Cooking on a Budget Part Two – Grow Your Own Fruit

We covered ‘Grow your own vegetables’ in another article as part of the overall cooking on a budget plan. Now it is the turn of fruit. Ideally, you need a garden to produce good quality fruit, but our theme is to produce fresh fruit for the family, without a garden and limited space. If you followed the advice given in ‘Grow your own Vegetables’, you should have little space left to place your fruit production areas.

What kind of fruit can we grow in a limited space, with no garden and only a back yard available as a growing area? If you have enough room for a half dozen more containers, or a large bare wall where we can add wall boxes and hanging baskets or a trellis, then we are well on the way to producing our own fresh fruit for the family. How much you produce and what kind, is down to you and the space available.

What fruits can we grow? You will be surprised!

Here in Spain we can grow virtually any fruit in containers. We have the weather conditions to produce excellent crops virtually all-year round by selective planting. We have “Luna” lemon trees, which produce a new flower every time you take a fruit. Most other lemon trees produce a main crop from November to May, and then die back until the following year- just like apples and oranges.

However, not all our readers will be living in Spain and not all our visitors will be experiencing the same climate as we have. Having been born and bred in the North East of England, I am fully aware of the problems of climate versus cultivation. Therefore, I shall assume a growing area based on the climate of middle England that should cover most of Europe and the American continent.

Frost hardiness is a major consideration when growing fruit and vegetables without the protection of a greenhouse. We have just experienced a minus 7 situation in Valencia and all of our plants on the patio have been wiped out. Most of the flowers and decorative plants here cannot withstand sub-zero periods of more than a few hours. The sap freezes in the stems.

However, there are many varieties of plants that are considered ‘frost hardy’ and it is these that we need to concentrate upon to ensure survival through the winter months.

For the summer, we need to concentrate upon the soft fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, loganberries and so on. Black currents, red currents and white currents and gooseberries can all be grown successfully in pots or other types of containers. Miniature trees grown in containers are a great way of providing free fruit such as apples, pears peaches and plums, but they take a few years to become established and mature fruit producing trees.

Growing Apples in pots

With the introduction of dwarfing rootstocks, the cultivation of apples in containers became a practical proposition. There are several advantages. Space being the obvious one. You can grow apples on the balcony, patio or back yard. You can also grow peaches, lemons, plums, cherries and pears in the same way. Buy your plants at the two-year stage and make sure you buy self pollinating varieties. Plant in heavy compost and make sure the pots can drain easily by standing the pots on bricks. Protect from frost in the winter.

Soft fruits

Strawberries are still the most popular fruit to be grown at home on the container system. You can buy special strawberry towers, which will hold about a dozen plants and provide you with a cascading display of tasty fruits. The summer fruiting varieties are the most popular. The first step is to buy young healthy plants in late summer or early autumn. Plant no later than mid-September to ensure a good root system before the onset of winter.

Blackberries, loganberries, boysenberries and tayberries are all good for producing fruits for making desserts, pies and preserves. There are many cultivated varieties available and grow well on a trellis attached to a wall or trained up canes made into a pyramid on a large container.

Blackcurrants are another fruit, which are excellent for pies and jams. They are not difficult to grow but you must know what to do at planting and pruning time. The reason is that most fruit grows on last year’s growth. This means that you must help the plant produce plenty of new growth from below ground level ever year. To ensure this, plant deeply with the root/shoot union well below the surface and cut out some of the old wood in the winter. Each plant will give you 10-15 lb of fruit each year.

Gooseberries are another good supplier of fruit for pies and jam-making. They need very little care and just need pruning in the winter to ensure plenty of new shoots next season. You can expect up to 12 lb of fruit from each bush.

Grapes are OK if you have the space and time to look after them. Grapes were grown extensively in Roman Britain. But because of climate change they have gone into decline as a home grown fruit – unless you have a greenhouse of course. New hardy varieties have been introduced to the extent that British Wine is making a comeback and new vineyards are being designed in the south of England. If you really want to try growing your own grapes, grow them on a trellis up a south facing wall and choose a hardy type such as ‘Brandt’. A good variety for dessert grapes and which is a late flowering variety (helpful in cold areas) is ‘Madeleine Angevine’

Melons are very easy to grow in a grow bag or container, but need to be supported because of the weight of the fruit. New varieties such as ‘Sweetheart’ and ‘Ogen’ have been developed so that they will ripen well in all parts of the UK and mid Europe. Melons grow best in well-rotted manure and need feeding and watering regularly.

If you have followed the advice and information contained in the first two articles, “Grow your own Vegetables” and “Grow your own fruit”, your back yard should now resemble a jungle – just watch out for the tigers! To get the best out of your new hobby of growing your own fruit and vegetables, buy yourself a good gardening book, especially if you can find a one with dedicated chapters on container growing. When buying plants or seeds visit a good nursery and explain to the staff what you are doing and they will help you to choose the best plants and seeds for container growing in outdoor conditions.

Bill Robinson 2011

Source by William C Robinson

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