Grow A Little Fruit Tree by Ann Ralph
Publisher: Storey Publishing
‘Grow A Little Fruit Tree’ extols the virtues of growing smaller fruit trees, advocating the use of pruning, rather than relying on rootstocks, to keep fruit trees small. The author recommends growing fruit trees that are a manageable height and size, around the height of the tree’s owner or guardian, so that all parts of the tree are within reach and the tree is accessible for both pruning and harvesting without the need for a stepladder. Growing little fruit trees makes good sense, as the author points out – smaller trees naturally take up less space; in the space that a single, large fruit tree occupies you could grow a number of little fruit trees, enabling you to grow a variety of different fruits, with the option of a longer harvest season depending on your selection. The Author believes small fruit trees are will also be healthier.
This is not a book which will help you select a specific apple variety to grow in your garden, instead this book will give you the knowledge and confidence to prune your chosen apple, or other fruit tree, and grow a small, beautiful fruit tree. This is a book about encouraging gardeners to grow small fruit trees in their gardens and then explaining how to do just that. The author gives advice on a universal method of pruning deciduous fruit trees, taking the similarities of pruning the different fruits and expressing these to the reader. The author advocates pruning at the time of the summer solstice in June to reduce the height of the tree, explaining how winter pruning encourages growth and height and summer pruning decreases vigour.
Ann Ralph understands the difficulty gardeners face when choosing, planting and pruning their fruit trees, she knows that the method this book details is hard for gardeners to carry through. Understanding that gardeners are naturally drawn to the tallest, strongest looking tree at the nursery and are naturally hesitant to make any severe pruning cuts, as she advises, the author gives such clear instructions and considered explanations; I feel these would reassure even the most nervous of gardeners to happily follow her advice. The pruning steps and process are so clearly and calmly explained that they would install confidence in even the most nervous of novice gardeners.
The Little Fruit Tree gives clever tips for gardeners – using water bottles as homemade, adjustable weights and clothes pegs, or trimmings from the tree, as spacers to encourage horizontal growth in young trees. There are good ideas to ensure you make the best pruning cuts, as well as advice on watering, mulching and fertilising.
The book gives clear advice on initial pruning and planting with continued step-by-step advice at different times of the year, for future years, starting in year one, then advice for year two and beyond. This clear, concise advice will install confidence and knowledge to new gardeners and fruit growers, with clear explanations and instructions as to how pruning at different times of the year affects trees in different ways and advice on which parts of the tree to prune when.
It’s a shame that the information on rootstocks is right at the back of the book, just after the glossary, it’s easy to miss it! For some gardeners it may seem controversial to use pruning rather than rootstock to control the size of the tree, but after experiencing problems myself using fruit trees with very dwarfing rootstocks I am super keen and excited to give this method a try!
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