Getting Fruity in the North
Growing fruit in the northern parts of the UK may be more challenging, but not if you choose the right ones as John Stoa, a former nurseryman, author and gardening expert explains.
This fruit has always been my favourite so I have now sorted out my growing method to taste my first one by mid-May then continue with fresh fruit till the autumn frosts. I use the variety ‘Mae’ with one row under a low polythene tunnel put on at the beginning of March. This enhances cropping and the protection eliminates botrytis and bird damage. Slug pellets are necessary to control slugs, which just love my berries and keep an eye out for mice which love the seeds on the berry skin. Then another row of ‘Mae’ is my early outdoor variety followed by ‘Elsanta’ in mid-season. I use “Symphony” and ‘Florence” for late crops, but then it is the perpetual “Flamenco” which continues cropping till the frosts appear in late autumn and spoil the fun.
Breeding of this fruit continues in Scotland at the James Hutton Institute, but the need is for types suited to tunnel production, so I am trying out their ‘Glen Fyne’ outdoors without a tunnel. Canes are quite prolific, and though height is a bit lacking, fruit size and quality are excellent.
However, there are three autumn fruiting varieties worthy of a wee trial, ‘ Autumn Treasure’, ‘Joan J’ and ‘Polka’ are all said to be far bigger than our standard ‘Autumn Bliss’. Time will tell if this is the case as my plants are now in their second year.
These have also been bred for increase in size with enhanced sweetness and vitamin content in the variety ‘Big Ben’. It is hoped to produce large fruit, sweeter and healthier than the normal to encourage the fresh fruit market where folk eat the fruit direct from the punnet. My bushes are now in their third year so hopefully ‘Big Ben’ will put ‘Ben Conan’ to shame.
Though not good stocked at garden centres these are still comparatively new, but reasonably well known. That is the large-berried form of Amelanchier alnifolia and comes in numerous varieties for example ‘Smoky’. They are super easy as they’re not fussy about soil to grow. I use mine as fresh fruit in season then freeze surplus summer puddings, for compote, jam and a wine that is fantastic is made by them.
More about SASKATOONS here: https://www.cals.uidaho.edu/edcomm/pdf/BUL/BUL0866.pdf
Figs are quite normal as an outdoor bush in the south, but mostly grown under glass in Scotland. I have two ‘Brown Turkey’ bushes that just seem to love our local soils and climate, planted against south-facing walls. Being an experimental gardener and a bit of a gambler, and thinking this global warming might not just be a whole load of wishful thinking (for the colder north), I decided to go against mu training. Instead of removing all the young fruit destined to fall off in the first frost, I left them on. As luck was on my side we got a very mild winter and I was blessed with more than 80 ripe figs last summer.