Monday, 10 February 2014

How to grow a 'fruiting hedge'

Don’t waste space on the practical but ultimately useless hawthorn, beech or laurel. Plant instead a wonderful wall of fruiting delights! With some consideration to suitable inclusions this is a very easy method of growing and it’s great not only for you, but for the birds as well.
There are two forms of fruiting hedge. A more naturalistic and less formal one, and the closer, more cropped method using columnar fruit trees. The latter are planted at optimum density which is 2’ apart and trimmed once each summer with all side laterals being cropped to about 6 inches for this method of growing. You can incorporate any varieties of apple, pear, plum, cherry, damson and greengage but you must purchase column trees for it to be successful. After establishment the trees can be self supporting and pruning is quick and easy. Some professionals using this method simply go over the row with a pair of sheers. This method is extraordinarily productive and a single line of 10 trees, needing just 20’ in length can produce literally hundreds of ib’s of fruit when established, for 15 years or more. Because the rootstocks used for this type of tree are dwarfing/miniature then they do not take quite so much moisture from the soil and do not cast too much shade. With the benefit of all that extra sunshine, the fruits are large and extra sweet and tasty. This method can be restricted to 6-8’ in height or allowed to grow a little taller if liked.
The other method is less formal and involves more of a naturalistic approach but of course it does take up a bit more room. Whereas the columnar trees will only take up about 3’ width space all round, the natural mixed fruiting hedge would need 6’ or more in width but the effect, and fruiting capabilities can be very fine. You can incorporate crab apples, elder bushes, damsons, cherry plum, bullace, sour cherry and hazels and cobnuts, but also some more conventional trees such as apple and plum. Use semi vigorous rootstocks for the latter which will tolerate hard pruning once a year in common with the rest of the inhabitants.
A fruiting hedge can be a wonderful very productive addition to the garden and it is also ideal for wildlife.

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