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 Choosing what you want to grow.

In hindsight this is the most important step to growing your own fruit. Since we have a large garden we could choose anything we wanted. We made lists of the trees and bushes we wanted to plant, and as we thought about it for longer we added others to it.

Our garden has bedrock just below the surface in places, which makes it awkward to plant trees. This had to be thought about carefully as some tree roots grow down and some spread just below the surfact of the soil.

The soil in our garden is very fine, almost clay like in appearance, but normally it is bone dry so the top layer just blows away in the wind, leaving the broken down bedrock at the surface.

Water is a big issue for us and young trees need lots of water to grow.

Developing the soil

We decided where we wanted to plant and what we wanted to plant, problem was how to improve the soil enough to enable the year old trees to establish themselves effectively. Luckily for us we have a sheep and goat paddock at the back of our house. We asked the shepherd if he minded us using their dung. We now had a constant supply of old and fresh manure.

We set up compost bins where all the weeds and left over foodstuff went. It didn´t work very well as it is far too hot here for it to break down. We had to cover the compost and water it to enable the bacteria to have the right conditions in which to do their job.

We also bought bags of compost to place in each planting hole to give the roots a soft medium in which to start spreading.

As time progressed and we needed to add compost and manure to the soil, we realised that we would need something to contain the additions. We could not possibly do the whole garden, so back to the rock theme.

We found rocks from around the garden and built little circles around the base of each tree. This enabled us to put the compost and manure just where it was needed.

It also made weeding that much easier, as now the weeds had a barrier in which they had to cross before they could establish themselves. It also made strimming the garden easier as we had a barrier to strim against without catching the trunks of the trees.

We have tried desperately not to use any sprays or pesticides in our garden as we want organic produce. We had a massive problem with blackfly on the fruit trees the first year. We read somewhere that garlic and herbs can act as a deterent for these insects and that wild flowers draw them away from the trees. This year in the spring we planted 4 cloves of garlic in every circle around the tree and guess what? No black fly!!!!

We are now considering planting herbs patches all around the garden, to look wild but keep the pests at bay. Also I have wild flower seeds being delivered that will just be thrown around the garden next spring. These will help attract the insects that eat the green and blackfly and so our problem should be a thing of the past.

 

2 litre watering bottle

Watering

For all you people out there in civilization, watering is not a problem as you have a constant supply from the mains connection. For us however, it is a massive problem as all we have is what we can collect from the rainfall.

Fruit trees need water, especially when they are producing fruit. If they don´t get enough the fruits will fall early and the crop will be lost. A spanish friend told us about flooding the land once every 2 weeks, but this meant a water delivery and us spending 87 euros every month on water. This was not an option. Researching the needs of trees we found that the average tree needs 2 litres of water everyday. What we decided to do was recycle plastic pop bottles to make 2 litre containers that we could fill everyday. These were planted with each tree with the neck of the bottle being burried as close to the roots as was possible. This was a bit of a brainwave, it enables us to keep track of the water usage as well as ensuring the trees get an adequate supply of water.

It has been very effective in that all our trees produced some fruit in their second year of growth.

Soft fruit

Soft fruits can be used for many things, eating raw, jams, wines and putting in delicious recipes. Depending on the plants you have, you have to think about soil conditions as some fruit bushes, like blueberries, prefer an acid soil and will not grow in alkaline soils at all. We have an alkaline soil here so if we want to grow these types of fruit bushes we would have to grow them in pots.

When we planted our bushes we did exactly the same as with the trees, using compost in the planting hole and covering the top with compost too. This allowed the bushes to spread their roots and enables the soil to stay moist under the layer of mulch. We also put rocks around them to keep the weeds at bay and help with watering.

 We have realised this year that the place that we decided to plant them is too hot during the summer. As you can see from the photos some of the plants are really struggling and this is because of the strong heat from the sun and hardly any shade until the early evening.

We are thinking about taking cuttings and growing the bushes around the back of the house where there is more shade for them, as the cutting we took is thriving there this year. This will mean building more planters specially for these bushes but then they can be moved in the winter to ensure they get the sunlight required to produce fruit.

 

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