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Planning a Fruit Garden – How to Make a Low Maintenance Fruit Garden

[Music] If you’re keen to grow as much of your
own produce as possible but don’t have much time on your hands, then planning a low-maintenance
fruit garden is a great solution. In this video we’ll show you how spending a
little time and effort planning and preparing your fruit garden can result in maximum harvest
with minimum time and effort. When choosing the perfect spot in your garden
to grow fruit, the most important consideration is your soil. Most average garden soils are
adequate for successful fruit growing, but all soil types benefit from the addition of
organic matter such as compost – it will lighten heavy clay soils and enhance nutrient-
and water-retention in sandy soils. Avoid any very wet areas in your garden or
consider installing drainage, as waterlogged soils are rarely good for growing fruit, although
cranberries can tolerate more boggy conditions. Likewise, a very dry part of your garden is
best avoided unless you’re willing to install irrigation – for low maintenance, you don’t
want to spend half your summer watering plants! Drip irrigation looped around the root zone
of your plants is very effective. Most fruit grows best in a sunny, sheltered
spot, although some bushes such as currants are quite happy with some shade. Avoid frost pockets which can result in buds or flowers being damaged by the cold
early in the year. A sheltered environment away from cold winds
is essential to ensure that your plants flower well, are pollinated by insects and set fruit
successfully. For windy areas, growing a hedge as a screen alongside your fruit,
or taking advantage of the protection given by walls or fences will make a big difference. It’s tempting to cram as many fruit bushes and trees into your garden as possible but
overcrowding will result in none of them growing well. That’s why a plan is essential. You
can use our Garden Planner to mark out boundaries and fences, and work out how many plants
will fit. As trees and bushes are added, the grey circle around them shows how much
space their roots require. It’s easy to grow a wonderful fruit garden, only to find that the local wildlife enjoys
all your harvest, so protecting your fruit garden from them is essential. Rabbits can usually be kept at bay with two-foot high chicken wire, also extending one foot
down into the ground to stop them from burrowing underneath. To exclude deer you’ll need a higher fence – at least 6 feet, or 1.8m, high.
If you only have a few fruit trees it might be easier and cheaper to fence off the trees
individually rather than the whole garden. Birds are a major pest of soft fruit, so in
many areas it will be essential to net against them. A fruit cage is the easiest option.
Use metal or wooden posts for the frame, and netting or wire mesh for the sides. The top
is best made out of light netting that can be rolled back for winter, as the weight of
snow on top can collapse even very sturdy fruit cages. Bare earth is an open invitation for weeds,
and young fruit trees or bushes are particularly vulnerable to competition for moisture, so
to avoid having to spend hours weeding, make sure you cover the soil. Remove all perennial
weeds before you start, then keep the soil covered with mulches such as home-made compost, bark, straw, leafmold or grass clippings. After a few years, grass or clover can be
allowed to grow up to the trunks of fruit trees as a living mulch. Grass will need to be cut every week or two if you want to keep it short, but if you use a mulching mower
you won’t have to keep stopping to empty the bag. Plus, leaving the grass lying will
enhance moisture-retention and fertility in the soil. Rhubarb also has a place in the fruit garden
– while technically a vegetable, it is often used as a fruit and is perennial, low maintenance,
and a fantastic weed suppressor. Choose your fruit varieties carefully. In
the Garden Planner you can use the Filter function to narrow down your selection. Make sure they are hardy enough to be grown
outside all year round in your area without protection, and are not prone to particular
diseases. Select high-yielding types to
make sure that the work you put in is amply rewarded, or choose one plant that can do
two jobs – for instance some apple varieties are just as good used for cooking as for eating
fresh. Apples, plums and pears are best grown as
free-standing trees, which are much lower maintenance and require less complicated pruning.
But, if your garden is small, it’s worth considering space-saving trained forms such as espaliers
or cordons. Finally, choose varieties to stagger your
harvests so there is not too much harvesting to do all at once – most fruits are available
in early-, mid- and late-season varieties. When your plan is finished, you’ll be ready to prepare the soil and order your plants. Don’t forget to check
out our video on How to Plant a Fruit Tree for tips on giving them
the best start… Once established, fruits are some the easiest
and most rewarding crops to grow. What are your favourite tips for planning
a low maintenance fruit garden? You can share them with us by leaving a comment in the box below, and click the subscribe button to receive more great gardening videos. [Music]

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