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Guerrilla gardening - fruit bushes/small trees/other

Discussion in 'Edible Gardening' started by Graham B, Mar 22, 2021.

  1. Graham B

    Graham B Gardener

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    I live next to a small "common" field, which theoretically is maintained by some committee, but in practice is maintained by me when it comes to making sure people can get in and out of the gates. Some of it is gravelled for car parking, and the rest is just grass and weeds. There's a section by a wall, next to a gravelled bit by one gate, which has a kind of "border" of weed grass, nettles and brambles. I've been keeping this trimmed and/or weedkillered, so that the gate isn't blocked.

    I've got some offcuts of sleepers left over from my raised beds project. It occurred to me that I could use them along the side of this bit to neaten it up. And it then occurred to me that I could do something afterwards to make the whole thing more appealing for everyone. Anywhere else this might be controversial, but no-one has seen hide nor hair of the people who are supposed to look after the place, so I doubt they'd even notice.

    What I thought of was a mini orchard. A few bomb-proof fruit bushes or mini trees would be rather fun for everyone. And planting wild strawberries as ground cover would stop the weeds taking over again.

    I'm perfectly happy to throw a few quid at some cheap fruit bushes/trees. I'd like to poll the group for what people would recommend though, because I'm not dead experienced in this area. It needs to be fairly tasty, something which people would pick, but also something which is pretty bomb-proof when it comes to dry weather, winds, and general neglect. I'm fine with pruning, but I can't carry endless watering cans over there. It's next to a 10ft wall (backing onto an electricity substation), so vine eyes are a possibility if needed, and it's in full sun from about 11am. The soil is pretty free draining, and this area rarely waterlogs.

    What would anyone suggest? 2-3 apple trees on smaller rootstock would be my starting point. Any ideas for anything else though?
     
  2. noisette47

    noisette47 Total Gardener

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    Hello Graham, what a lovely, public-spirited idea! Are bare-root fruit trees still available in UK at the moment? That's the economical way to buy fruit trees and bushes. They also establish better, with one really good soaking after planting, although you will still need to keep an eye on them this summer. How about a couple of apples, a couple of pears and a self-fertile cherry on Colt dwarf rootstock? Stella is a good variety.
    Here's a link to the RHS's pollination guide, for choosing compatible varieties...https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/pdfs/ApplePollinationGroups.pdf
    As for soft fruit, blackcurrants are easy to grow but a bit fiddly to pick. A thornless gooseberry variety? Raspberries would need a couple of posts with wires to tie the canes into. They might 'run' on light soil.
    Whatever you decide on, it would be worth preparing the spot by either digging out or glyphosating the perennial weeds. If the latter, leave the remains as long as possible, to make sure that the roots have been killed off.
    Some sort of thick, weed-seed-free mulch will help a lot to prevent competition and conserve moisture while the young trees are getting established.
     
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    • Graham B

      Graham B Gardener

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      Thanks noisette. Can't believe I didn't think of raspberries - I pick them every time if I see them when I'm walking. Considering about a quarter of the place is waist high weeds, there's no great loss if they spread a bit.

      I'm a bit late now for bare root stuff. Thanks for the tip though. Maybe the best idea would be clearing the area over the summer, and plant with bare root trees in autumn.

      Cherries seem to be prone to birds around here - our neighbour just planted one last year and lost its entire first crop to them. Apples and pears are worth a go though. I did think about plums, but that's just asking for infestations of wasps which isn't ideal where people are walking. And raspberries would be perfect in a space where you don't want things encroaching too much.
       
    • shiney

      shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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      It sounds as though espalier fruit trees would be suitable. :blue thumb:
       
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      • Graham B

        Graham B Gardener

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        Yes, I've thought about espaliering. I'm concerned about creating a maintenance problem for keeping them trained though. I'm fine with a bit of maintenance, but I don't want it to be excessive. I've got a full size apple tree which I'm still in the process of restoring after 6 years, and I don't want that much work somewhere else.
         
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        • noisette47

          noisette47 Total Gardener

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          Wasn't sure how much of a hurry you're in, but yes, clearing the area ready for autumn planting would be ideal :) Plums = wasps to me too :biggrin: I read recently that it's not advisable to plant raspberries and strawberries close together, because of the risk of botrytis passing from one to the other, but no personal experience of this.
          Another tip: If you can get hold of some clay and some manure, make up a slurry with water, in a big bucket. Swish the roots of the plants round thoroughly in this mixture, then plant as usual. It works really well for bare-root planting :blue thumb:
           
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          • Graham B

            Graham B Gardener

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            Cool, I'll give that a go. Ironically this is the first house (out of 5) where the garden isn't full of clay! I can try something similar with my loamy soil though.

            Re the strawberries, I was planning on wild (alpine) strawberries, so there's not such an issue with larger bits of fruit getting rot. It's not uncommon to find them near each other in the wild anyway. And they're a brilliantly effective ground cover plant, as I found when I put them in my first garden. A complete sod to keep under control in a garden, but outside they're fighting it out with nettles, so I'm happy for them to spread wherever they want.
             
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