New 'fruit garden'
So far my gardening background has been weeding, mowing the lawn and unsuccessfully growing tomatos and suchlike from growkits. I have just aquired some extra garden space and some sleepers. My vague plan is to make raised beds approx 5ft by 35-40ft x2 along the two fencelines. Within these beds looking to plant a few fruit trees (apples possible pears) and trying espalier. Along the other bed, blackberries, bluberries, raspberries, strawberries etc. Im still in the process of clearing the land and have yet to lay any sleepers. I was just wondering if anyone had any general advice that could maybe help me avoid any major pitfalls or setbacks? I understand this is very general and vague at the minute but as a very inexperienced gardener and starting out with what I feel is an ambitious endevour any help or advice would be welcome thanks in advance
First thing that came to mind was that blueberries need ericaceous (acidic) soil. Assuming you will fill the raised beds with compost, the blueberries will need their own bed and ericaceous compost.
For all fruit, plant at least two of each type. This helps pollination and increases the amount of fruit. With apples and pears they don't have to be two exactly the same variety, but need to have overlapping flowering times, so that flowers on both trees are open at the same time for a while and bees will go between both to pollinate them. Trees are labelled with pollination groups when you buy them.
Strawberries fruit best in their third year and then deteriorate. If you can, create several different areas for them so that each area is full of plants of the same age. You'll end up with a bed of strawberry plants in year 1, another of year 2, year 3 etc. After year 3 or 4, remove them and plant something else n that bed. Start a fresh bed for strawberries using the small plantlets that develop as runners from older ones. The runners can be potted up each autumn and used to make a new "Year 1" patch.
When the fruit appears, put straw around strawberries to keep them from rotting on the earth, and to deter slugs. You'll need to put netting over fruits like raspberries and strawberries to prevent birds helping themselves, There are loads of ways to do this but its worth planning it at the start so you can factor it in when you construct your beds. There are proprietary systems, or you can put some posts in and hang netting from hooks/nails etc - Here's a picture of mine at my allotment, made from bits of old bed and snooker table!
Check the height that your raspberries etc will get to to make sure the nets are tall enough.
Hope that helps get you started - best of luck!
The usual advice with raised beds for vegetables is to make them narrow enough so you can reach the middle without standing on it - and if it's possible that you will decide to use the beds for something other than soft fruit, then your plan makes sense. However, espalier trees are not the easiest for a beginner and as most fruit is perennial (so you only plant it once, or once in ten years, perhaps) there's less need to have two narrow beds.
So my thought would be to make a bigger, central bed and plant dwarf or semi dwarf apple/pear/plum trees in the centre of the bed. So for example you could plant two apples on M26 rootstock plus 2 Quince A rootstock pears or 'Pixie' stock plum/greengages, (or have one each of the plum and pear if you choose self fertile varieties). This would require much less intricate pruning to get them productive.
Then plant fruit bushes around the perimeter so they are a good distance away from the the trees and have your path right around the outside of the beds so you can easily get to the bushes all around. Potentially you could then grow some climbing fruit - blackberries, wineberries, loganberries, even mini kiwi fruit on your fences if there's enough room to walk past without being smacked in the face by a wayward spur.
Bear in mind that some bushes - Jostaberries and Redcurrants for example - are big plants so need some elbow room.
If there isn't room to do all that and/or you're determined to go for the trained trees, I'd recommend you start with those and get them reasonably well established for a few years before you begin to introduce under-planting within a 5 feet or so radius of their roots. Once the trees are fruiting fairly well - usually 3 years or so - you can allow the raspberries, strawberries and other low growing fruit to encroach a bit closer.
Or just plant the bushes in the beds and plant the trees elsewhere. Or train the trees against the fences as you planned but planted into the ground and create a central raised bed with the bushes and other fruit.
Last edited: 11 September 2017 09:01:00
Great advice raisin girl and green fingered blogger I really appreciate your time! My general plan from what you've said is to have on bed along a fencline approx 35ft for trees, a corner bed slightly larger square shaped somewhere between 6ftx6ft - 8ftx8ft with acidic soil for several different blueberry types and then across the other fenceline go for berries. I am keen on climbing fruit as the other side of the fence is pavement and road so I think some trellis will add a bit of privacy and protection.
This is the plot of land in question, still alot of work to do!! The fences are 40ft long. Looking to dedicate space for the project along the 2 fences with a possible bed centre left for seasonal items, green beans, salads etc. The right hand side will be the kids area
Lots of potential. I also recommend drawing a scale plan before you get started to make sure you fit in everything that you want to. A simple grid on squared paper should be enough to get the layout clear.
Best of luck, look forward to seeing the results.
still alot to do!
Crumbs, you've been working hard. Looking good so far, give yourself a pat on the back.
Yeah, looking good nick! Try and get hold of as much well rotted manure as you can (make sure it is well rotted though) and dig some into the beds when you fill them then finish off with a good 4 inch layer on top over the winter. That will add life and goodness to the soil for many years, encourage the worms which will seem to come from nowhere and you will be rewarded by good crops as the fruit trees and bushes will love it.
I can see why you said you want to try espalier, not wide enough for trees, but they’ll look beautiful on a trellis on the fence.
Youve worked very hard there, well done. Keep us posted on the progress.