Grow Your Own Fruit
2nd edition, 1999
pub. Ken Muir Ltd.
Paperback, 176 pages, £4.99
Anyone setting out on developing a kitchen or fruit garden should grab a copy of Ken Muir's 'Grow Your Own Fruit'. Its 176 pages are packed with important details you need to know about growing fruit, and is written with a simple clarity which will allow even an inexperienced person to pick up information and run with it.
The contents are broken down into colour referenced sections rather than formal chapters, allowing quick identification of fruit types - everything from rhubarb and strawberries, to kiwi fruit, cranberries, grapes, figs and filberts. All of which provides the aspiring fruit grower with a rich variety of species to choose from in addition to lots of know-how.
The first 6 sections cover wider aspects of fruit growing - general considerations such as soil, shelter and protection, pollination, training fruit trees, planting and staking, container grown fruit trees, and rootstock for fruit trees. As with the rest of Ken Muir's guide the pages are illustrated with excellent photographs and clear, unfussy diagrams. The text throughout is generally broken into smallish, digestible chunks that make the pages easy on the eye.
The following 20 sections, beginning with Apples and Pears, form the core of the handbook's content; and clearly represent the long years of hands-on expertise the author has acquired in the fruit growing business.
Each fruit 'Section' begins with by listing a number of varieties, and illustrating a selection of them photographically. The text provides straightforward physical descriptions, details on growing environments, and susceptibilities to disease as well as unvarnished comments on flavour. The entry for the 'Katy' apple variety, for example, includes the comment that 'the flesh is white and crisp but the favour is only fair'.
The use of diagrams is also pretty extensive throughout, but really come into their own when used to illustrate the pruning process. Within a few pages even the amateur can learn how to tackle formative pruning and that for subsequent years, and how to deal with spur and tip bearers to get the best out of the fruit tree. Elsewhere, the section on Strawberries, for instance, has quite a few diagrams showing 'support systems' for the increasingly popular table-top method of growing strawberries; the accompanying text promoting the benefits - heavier cropping, easier picking, and less trouble from disease and pests. In other Sections there are explanations of how to train cane fruit.
Depending on the fruit there is also information on planting and distances, fruit thinning procedures, manuring, with each fruit section always ends with a table highlighting 'Pests, Diseases and Disorders'. Weights and measures are given first in metric form, and then in imperial - for those die-hards who are passionate about retaining inches, feet and yards.
The last 2 sections of the handbook are 'Common Fruiting Problems' and a pretty comprehensive review of 'Pests and Diseases'. Covered are fruiting problems such as unscheduled blossom and fruit drop, and fruit split, while the 'Pests' part includes extensive use of photographs to illustrate each problem. This is ideal for novice gardeners or would-be fruit growers unfamiliar with the nasties which may lurk among the sods and clods of the fruit garden. Accompanying text provides possible solutions.
So, what do we make of 'Grow Your Own Fruit' by Ken Muir. Well, at just £4.99 it could be one of your best gardening investments. It's a great reference source of experienced gardeners, but especially useful for inexperienced folk perhaps setting out on their first fruit growing adventures. And, being A5 format, it's small enough to fit in any large jacket pocket in case you need to refer to it when pottering around the garden.
'Grow Your Own Fruit' is available from Ken Muir Ltd. at the p&p inclusive price of £5.99, or is Free of charge when the first order for fruit plants is placed with the company. Address: Honeypot Farm, Weeley Heath, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. CO16 9BJ