Grow your own figs & grapes for delicious summer & autumn fruits

Grow your own figs and grapes

Holidaymakers buying plants or collecting plant material as holiday souvenirs often bring home more than they bargained for and unwittingly transport pests, diseases, or invasive species into the UK; causing lasting, and sometimes irreversible, problems for themselves and UK horticulture as a whole.

Instead, make your holiday excitement last all summer, every year, with UK grown plants that will flourish inside your conservatory or glasshouse, at your garden or allotment.  Grapevines and figs are self-fertile; you only need one plant to grow your own fruit.

Figs are very versatile plants; they can be grown as free standing shrubs, small trees, or trained as climbers.

Ficus carica (figs)

Ficus carica (figs) form magnificent trees or shrubs, with handsome, decorative leaves.  Plants grown outside produce one harvest, but figs grown inside a conservatory or glasshouse produce two harvests of figs, each year.

Figs can also be grown outside in the garden or at an allotment. Alternatively, figs can be grown inside a conservatory or glasshouse.

Planting figs

Figs grow best in warm, sheltered sunny locations; they can be grown in containers or planted in any well-drained soil.  For optimum fruit production, restrict your fig’s roots in a planter, or use five slabs to construct a planting pit in the soil, using one slab as the base, and the other slabs to make up the sides.

If you want to grow a harvest of delicious figs, it’s important to prune your plants correctly. If you’re a regular reader, you won’t need to worry about forgetting to prune your fig plants, as I always include full instructions in my monthly gardening advice.

When fig tree stems are cut or damaged they bleed white sap or latex, which is an irritant.  So, wear gloves whilst pruning your plants, and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

Sun-ripened figs are one of the garden’s late summer treats!

‘Noire de Caromb’ produces dark-violet coloured, small-medium-sized, sweet, pink-fleshed figs.  Grow ‘Rouge de Bordeaux’ under glass, for a harvest of delectable red-fleshed figs.

Vitis vinifera (grapevines)

Grapes ripening on the vine.

Grapevines prosper during warm, dry, idyllic summers.  Choose cultivars suited to their situation (grapevines can be grown outside, inside a cold or heated glasshouse or in a heated conservatory) and you’ll enjoy harvests of leaves for dolmades and grapes.  Why not make your own wine?

Grapevines can be very productive.

Planting grapevines

South-facing slopes are an ideal spot for a grapevine.  Grapevines flourish in sunny, warm, sheltered gardens and well-drained soils.  Avoid compacted or waterlogged soils.  When planting, add wood ash and a general-purpose fertiliser (like Growmore), and apply a mulch of good quality, peat-free compost.

The main pruning time for grapevines is December.  Freestanding grapevines and container grown plants are trained using the Guyot System.  While wall-trained vines are pruned following the ‘rod and spur system’.

Grapevines produce a harvest of grapes and vine leaves. The first leaves the vines produce can be used in cooking – they’re delicious!

Growing grapes inside glasshouses and conservatories

Sweeter grapes can be grown under glass, where good ventilation is essential to keep the plants growing healthily.  Grapevines can be grown along the ridge and sides of a conservatory or greenhouse; leaving plenty of room for seating or planting underneath.  ‘Black Hamburg’ produces delicious grapes under glass.

Grapevines can be grown outside at an allotment, in the garden, or inside a conservatory or glasshouse. They key to success is choosing a cultivar that’s suited to the situation you’re offering – a grapevine that is best suited to growing in a heated conservatory is unlikely to be as successful when grown outdoors.

Growing grapevines outside

Outdoors: grapevines can be trained along walls or fences, they’ll clothe arches and pergolas.  Alternatively, grapevines can be grown lowdown at the front of a sunny border, trained horizontally above paving slabs, where they’ll bask in heat the stones radiate from the sunshine.

Purchasing an outdoor grapevine?  Consider ‘Phoenix’ or ‘Bianca’: varieties with excellent mildew resistance.  ‘Suffolk Red’ is seedless, ‘Dornfelder’ displays fiery autumn leaves, and ‘Fragola’ produces grapes with a delightfully fresh strawberry flavour.

This article was first published in the May 2020 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.

Other articles that may interest you………….

For gardening advice for mid-May to mid-June, please click here.

For tips on growing pumpkins and other vegetables to sow in May, please click here.

To read an article I wrote about long flowered plants that are great for bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and other pollinating insects, please click here.

For advice on growing Wisteria, please click here.

For information on beautiful decorative edible plants, please click here.

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