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.
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 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.
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.
‘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)
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?
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’.
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.
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.
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