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Picking fruit trees – what to choose?

Posted by on Tuesday 19 October 2010 in growing | 4 comments

Having missed the window last year, we are keen to get some fruit trees plants this autumn – but it’s not as easy as we thought it would be.

The difficulty is partly, mostly our own fault of course. We could buy misc off-the-shelf trees from a garden centre but since we’ve only really got one shot at trees here, we want to make sure we get it right so are hoping to order custom ones from a niche supplier – ones that will suit our wants (in terms of height & flavour), our soil type and our climate. This is where we need an advanced degree in mathematics to figure it all out.

We’re hoping to plant three apple trees, a cherry tree and a plum tree, and I’m thinking about some raspberry canes or blackcurrant bushes, and maybe something very dwarfed in a pot (possibly the cherry).

The nursery we’re going to order from has 65 varieties of apple, combined with 6 different possible rootstocks – a total of 390 options! Some varieties are good for eating, some for cooking and some for cider making – John wants to eat them & make cider, I want to cook with some (although that’s less of a priority).

The rootstocks will determine whether they’re tall or short, very vigorous or considerable less fruitful. Some only prosper in good soils, some are more forgiving. Some take longer to start fruiting than others. We’ve got to decide where we want to compromise.

Unsurprisingly, the most vigorous ones are the tallest ones – but I think we’ll struggle to harvest anything over 10-12ft from the ground so there seems little point getting one that grows more than 15ft tall. They also don’t usually start fruiting until they’re five or six years old. Conversely, the most dwarf type grow to just 4-6ft and fruit at 2 years – but only produce about 10-15lb of fruit a year, which hardly seems worth bothering with.

Even picking the variety for flavour is a challenge: I don’t eat apples and John doesn’t really know what he likes and what he doesn’t. From the supermarket (not a good place to use as a guide for fruit flavours!), he likes Braeburns but they need warmer climes than we can offer.

So many options! The only thing I know for sure is that we have to order them ASAP!

Anyone got any advice or suggestions? What did you pick and why?

(Photo by iscott)

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