FRUIT

What Are Fruit Plants?

Fruit can grow on trees, fruit bushes, fruiting canes, perennials or annual plants. Any and all of the plants on which fruits form can be described as fruit plants.

The word fruit is used somewhat differently in botany than it is in common parlance. In culinary terms, we tend to think of fruits as sweet-tasting plant parts, that may or may not correspond to the botanical fruit part. We think of nuts as hard, oily and shelled plant products, and vegetables as savoury or less sweet edible crops.

But in botany, a fruit is the ripened ovary or carpel in angiosperms (flowering plants) that contains seeds. Some culinary items that are commonly thought of as vegetables or nuts are actually, botanically, fruit. Tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, corn, cucumber, squash, courgette, pumpkins and peanuts are some common examples. Rhubarb, often treated like a fruit in culinary setting, is not a botanical fruit, but rather the leaf stalk of the plant.

Of course, there are plenty of botanical fruits on plants that we do not eat. But since we tend to focus on edible fruits, these will be the focus here.

Fruits are categorised scientifically into three main groups:

  • Simple fruits
  • Aggregate fruits
  • Composite (or multiple) fruits

Simple fruits include pome fruits (apples, pears), stone fruits (plum, cherry, apricot, peach etc..) berries (tomatoes, currants, gooseberries etc..), and many more.

Aggregate fruits include Rubus spp. like raspberries and blackberries, and the strawberry.

Multiple fruits include examples like the fig, mulberry and pineapple.

Popular Fruit Plants Grown In The UK

Popular fruit plants (including trees, bushes; annuals, perennials) grown in the UK include:

How To Care For Fruit Plants

Of course, the care requirements for fruit plants will depend on a number of factors. First of all, of course, the care requirements will be very different for fruit trees, fruiting canes, fruit bushes, other perennials like strawberries, and annual fruits.

The first step in caring for fruits successfully is to choose the right fruit plants for your location and needs. If you would like a more low maintenance garden, then choosing perennial fruit trees, shrubs and other perennial plants is always a good idea. These perennial options won’t just provide you with edible fruit over the course of one season, but should provide plenty of fruit over a number of years.

Once you have chosen the right fruit trees or shrubs for you, the next stage is to think about how these can best be incorporated into the overall garden design. For best results for all fruit plants, it is best to embrace companion planting.

Creating guilds of beneficial plants around fruit trees or other fruiting plants can help ensure that the right environmental conditions are met. It can attract the pollinators essential for good fruit set, and repel, confuse or distract insect pests, while bringing plenty of beneficial wildlife into your garden.

Growing annual fruits in addition to perennial options can be very rewarding. And these plants too will benefit from the creation of polycultures of plants that aid one another in a range of different ways.

With annual fruits, thinking about maintaining fertility, especially during the flowering and fruiting period, is of crucial importance. It can be beneficial to feed fruiting plants with a potassium-rich feed, and ensuring adequate calcium and other micronutrients can also help you make sure that yields are as high as possible.

Many of the popular fruits grown in the UK can be grown in containers as well as in the ground. As long as the containers are of the right size, patio fruit trees, fruit bushes, strawberries and annual fruits can all be grown in containers. Some more tender varieties must be grown indoors, under cover, or at least be moved indoors over the winter months.

What Conditions Should You Avoid?

Most fruit plants, both perennial and annual, will fruit best when they are provided with plenty of sun. However, there are some fruits that can definitely cope with light or dappled shade. Some fruits that can be grown in a somewhat more shaded location (perhaps in dappled shade beneath fruit trees, or other trees, for example) include:

  • Crab apples
  • Elder
  • Gooseberries
  • Blackcurrants
  • Blackberries
  • Alpine or Woodland Strawberries

However, for most fruits, full sun is required and more shaded sites should be avoided.

While many of the popular fruits mentioned above can be grown outdoors in many parts of the UK, it is important to consider conditions and climate in your area. Early blossoming trees like peaches and apricots can be grown outdoors only in very warm and sheltered southern gardens. They will usually need to be moved undercover, or given some frost protection early in the year.

Citrus fruits are an example of a fruit commonly grown indoors or undercover in the UK, and moved outdoors only during the summer months. They will not tend to thrive if left outdoors all year.

Frequently Asked Questions

When Should You Plant Fruit Trees In The UK?

Plant fruit trees in the UK as bare root plants during the dormant period, between autumn and early spring. Alternatively, pot grown trees can also be purchased at any time, and are best planted out or repotted in spring or autumn.

How Close Should You Plant Fruit Trees For Pollination?

Pollination is of course essential for good fruit set on fruit trees in your garden. Soft fruits will usually be self-fertile, so you will need just one of each type. But it is important to understand that certain fruit trees will need a pollination partner, so you will need two different cultivars that flower at the same time in order to get fruit.

Of course, your neighbours may very well have fruit trees in their own gardens. And if you live in a more build up area, pollination partners may be available near by. Pollinating bees can travel around 2-2.5 miles. But generally, trees for cross-pollination should be placed no more than 18m apart for the process to be really effective.

If you only have a small garden, choosing self-fertile varieties can be the best option, so the trees will be able to set fruit without having to rely in other fruit trees that may be in the surrounding area. Self-fertile plums (such as Victoria) and cherries (such as Stella) can be good options to choose.

How Can You Get Rid Of Fruit Flies In Plants?

Fruit flies are commonly found around over-ripe and rotten fruits and vegetables. If you find that you have a lot of fruit flies around your fruit plants then this may simply be a sign that you have left it too long to harvest your crop. Your first step should be to identify the source of rotten fruit that is attracting them, and to remove that right away.

Overripe fruits will attract these flies, and they will lay their eggs in the leaves and the fruit, and in the top layer of the soil or growing medium. A fruit fly infestation in fruits kept as houseplants can be particularly challenging to eradicate, since they can reproduce very fast. Prevention is always better than cure. So keep on top of harvesting and tend your plant carefully to avoid any rotting that will attract them.

You should also check any composting system to make sure that this is not the source of the infestation. Dispose of any compost that is infected outdoors where natural predation will take care of them and they will not pose a problem for your cultivated crops. Try to make sure you always add plenty of carbon-rich material on top of food scraps to reduce the chances of the problem recurring.

If you have a fruit fly problem around potted plants indoors, you can get rid of the adult flies by creating traps to catch them. For example, you can fill a jar with beer or apple cider vinegar, and poke some holes in the lid or a plastic cover secured with an elastic band. Flies will be attracted to the solution inside but won’t be able to get back out. You can also add a drop of natural soap to the solution.

You can also use natural insecticides such as neem oil or vinegar sprays to kill fruit flies on your plants. Though please do bear in mind that such insecticides should only ever be used as a last resort, as they will kill beneficial insects indiscriminately as well as those that you do not want.

Another idea is to tackle the problem at the larval stage. Place pieces of a potato in the growing medium and larvae will come up to feed on them. When you see holes on the surface of the potato pieces, throw them away where they will not pose a problem.

To reduce the efficacy of the fruit fly life cycle, it can be helpful to reduce the moisture content of the soil or growing medium. Water from below, rather than from the top, to reduce water in the top layers of the medium where the eggs and larvae are to be found.

You should also, if you have a bad infestation, consider replacing the growing medium. Place the growing medium in a sealed container to exclude oxygen and kill off larvae. This growing medium can then be reused at a later date. Replace the growing medium carefully and repot your plant.

What Is The Best Fruit To Plant In April?

One great fruit to plant out in April is strawberries. You can place them into their outdoors containers, or into beds in your garden this month. It is best to remove flowers however in the first year to aid establishment.

April is also a good time to start sowing the seeds of a number of common annual fruits indoors. For example, this month, you should consider sowing the following inside:

  • Aubergines
  • Courgettes
  • Cucumbers
  • Squash and pumpkins
  • Sweet peppers
  • Tomatoes

(If you have not done so already.)

In very mild areas, you may be able to sow sweet corns and French beans under cloches towards the end of the month. But in cooler areas it is best to wait, and plant out these annual crops once the weather has warmed reliably.

Where Do Fruits Grow From On A Plant?

Fruits form from the flowers or blossom on a plant. A fruit develops when a flower in pollinated and fully matures. The gynoecium of the flower (or flowers) from which the fruit formed form all or part of the fruit. The gynoecium is the central, innermost swirl of a flower or blossom. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘female’ portion of the flower.

Of course, where exactly on the plant the flowers and therefore the fruits will be located depends on which type of fruit and which particular plant we are talking about. Some fruits will bear flowers on old wood, while others bear them on new growth, for example.

Where Is The Best Place To Plant Fruit Bushes?

Fruit bushes should generally be planted in areas with full sun, as most fruiting plants will provide the best, and sweetest yields when they get as much sun as possible. However, as mentioned above, some fruit bushes, such as gooseberries, blackcurrants, and blackberries, are more tolerant of some shade.

Fruit bushes generally prefer fertile, and moist but relatively free draining soil conditions. However, there are some exceptions. Cranberries, for example, are a bog plant. Most fruit bushes cope with a range of soil pH levels. But some, like blueberries, for example, need acidic or ericaceous soil.

Remember, wildlife will often like fruits from your fruit bushes as much as you do. So you may wish to consider covering your fruit bushes with netting, or using a fruit cage to protect your crop. However, you may prefer to simply see the fruits taken by wildlife as ‘taxes’ paid to the natural world. And so you may be happy to share.

Fruit bushes work very well around the sunnier edges of a forest garden, as part of a perennial border, as part of a mixed hedgerow, or as container plants, on a patio or in a small garden. There are many ways to incorporate them in a successful and eco-friendly garden design.

Can You Plant Different Fruit Trees Together?

Planting different fruit trees together is not only fine – it can be an excellent idea. Though you must take care over spacing to make sure that your new trees have enough space, water and nutrients, and do not compete with one another too extremely, increasing biodiversity and growing a wide range of different trees and other plants is always an excellent idea.

As mentioned above, some fruit trees do require a different cultivar to be planted near them for pollination purposes. But different types of fruit trees can also work well in the same planting scheme because they can help build up a more complex and resilient ecosystem.

You might be surprised to learn that many of the fruit trees you can buy are actually already made up of two or more different trees. Grafted trees are common – a rootstock from one type is grafted onto a scion from another, to provide the benefits of both. Sometimes, they are not even the same type of trees. For example, a quince rootstock is often used for pears.

Some grafted trees even have more than one scion, so several varieties of, for example, apples, can be harvested from the same tree.

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