The great delights of September are the fruiting trees: apples, pears, damsons and figs. In our cold midlands climate apples and damsons do best, so every year gives a good crop. Other fruits are trickier, but any crop is so welcome.
In our small garden we have managed to squeeze in three apple trees, two crab apples, and one each of pear, plum, damson and fig. From the beginning we knew that we would have to keep the trees small, we bought specimens grown on small rootstock and we prune every year, in summer for new growth and in winter for shape. One apple and one crab apple are trained as cordons to a wooden frame, and they crop better than the free-standing trees.
Our apples are Red Windsor, Gala and Cox’s, and the crab apples are Coralburst and Gorgeous. Originally the apples were planted on the other side of the garden, but the straying football from next door caused a lot of damage to branches and fruit so we decided to move them. They are much happier on the west side of the garden, they get more sun during the day and the delicate blossom in spring is spared the damaging early morning sun.
The apples store well when they are carefully picked and placed in single layers in baskets or boxes. The fallen or damaged ones are used first and we only store the perfect ones.
Last year we had a major problem with the crab apple Gorgeous, both leaves and fruits got scabby and fell off so we had no crab apple jelly. Luckily this year they have recovered and the tree is laden with fruit. The intense red berries give a beautiful deep red colour to the jelly. The blossom on Coralburst is delicate and beautiful, but the fruits are tiny and cannot be used.
The fig tree, Brown Turkey, grows quite well outdoors in our cold and wet weather but the fruits are few. It is grown against the palisade on the west side of the garden with its roots confined by concrete bricks. We get lots of immature fruits, but only a few have time to grow and ripen before the weather gets too cold. Our friend, who lives in Cork, has a mature fig taller than his two storey barn and he gets hundreds of figs each year.
Our pear tree is sensitive to the weather conditions and we can never be sure of a crop. Last year it excelled itself and we got 50 or 60 pears. This year we’ve had good blossom and good setting of fruit, but the strong winds during the summer knocked all the fruits down except for one lone pear.
The plum and damson are babies, both had blossom this year, but only the damson has fruits, which are not yet ripe. I hope we will have a long and happy future with both.