A chilly month normally but a good time to think about adding some permanent fruit to your garden. Fruit trees and bushes take very well when planted out in the dormant season.
Now is a good time to plant out soft fruit bushes such as blackcurrants and blueberries. Bearing in mind the school holidays, late cropping varieties are best. If you have raised beds don’t use up the space with fruit bushes as it is unnecessary and takes up too much room. Fruit bushes will be happy in open soil which has been improved with compost or manure. Choose a sheltered and sunny position if possible. Plant 1.5m (5ft) apart.
Fruit trees, once established create a food growing legacy in any school. They will be there, and productive for at least a generation all being well. Modern varieties of fruit trees don’t need to take up a lot of room.
Developed for smaller gardens, lots of varieties are now available on dwarfing rootstock which means you can fit more in, the fruit is easier to pick and the trees are simple to prune. Dwarf fruit trees and columnar fruit trees can be grown in large pots.
Heritage and native varieties of fruit are important, and if you have the room then choose a traditional variety. Heritage varieties are also available of dwarfing rootstocks now if bought from a specialist supplier such as Brogdale or Irish Seed Savers.
You can read more about root stocks, but basically the smaller ones are:
To add to the complication, fruit trees bloom at different times so require a pollinator which blooms at around the same time. Fruit trees are categorised into flowering groups though, early, mid and late season. Think about a variety of apples, plums, pears etc. which will help pollinate each other.
If you only have room for one tree, chose a self-fertile one. Family fruit trees can also be purchased with 3 varieties grafted onto the same tree.
Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, but since it is usually eaten in sweet dishes, we normally think of it as a fruit – and what a useful fruit it is too. Rhubarb plants need no special care and once established will produce rhubarb stalks throughout the summer and into autumn for many years. Rhubarb crowns should be planted between late November and late March, although potted plants can be planted almost any time, except in mid-summer if there is noone there to water the new plants regularly.