Growing Fruit in your Garden
Gardens are expected to perform a lot of different functions including a place for children to play, somewhere to entertain outdoors and of course for many of us, a habitat for wildlife, plus lots of people are now keen to grow some fresh fruit and veg in their gardens if they can find a little space.
Growing fruit, especially apples, pears, plums, raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries, will not just delight us with fresh, tasty produce but will also offer food for a variety of garden wildlife especially bees, butterflies and birds, including year round visitors like Song Thrush, Blackbird and Mistle Thrush, and in the winter Fieldfare and Redwing which may be feeding in our gardens. Starlings also enjoy ripe apples and some of the finches, including the beautiful Brambling, eat apple pips when the fruit is on the ground.
An apple tree doesn’t have to take up too much space. Grown on a dwarfing rootstock, an apple variety like Discovery – a delicious, bright red, early-ripening apple - will only reach 2 meters in height after 10 years of growth and will quickly produce abundant crops of juicy, bright red apples. As well as providing food for birds, windfall apples are also appreciated by Bank Voles and even Grey Squirrels.
Plums, cherries and pears can also be grown in gardens on small rootstocks. Fallen fruits of these are very much enjoyed by some late summer butterflies, especially Red Admiral and Speckled Wood, which come down to take the sweet juice from rotting fruit.
Raspberries are a good choice as they don’t take up much space and flower and fruit over a long period. The fresh berries are delicious and a small group of raspberry ‘canes’ will provide you and your local birds with fruit over several weeks. A blackberry will also attract birds and can be grown up through a hedge, thus taking up little space plus brambles are excellent nesting places for small birds such as warblers. Blackcurrants, gooseberries and strawberries are also a magnet for some birds. You can cover them before harvesting and leave any surplus at the end of the season for birds and mammals to enjoy.
All of the fruits mentioned are pollinated by bees of many different species. Bumblebees are especially fond of raspberry flowers while solitary bees, including Red Mason Bees, collect nectar and pollen from fruit blossom, especially apples, early in the spring.
All these fruits can be planted in the coming autumn. I make sure I share by growing enough fruit for my family and my garden wildlife.