Growing Fruit Trees and Bushes

Even apple trees can be grown in
containers. However, it is essential to
water them every day, and at least
twice on hot dry days.

Fruit tends to be the poor relation in the garden, possibly because it can take up large amounts of space. However, fresh fruit is even more delightful than fresh vegetables 
and it need not take up as much space as you might think.

Where to grow your fruit

The traditional place to grow fruit is in a fruit garden, a separate area of the garden that is devoted to fruit. This has one especial advantage in that it can be completely protected in a fruit cage. Scattering the fruit over the whole garden means that individual plants have to be protected, which can be rather tedious.

Apart from the protection they require, however, there is no reason for keeping 
the fruit together. In a decorative kitchen 
garden, fruit can be mixed in with the 
vegetables, trees and standard bushes providing visual height in individual beds. Many fruit trees can also be grown along walls or fences, and they can be used as dividers or screens between various parts of the garden. If you have a small garden and want a shady tree to sit under, why not plant an apple tree rather than a species that is solely ornamental?

Choosing fruit

As long as it will grow in your garden, there is nothing to prevent you choosing whatever fruit you want. There is a slight complication in that some tree fruits need pollinators to make sure that the fruit is set, and this means that if you want a particular apple you may have to have another apple to act as a pollinator. This may not be necessary if your neighbour has a compatible tree.

Planting a fruit tree or bush: When planting a fruit tree or bush, always ensure that 
it is planted at the same depth as it was in its container or in its nursery bed.

Picture of Patio Planting

Tying in a newly planted tree: Using tree ties, ensure that a newly planted tree is firmly anchored to a stake. Attach the tie approximately 30cm/12in above the ground.

Garden Planning

Top-dressing fruit bushes: In the autumn, and again in the spring, top-dress fruit bushes with a layer of well-rotted organic material such as farmyard manure.

Garden Planning

Mulching strawberries: Strawberries can be grown through a black polythene (plastic) mulch. This not only protects the fruit from mud-splashes, but also reduces the need for weeding and watering.

Strawberries can be grown in containers.

If these are kept under glass, as here,
then an early crop can be obtained.

Ground preparation

Most fruit trees and bushes are likely to remain in the ground for a long time and so it is important that the soil is thoroughly prepared. It is particularly important that all perennial weeds are removed. If any small piece is left in the ground it is bound to regrow and is likely to be difficult to extract from around the roots of the tree or bush without digging them up.

Another reason for preparing the ground thoroughly is to make sure that there is plenty of organic material tucked right down among the roots of the plants. This will help keep the soil moist as well as giving a continuous supply of nutrients until the plants are established. Once the tree and shrubs are planted, any organic material will have to be applied to the soil’s surface and taken down by the worms. Double dig the soil if possible, incorporating as much well-rotted organic material as you can spare. Take this opportunity to make sure that all perennial weeds are removed. If the ground is heavy and it is likely to be difficult to remove the weeds, spraying some time before digging may be the only answer to cleaning the soil.


As long as the weather is neither too wet 
nor too cold the best time to plant fruit 
trees and bushes is between late autumn and mid-spring. If bare-rooted plants are delivered when it is impossible to plant, heel them into a spare piece of the vegetable 
garden until they can be planted in their 
permanent position. Container-grown plants can be planted at other times of the year, but they need more attention to make sure that they survive.

Fruit trees and bushes should be planted to the same depth as they were in their pots or nursery bed when you purchased them. If a tree needs staking, place the stake in 
the ground before planting. Water the plants in thoroughly and keep them watered in dry weather until they are firmly established. Apply a mulch around the base of the plant in order to help preserve moisture as well as to keep the weeds down. Remove any weeds that do appear.

Try to keep a record of what you have planted. Fruit trees and bushes often outlive any label that comes with them, and it is often annoying when asked for the variety of an apple or raspberry, for example, when you cannot remember. A notebook with details of the variety, where you purchased the plant as well as the date on which you planted it, will be of future interest.