Growing fruit can be sweetly satisfying. Fruit can usually be grown in even the smallest growing spaces whilst in larger spaces the addition of fruit can actually reduce maintenance needs. As well as the harvested fruit, growing fruit trees can add structure, scent and ornamental form to the garden, enriching the space from a sensory perspective as well.
Tending fruit can be simple but more ambitious fruit growing is a specialist area where gaining high yields will require developing deep knowledge. February and early March are very good times for adding fruit to the garden whilst much of the stock is beginning to emerge from winter dormancy.
Strawberries can be accommodated well in smaller growing spaces, for example, growing a few fruit in a 2 litre pot or in containers or baskets (there are specific cultivars that grow well in these conditions). Strawberries also add interest and colour in small courtyard gardens or on balconies - although for higher balconies, they may need to be pollinated by hand.
In more traditional back gardens, it may be possible to have fruit trees, vines, bushes and fruit under protection. And in larger garden spaces, you can create fruit gardens which can be either formally or informally laid out.
There is a good variety of fruit trees to choose from and although most fruit benefits from good growing conditions, there are cultivars that can accommodate more difficult growing conditions. Over the centuries very localised varieties were developed and although as with many other types of plants a smaller number have come to be predominant in gardens across the UK, exploring local and heirloom varieties can support better growth and production in your garden.
Once a particular cultivar of fruit tree to suit your space has been identified, you can then choose what form would suit your garden best - from bush to pyramid shapes that can sit more centrally and require access around the tree in larger areas or informal planting arrangement to cordons, espalier and stepover forms that can be accommodated along boundaries or against walls and only need access from one side.
In smaller gardens it may be that one ‘family tree’ where several different varieties (usually the same fruit) have been grafted onto one tree provides a succession of fruits at different times and with different tastes. Some dwarf trees can also be accommodated in larger containers.
There are many choices - from cherries and gages to apple and pear or even peach and fig in the right site. Correct storage is essential with abundant crops and juicing may also be a way to preserve and get more from your harvest. Additionally, there are many interesting varieties of fruit that you may not find in supermarkets that can be great to grow such as quince, medlars and mulberries.
Many of the fruits that grow in unprotected conditions in the UK are deciduous and require chilling periods and hours of sunlight to be able to crop with abundance. Local nurseries and tree nurseries in particular will know what grows best locally.
Some fruit varieties benefit from being trained in relatively narrow groves that will extend overtime as the plants age. Grapes and raspberries in particular grow in this form. Again, they can be accommodated along boundaries and walls in smaller growing spaces.
With care both vines and canes can provide an abundance of fruit to enjoy and vines in particular can provide structure, interest or even shade to the garden. The taste of home grown grapes and berries from these types of plant can be deeply satisfying!
Currant and gooseberry bushes are particularly suited to cooler regions and may even need some shade in warmer sunnier areas of the UK. However they tend to not require alot of care and are generally easier to grow and maintain than many of the fruit trees and vines already mentioned.
In larger gardens, growing different cultivars to provide a succession of early to later fruits may be worth considering. It's also worth noting that while white currants and some varieties of gooseberries can be enjoyed straight from the pick, black and red currants are often too tart for most people's tastes and are best cooked down with sugar for coolies or mixed fruit smoothies or made into jam.
Check out our guide to growing strawberries below!
All fruit require specific conditions, but the full range of options means that fruit can be accommodated in most growing spaces. There are great companion planting approaches to fruit growing that can expand the plant range in your garden as well.
The internet is a great source of information and guidance as are local nurseries where you might buy your plants. It’s also possible to source cuttings from other gardeners to get started. Once planted, most fruit requires some pruning and often pruning in the first year requires a different approach to subsequent years.