It’s a bumper year for garden fruit growing

The Loch Ness bramble. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
The Loch Ness bramble. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Soft fruits have been exceptional this year and the good news continues, with apples and plums weighing down the branches.

It’s an understatement to say there’s a decent crop of grapes in the greenhouse, and fellow viticulturists tell me they’re enjoying the same experience.

This is turning into a good year for fruit.

Seasonal changes in weather do influence the size of crop and timing of maturity in fruit trees and bushes. I’ve known the Victoria plum flower at the beginning of March one year and early April the next.

When blooming has coincided with a sudden blast of foul weather that grounded pollinating insects, this has been reflected in the yield.

It’s a similar tale with our apples, most of which are self-fertile. In theory, they’ll secure a crop every year, but the difference between that and a bumper crop is down to pollinating insects. You might only have one fruit tree, but can be sure the bees have visited others nearby.

It’s tempting, as gardeners do when they meet, to reflect on days of youth and yore.

The October half-term holiday was affectionately referred to in the past as potato-picking or bramble week because both were ready for harvesting. However, in recent years the blackberries have faded by mid-October.

Thornless, cultivated types were introduced to our gardens decades ago, and we currently grow Loch Ness, which has large black fruit. It arrived as a single plant, but after a two-year settling-in period I chose a leading shoot for propagation.

This was held to the ground by placing a brick over part of the stem with a leaf joint just behind its tip. Nature encourages rooting, and the eventual result is another plant.

This cultivated variety always ripens long before the countryside counterpart, but the time gap is closing.

Picking of Loch Ness began in early August. The harvest will be over in a week or so, but wild brambles along a local bridleway are starting to ripen.

Early success with fruit growing is a powerful motivator, be it a few strawberries cultivated in tower pots on a patio, or trees in a community orchard.

The development of more compact, soft fruit plants, raspberries for example, and dwarfing rootstocks for apples, pears and cherries, make potted orchards possible. It’s a pleasure to see such innovation on my travels.

Friend Dougie has caught the fruit-growing bug via a greenhouse vine that’s at last beginning to drip with bunches. I enjoy updates on the state of a crop, and have even volunteered to be involved in the grape-treading.