Spring-like one day, snowing the next; March is a cruel month. But it is during this month, like none other in the garden, that we must believe in the future. As the days lengthen and the night time frosts relent, dare yourself to think about the mellow summer months ahead and, if you have space, think about planting a fruit tree.
Seize the moment: Mothering Sunday is the perfect time. It’s a wonderfully positive thing to do in itself, but might also serve you with a fitting metaphor for remembering and celebrating the mothers in your life, past and present. As you nurture and care for your tree, supporting it against the wind and protecting it from predators, so it will eventually stand up for itself and reward you with clouds of blossom and baskets of sweet mellow fruit.
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Look for native bare-root fruit trees (raised outside in this country and lifted out of the ground when the tree is in its dormant, winter phase). Whether they are apple, pear, plum or gage, the majority of fruit trees will have been grafted onto a particular root stock which will in turn dictate its ultimate size and resistance to disease.
Obviously small spaces require small trees- those with very limited space could consider a dwarf variety whose rootstock will not allow it to grow over 2 metres tall. The majority of fruit trees will be grafted onto the semi-dwarfing rootstock, but be sure to check before you commit. Also check whether your chosen tree is self-fertile; most apples and pears are not, meaning that you will have to plant them in pairs. For apples a good tip is to plant a companion crab apple tree nearby as its flowers will pollinate most apples.
If you would like to start with apples, we would recommend trying your luck with a Falstaff tree, a self-fertile variety producing juicy, refreshing, red-striped fruit in October from a relatively compact tree, with the bonus of wonderful white-pink blossom in Spring. For soft fruit we would recommend beginners start with a Victoria plum. Not only is it self-fertile, but it requires relatively little maintenance and produces bumper crops of delicious fruit with their pink-red skin and mouth-watering yellow flesh. Just think of that plum crumble, or those future jars of amber plum jam. Mother would be so proud.
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