. I keep apples in my garden shed simply by putting them in used boxes and trays which I scrump from the local market, and we eat fresh apples from September right through to the following May. To do that you need a good mix of apple varieties, and I’ll be looking at that in my next article on this site.