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Plant it – a guide to autumn veggies

As harvest time draws to a close, it's time to fill up the veggie ...

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Fruit for the home garden

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img_3666.jpgEach winter I get excited thinking as soon as I spot the new seasons fruit trees in the garden centres. Now is time to be getting your new seasons fruit trees as the shops have the best range at the moment. It seems I am not alone in enjoying the benefits of home grown fruits picked straight from the tree. To make the experience of growing fruit rewarding, you need to be prepared to invest a little bit of time to seek out what varieties of fruit are likely to grow successfully for you at home. Also you need to be patient, now this doesn’t come naturally to me but I think I am getting a little better at it but don’t try and verify this with my husband as he may not totally agree!

In the first year you plant a fruit tree don’t expect to produce a huge, abundant crop of mouthwatering fruits, you should all going well produce a handful of fruits that will wet your appetite in anticipation for next season. Generally you need to wait for 2 to 3 seasons, and provided you have provided your tree with the right home including water, food, shelter and pruning it will then reward you with a bountiful tasty crop.

Don’t let this amount of time put you off; the wait is well worth it as my shelves full of home grown and made preserves will attest too. Before you get started planting out your first group of fruit trees seek the advice of an expert. My phone a friend in this area is Stu Hide from Woodend Nurseries. Although I know the basics new varieties are appearing all the time hence I need someone I can turn too. Stu and I started our horticultural careers on the same day in 1987 and for better or worse we are still friends and still working together from time to time.

Woodend Nurseries is the biggest supplier of fruit trees in Canterbury and Stu has over 300 different varieties to select from. When he handed me his fruit tree catalogue which features13 pages full of all the different varieties it took a bit of reading.
Working so closely with the growers Stu has all the tips and tricks up his sleeve to get the required results from home grown fruit trees. He has noticed the old fashioned heirloom varieties are very popular because they are easy to look after and seem to require less spray and care. The dwarf varieties of Apples, peaches, nectarines and apricots are in demand due to garden sizes decreasing. Many gardeners are choosing varieties that they can grow in wine barrels where space is really limited in town houses or in courtyard gardens.

After talking to him I have ordered some more Apricots and Plum Reine Claudu du Bavay which is a self fertile, sweet greengage variety. Also I added in some triple grafted apple trees and some double graft peach trees. Even though I live in the country I am running out of room hence needing to be a little more creative in how I can extend my orchard area. Last but not least I also got some Cider making Apples varieties – funny that! And I added a couple of different raspberry, blueberry and current varieties I didn’t have either. Plenty of planting to be done at my place sometime soon.

One the best tips Stu has ever given me is to plant later fruiting varieties in Canterbury, this is because in our region we can get the odd rouge late frost which can decimate stone fruit crops in one evening. I have certainly been caught by this a number of times now and particularly with Apricots I will only plant the later ripening varieties such as Clutha late. This variety is an offspring of my all time favorite Moorpark, sadly Moorpark isn’t available at the moment so Cluthalate is the one to look out for.

When looking at fruit trees in garden centres, you should look for good strong trees that have no sign of disease or damage. If you are not sure what variety to choose, I strongly suggest you seek out an expert to help, be prepared to wait too as they often seem to be busy this time of the year. Or if you are like me, take a drive out to Woodend Nurseries and pick Stu’s brains. He is one of those people who is always in a good mood, happy to help and has a sense of humour you may just find you leave with more than a boot full of trees.