Clumber Gardener: Know your apples for home-grown success

Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park
Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park

In addition to the satisfaction of growing, cooking and eating home-grown produce, growing your own fruit and vegetables allows you to choose varieties for their flavour, as well as their suitability for your garden, writes Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park in Worksop.

This is especially the case with apples.

Clumber Park’s collection conserves apples from the East Midlands and Yorkshire, growing 72 varieties in total.

To decide which apples to grow, it is worth visiting an apple day event, many of which take place around the time of the UK’s National Apple Day on October 21.

The best events will have apple varieties for you to sample and expert apple growers to recommend the best varieties for your area.

Once you’ve made your choice, think about some of the practicalities of growing your own.

First question will probably be ‘where can I buy a tree from?’

Specialist fruit nurseries will have the best choice of varieties and many will sell plants bare-root from November.

Varieties, like Bramley’s Seedling and Cox’s Orange Pippin are grafted on to a rootstock.

It is essential to know which rootstock, as this will determine how big your tree will grow.

The same variety could reach 12ft or 20ft, depending on rootstock.

For smaller gardens, the rootstocks M26 and MM106 will reach a height of, respectively, about 12ft and 15ft.

Your tree will need another, different, apple variety to pollinate it in order to produce fruit.

If there are apple trees in your neighbours’ gardens which flower at the same time, you should be okay.

Crab apples also make good pollinators.

Bare root trees can be planted into prepared soil between November and early March.

It is now October so keep an eye on the weather forecasts for the first autumn frosts.

Lift tender perennials such as dahlias, cannas and gladioli before the cold weather damages them.

If you heat your greenhouse over the winter, put up insulation and check your heater is working properly.

Prune blackberries and hybrid berries such as Loganberries and Tayberries by cutting back the old fruited canes to ground level and tying canes produced this year to supports.

October can be a good time to plant container grown hardy perennials and shrubs as, in warm, moist soil plants can establish and make good root growth before the onset of cold winter weather.

In mild weather, grass will continue growing and will need cutting.

Raise the height your mower blades to just over one inch (2.5 centimetres).