Wednesday 3rd August was very educational during the Balbriggan Grow It Yourself group tour of Ardgillan Walled Garden by head gardener Domenica Mc Kevitt, of which I was delighted to be a part. The tour took in the all the sections of the garden covering flowers and shrubs, fruit trees and bushes, vegetables of all sorts and a huge selection of herbs too.

In my small kitchen garden I need to replace my ‘Conference’ pear tree, which never thrived for me, with a fig tree perhaps. After the GIY tour of Ardgillan Castle gardens near Balbriggan, I now have options of apple, pear, plum, cherry or fig.

To grow apple against a wall, parallel wires are strung horizontally about a foot apart. The newly planted sapling is cut back to the height just above the first side branch, which is trained along the lowest length of wire. As the tree grows the next side branch which suits the wire height is chosen to be tied  along that length. As apples fruit on the same wood year after year, this espalier system works for apples as it works also for pears.

Espalier growing does not work for plums and cherries. For a start, this group of fruits does not like being pruned and summer is the only time to prune them if you have to. Plums and cherries can be grown against a wall, but only as a fan, not as an espalier. This cherry family of trees fruit on newer wood only. After maybe three years fruiting on a particular branch, that branch ceases to fruit. Meanwhile newer branches grow. As old branches cease fruiting, newer branches develop which will fruit, so these need to become part of the fan, while older branches can be pruned off. Remember only prune plums and cherries in the Summer period only.

As for figs, their main need seems to be having their roots confined. Otherwise they apparently focus on leaf growth instead of producing fruit. In this regard my garden is perfect, at least in the root department. The semicircular stone pots along the west facing wall.#

Now all I have to do is find two organically certified fig trees in pots small enough to grow in Trevor’s Kitchen Garden.


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