Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
EATING a fruit from a home grown plant has to be one of the most enjoyable experiences, and I suppose it does not have to come from your own garden, as I confess to having helped myself to a pear picked from the garden in Dromoland Castle in Co Clare.
It should be possible to grow fruit almost anywhere and the type and variety will depend on the available space and local climate. I have seen many people grow a variety of fruiting plants on a balcony and also in small gardens in the Arctic Circle so with that information it is down to some imagination to see what can be achieved.
We can grow a huge range of fruiting plants in our mild climate, and it is relatively trouble free with adequate moisture and sunshine levels helping to produce good crops. You will need shelter in any cold and exposed areas such as by the coast or on higher land near hills and mountains, and this can be provided by planting a natural hedge or by using shelter netting or planting them in the shelter of buildings or walls or a combination of any of these structures.
The smaller the available space the less you can grow but the variety can still be obtained and it will be good to enjoy some of your own fruit as they mature. As the available space increases so does your scope for growing a larger quantity and variety of fruit and it is up to you to decide what you would like to grow. Some fruit plants will produce crops within a few months of planting such as strawberries, while others may take a few years such as quince or walnuts, so this is something to investigate before deciding on what to grow.
While you would think that the purpose of growing fruit is to enjoy eating and cooking them, there are a sizeable number of people who just like to have fruiting plants in their garden and are happy to enjoy the blossom and later the fruit, often allowing the crops to be eaten by birds. Most people would like to be able to pick and eat their fruit from as wide a range of crops as possible and there would usually be enough left for the birds to enjoy too. I suppose the main point is that many of the tastes from our own fruiting plants are not available from the shops and that is indescribable and, of course they are organic as no chemicals were used in producing them.
We are spoiled for choice when it comes to buying fruit and vegetables and for many people that is the way it has always been. In fact, our lifestyles have changed so much in the last few decades that if our parents or grandparents tell us about how food crops were only available during their season, we cannot understand what they are talking about and anyway it was so long ago. I suppose the reason why people grew fruit and vegetables then was simply to provide food and a bit of variety for the family through necessity, whereas, now it has taken on the role of a hobby and lifestyle choice. There was one exception when the recent recession hit, and huge numbers of people scrambled to grow food crops for themselves for that short period.
I think growing some fruit among other crops nowadays is part of a culture providing untold benefits to our health in this increasingly fast paced life, as if we need an excuse to do so.
TIP OF THE WEEK
The season for planting some spring flowering bulbs is short enough and it is one of those tasks that should not be put off for another day. Every year people are caught short when they find there are no bulbs left to plant from late November onwards and we get asked, “When will we be getting them in again!” Spring flowering bulbs are easy to plant, inexpensive and give much needed colour when there is little else about, and that they should be on everyone’s list to do and the selection should be good enough for the next few weeks. I like the traditional daffodil such as the large yellow trumpets like ‘King Alfred’ but other good types include ‘Mount Hood’(white), ‘Rainbow’ (white petal red centre), ‘Juanita’ (yellow petal red centre) and ‘Geranium’ (red/white) which is a fragrant small bunched narcissi and always a favourite with gardeners.