Apples and pears are some of the most widely cultivated fruits in the UK. The trees are grown on a variety of rootstocks, enabling them to be trained as espaliers in small courtyards and standards in large gardens. Both apple and pear trees flower in early-late spring. Pears are ready to eat mid-late autumn. Apples ripen from late summer to late autumn, depending on the variety.
There are more than 7,500 cultivars of apples. There are three main types of apple tree, producing either: dessert, cooking or cider apples.
English apple varieties include:
- Worcester Pearmain – delicious sweet taste and smell similar to a strawberry
- Bramley’s Seedling – tangy, sharp flavour. Fruit is large and greenish-yellow with light red striping.
- Brown Snout – the fruit is small and green with patches of russet. Produces a mild to medium bittersweet cider
Apple trees can be grown in orchards, large pots, or trained as espaliers along a wall or trellis. If you want to grow your own apples, you will need at least two trees so they fertilise each other and produce more fruit.
Planting Your Apple Tree
Apple trees are normally sold as either one or two year old trees. If you want your tree to produce fruit sooner, buy a tree that’s at least two years old. Dig a hole 1m wide and 1m deep. Part-fill it with home-grown compost and place the roots in it. Tie the tree to a support and fill in the hole with soil, firming gently. Water well, and ensure it is well watered during dry spells. You should have apples within two years.
Varieties of pear include:
- Concorde – self fertile new variety. Taste is similar to the Comice pear but it is much easier to grow
- Conference – well-known, reliable pear, most common variety grown commercially
- Worcester Black – originates in Worcestershire in the 16th Century
The pear is very similar to the apple in cultivation, propagation and pollination. Pear trees are naturally very deep rooting. As such they suit a light, sandy soil. However many pear cuttings are grafted onto quince trees, which are more shallow rooted. These are more suited to growing in large pots and damp, clay soils.
Pear trees can be grown in orchards, large pots or as espalier trees against a wall or trellis. Like apple trees, if you choose to grow your own pears you will need at least two trees to ensure the flowers are fertilised to produce fruit.
For espalier-trained trees you can buy a year-old tree and train it yourself, by pruning the branches so the tree grows flat against the wall in a fan shape or along horizontal lines. You can also buy trees that are two or three years old and already trained. This will have the additional advantage of bearing fruit more quickly.
Planting Your Pear Tree
Pear trees are best planted in autumn, and should be placed roughly 10m apart, although dwarf trees can be spaced just 6m apart. They should be placed in a sunny position in well-drained, rich soil.
Dig a hole, 1m wide and 1m deep. Part-fill it with home-grown compost and place the tree in it. Tie the tree to a support and fill in the hole with soil, firming gently. Water well, and ensure it is well watered during dry spells. You should have pears within two years.