November is a good month to plant trees, shrubs, hedging and of course fruit trees. Throughout the month, continue raking up fallen leaves and transfer them to a compost heap to provide valuable compost for the garden next year. Japanese knotweed will be going dormant now but do familiarise yourself with it. The weed has has been getting a lot of attention recently with Kerry County Council embarking on a control/eradication programme. An increased amount of information has been posted up on the Internet recently including on Cork County Councils website where there is an informative pdf available to download. Other websites covering the topic include – www.invasivespeciesireland.com and www.rhs.org.uk/ advice/japaneseknotweed. Don’t dispose of knotweed in landfill sites or skips and don’t cut it back, as the smallest piece will grow and spread.
Fruit Trees: Growing your own fruit is well worthwhile; it can be both decorative, as well as highly useful. Growing your own fruit means you are not restricted to only what is available in the shops. It also means you control the input to your fruit crop. If you garden is small, you can utilise walls, fences, arches and pergolas and incorporate fruit as an ornamental feature.
When choosing a site for fruit trees and bushes, avoid exposed positions and if your site is exposed, do strongly consider planting a natural or artificial windbreak. Ideally if you are growing tree fruit such as apples, pears, plums or cherries, do make provision for a windbreak of 4-5m high (13ft-16ft-6”). It is important to make provision against strong or cold winds, which can damage and distort growth, inhibit the movement of pollinating insects and blow fruit to the ground (frequently prematurely). The best kind of shelter surrounds the plot on all four sides creating a favourable microclimate; just make sure it does not cast too much shade or create a frost pocket and
Where a new shelter is to be provided it should be sited on the side towards the prevailing wind-and also to the north and east in cold areas and exposed sites to give protection from cold winds particularly at flowering time. The height of the fence is relative to the shelter it gives.
A windbreak provides effective shelter roughly equivalent to twenty times its height on the leeward side; although the further the plants are away, the less they benefit from it. Bear in mind if choosing a hedge that the spread of the roots is roughly equivalent to the height of the hedge/windbreak, therefore the taller the windbreak the further the fruit trees or bushes should be kept back.
Frost in late spring is probably the greatest hazard to successful fruit growing. Fruit plants are relatively hardy while dormant, but once they start to grow in spring, they are extremely vulnerable to frost damage.
The more forward the plants are in growth the greater the danger. Frost damage occurs in many forms such as scorching and sometimes complete destruction of the young growth. Blossom and fruitlet drop becomes apparent a day or two after the frost.
Preventing Frost Damage: The degree and success of frost protection depends to a large extent on the ingenuity, focus and preparedness of the grower. Cover the plants during the duration of the frost but remove the covers when the frost is over. Fan/espalier trained fruit may easily be covered with Hessian or sacking at critical flowering time; secure the protection before nightfall and removing it during the day once frost has disappeared. Avoid frost pockets if at all possible when choosing a site for fruit trees.
Planning a Fruit Garden: Most fruit plants represent a long-term investment; once planted they should be there for a very long time. It is important therefore that they are properly sited and correctly spaced from the start. Avoid any site, which has previously grown fruit trees. Choose a sunny, well-drained position avoiding frost pockets and check lime and fertiliser levels. Plant the smallest fruit plants at the south end of the plot and the tallest at the north so that each receives a fair share of light and sun. This means planting gooseberries on the south side, currants and cane fruit such as raspberries in the middle and the tallest tree fruit on the north — these include apples, pears, plums and cherries. Strawberries are a short-term crop and require soil rotation — normally renewed every three years.
Apples are a most worthwhile crop to grow but do check out that you have varieties that are compatible pollinators prior to planting. An average household should plant six or eight trees to provide a reasonable level of self-sufficiency. Choose varieties with a long storage life. Generally most people will include two or three cookers in a collection —usually one early cooker and two or more late varieties with a long storage life.
Recommended Apple Varieties:
Bramley’s Seedling (the most popular cooking variety): Introduced between 1809-1813. Very vigorous, spreading variety. Harvest late October /early November. Season of use-November to February. Pollinators-Discovery, Grenadier, James Grieve, Cox’s Orange Pippin.
Coxs Orange Pippin: attractive, richly flavoured dessert apple. Raised in about 1825.
Pollinators – Discovery, James Grieve, Grenadier. Season of use – November to January. Choose a good, well- drained soil.
Discovery: Raised in about 1949. Attractive well-rounded, second early dessert apple. Pick mid August. Season – mid August to mid September. Pollinators – Cox’s Orange Pippin, James Grieve.
Grenadier: Early cooker. Introduced in 1875. Pick-mid August. Season – August and September. Pollinators – Cox’s Orange Pippin, Discovery, James Grieve.
James Grieve: Raised by James Grieve in Edinburgh, Scotland. First recorded in 1893. Well-known, well-flavoured, second early dessert apple. Good pollinator for Cox’s Orange Pippin.
Pick – early September. Season – early September to mid October. Spreading round-headed tree. Pollinators – Discovery, Coxs Orange Pippin, Grenadier.