Home Fruit Growing

Course CodeAHT104
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment


Learn to grow a wide variety of different fruits; with limited space in a home garden.

Grow an abundance of fresh fruit, berries and nuts, efficiently and economically. Preserve your harvest and trade or give away excess surplus produce to your friends and neighbours.

Learn how to raise soil fertility, choose the best fruits for your situation, and grow them in a way which controls pests and diseases without using dangerous chemicals.

Cool and warm climate fruits are covered in this course; you are also given the option to concentrate your study on the types of fruits which are of most interest to you.

Lesson Structure

There are 6 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
  2. Soils, site preparation & planning.
  3. General Cultural Practices
  4. Tree Fruits
  5. Nuts and Vines
  6. Berries

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

What You Will Do

  • Research information you can within reason (eg: leaflets, booklets, details about advisory services etc) which relate to fruit growing in your locality.
  • Select part of a home garden where the owner would like to grow fruit. Consider the good and bad points about the site and the suitability of different types of fruits to the situation.
  • Take a sample of soil from an area you might consider growing fruit in. Using the method set out in the gardening manual provided with the course, name the soil.
  • Look at the buds on the wood of three different species of fruit. Draw what you see, and label where you think the buds are fruit buds, and where you think they are vegetative buds.
  • Observe the way in which fruit trees are trained or pruned in your locality.
  • Visit a local hardware store, nursery or irrigation shop and look at drip and micro irrigation equipment which is for sale. Take note of the various components of these systems, how they fit together and how they work.
  • Identify pests and diseases in a garden which you have visited.
  • Select different fruits from those you have read about which are grown in your area. For each one, research which varieties of that fruit are commonly grown, and why they are grown.
  • Plan the development of a berry growing area for a backyard. Contact companies, visit nurseries and check the availability, quality and prices of berry plants you would like to grow on your site (or proposed site).
  • Work with an imaginary site if you do not have a real life situation to deal with.

WHAT FRUIT CAN YOU PLANT IN SPRING?

Fruiting plants are rewarding to grow and add interest and diversity to your garden. A garden bursting with fruit also creates a certain ambiance - a feeling of abundance and fertility; fresh strawberries in summer, flavorsome apples, pears, raspberries and pomegranates in autumn. And as a bonus, your pantry will be overflowing with preserves for those special treats during the winter months. 

There are several things to consider in order or fruit to grow well in any garden: choosing the correct site, the right plants to suit your climate and allocating enough space for each tree or shrub are important decisions, as many fruiting plants are much more permanent than vegetables.

Fruiting trees and shrubs will become a part of the framework of a garden, they can add structure – but if you try to skimp on space they won’t perform as well and will also never look good.   Gardeners are fortunate these days though, as many varieties of fruiting trees, especially the larger growing ones, are available in dwarf forms. Multi-grafted specimens are another option as well, as these have several varieties grafted on the one trunk, often reducing the need to buy a second tree as a pollinator. Some of the taller trees such as apples and pears can also be espaliered and or grown in large pots, which will also reduce their size; good for sites where space is limited such as balcony and courtyard gardens.

Most gardens today therefore, can fit in at least a few fruiting plants and there is a large variety to choose from: creepers like strawberries, cane fruits such as raspberries, climbers and vines including Chinese gooseberry, passionfruit, grapes and various fruiting shrubs such as currants, blueberries, feijoa, trees such as apples, pears, quinces and persimmons, tropical fruits and several varieties of citrus fruit. 

   
Most common deciduous tree fruits take at least 3 to 4 years to crop well from planting.

Strawberries crop well in the first year. Blueberries take several years to produce strongly.

Walnuts and chestnuts can take 5 to 7 years before you get reasonable crops.

People commonly wait until winter, when the plants are dormant, to plant many fruit trees such as deciduous trees and shrubs as many of these are sold bare-rooted then. In spring, these trees may sometimes still be planted though, as a plant growing in a pot. Passionfruit, citrus and other evergreen fruits are more commonly planted in early spring when the soil has warmed up. 

BERRY FRUIT

Berries are a wonderful crop to grow. Unlike other fruits, most berries are small plants, able to be grown in smaller places, they are faster to mature, and often give you a crop in their first year. Though most berries come from temperate climates, you can also grow at least some types in much warmer areas, as long as they receive ample water and appropriate protection.

STRAWBERRIES 

These are one of the most popular berries for home gardens. They can be grown in a wide range of climates ranging from cool temperate regions to cooler positions in tropical areas.

Strawberries bear fruit for up to six months, with each plant yielding up to half a kilogram of delicious fruit each year. Strawberries are used fresh, marketed frozen, processed in foods such as jam and ice cream, or used to flavour drinks such as milkshakes.   

They will benefit from protection against frosts, and against cold and wet conditions during autumn or steamy wet conditions that would encourage fungal rots and other diseases. Movable plastic tunnels known as cloches can give some protection and controlled environment hot houses. A bird net will make sure you get the fruit and not the birds!

Strawberries prefer deep, well drained, slightly acid soils, but avoid heavy clay soils. They are heavy feeders, so apply of large amounts of well-rotted organic matter such as composts and manures, prior to planting – but don’t add too much nitrogen rich fertilizer as you will get a lot of leaf growth at the expense of fruit. Side dressings of blood and bone or cow manure, with a couple of hands of sulphate of potash added per bucket, to stimulate fruit set and applied during active growth periods are also beneficial. Regular watering is also important for good fruit production. 

Strawberries are usually planted form runners in the autumn or late winter. You can buy young plants in pots in spring too, and they may already be fruiting. This is a more expensive option, but is especially rewarding for children.

Installing a trickle irrigation system with individual drippers to each plant will give much higher yields in summer to autumn in warm climates or during dry spells.

Strawberries are prone to a viral disease which makes it necessary to treat plantings as a short term proposition.  Plants are usually cropped for 2‑3 years and then new plantings are carried out using certified virus free runners – it is better not to use runners from your own plants or those of friends as these are bound to be diseases (which only spreads the problem).

Harvest strawberries in the cooler part of the day every second day or so, pick them with the fruit stem intact except when you are making jam. This reduces the likelihood of fungal problems occurring. Store them in cool conditions e.g. fridge. If the berries are to be kept for any length of time they should be frozen. 

 
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Why Study Home Fruit Growing?
 
It is a wonderful, healthy, and satisfying experience, to be able to pick and eat fruit from your own garden.

This course aims to expand your capacity to do just that.

You, like every other student in this course, will have your own very specific desires and needs when embarking upon this course.

From the outset, please understand that the course notes are only part of what you will potentially learn.
The experiences you have through your set tasks, and if you choose, the use of the school’s many support services can provide you with a range of varied learning experiences according to your own specific needs.

HOW THEN DO YOU DECIDE WHAT TO GROW?

It is difficult to go wrong provided you do the following:

  • You must have or learn how to grow the fruits you choose to grow.
  • Check and be sure that you can grow each particular crop cheaper than what you might buy the product for ... BEWARE,
    even though it may seem ridiculous, it is often possible to buy something for less than it might cost you to grow it.
  • Consider the need of alternative crops under consideration and select ones you need most or use most.
  • Consider the crop's keeping quality. Crops which keep for short periods only (eg: Peaches) are more of a risk than ones which keep well (eg: almonds).
  • Consider the relationship between cost outlay and return. Some crops require large capital outlay before any return can be obtained (eg: Walnuts... property & labour etc. can be tied up for up to 10 years before reasonable crops start to be obtained from the trees).
  • How suitable is that crop to the soil & climate of your area.
  • Consider your own experience & technical ability in relation to the ease of production of the particular crop being considered. Some crops are very difficult to grow; others are easy. If you are inexperienced, start with the easy ones.
  • Consider the time the crop takes to mature and length of production of the particular crop considered (eg: strawberries
    can be harvested 6 months after planting if grown correctly. Pear trees take 4 years before you get a worthwhile crop,
    but will keep bearing for over 100 years).
  • What are your existing resources (eg: Manpower, tools, area available, money etc) and what crops are these
    resources suited to.

 

WHO CAN BENEFIT?

  • Hobby farmers
  • Those wanting to live a self sufficient lifestyle
  • The backyard enthusiast
  • Those wanting to set up a fruit garden

 

 

     

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