Grow Your Own Plum Tree

 Grow Plum Tree

Grow Plum Tree
Plum Tree

The best time to plant any fruit tree is between November and March when you are able to purchase bare rooted trees which are cheaper than pot grown ones and generally much stronger. Go to a reputable Nurseryman or Garden Centre and always ask if there are any varieties that do well locally or any that do badly ! This can save you a lot of disappointment. Make sure that the root stock used for budding the trees is St Julien A. This stock will give the best protection against disease and control the size of the tree – Try and avoid St Julien Pixy or Myrobalan.

The best way to grow plum trees in a typical suburban garden is to grow them as’ trained trees’

By trained trees I mean not simply planting a bush or half standard tree in one spot and letting it develop, but planting a fan trained  tree against a sunny sheltered wall or fence, and keeping them restricted to that area. My reasons for suggesting this are as follows . Plums need quite a lot of attention if you are going to get the best out of them, having them ‘kept captive’ as it were makes life a lot easier . Another reason is that they have a very twiggy growth habit and grown as a tree they are difficult to harvest .

  • Soil preparation for planting you plum is, as always , quite important. Make sure the site is well drained. Incorporate a good measure of organic mater into the area , either well composted  manure
  • or a peat based multi-purpose compost – I would not recommend garden compost in this instance as it might have some pathogens in it that could give rise to Silver Leaf disease.
  • Choosing your tree is very important ; you can purchase ready  formed fan trained trees, or you can be a bit more adventurous and buy a strong 2 yr bush  and train it yourself . To do this you will need

to attach heavy duty galvanized wire to the wall or fence using strong vine eyes or strong hooks. Secure the wires  at 15 cm spacings . Make sure the wire is well tensioned – you can buy straining bolts for this purpose. Plant your tree about 40 cm away from the wall or fence making sure to firm it well in with the sole of your boot, and also making sure it is planted at the same depth as it was previously. If you have bought a fan trained tree then tie-in the branches  were they cross the wires using a soft ‘tube string ‘ or if you are starting with a bush tree then choose an even number of branches on each side of the main stem and tie these on the wires to form a ‘fan’ shape. If there are any branches that point forward or backwards and cannot be trained  then just remove them with some sharp secateurs as close to the main stem as possible. Finally, once the tree is planted and tied in, top dress with a large mug full of Bone Meal and scuffle this into the surface .

Pruning the tree thereafter is really just a matter of selecting each winter some branches that can be tied in to increase the size of the fan, and then remove any surplus growth. After a few years , when you have completely filled the space with the fan, all you need to do is trim away any growth that is not required for the framework of the tree; this is best done during the winter months. To help to reduce the risk of Silver Leaf disease affecting the tree always seal any pruning cuts with a sealing compound such as Arbrex Seal and Heal.

What varieties should you grow ? Most plums are self fertile and I would strongly recommend that you go for one of these, partly because plums flower very early in the year and if the weather at that time is not very clement , and there are not a lot of insects about ,you may have to assist with the pollination and this is a lot easier with just one or two varieties to deal with. If you do need to hand pollinate then a soft paint brush , or better still a rabbits tail , is ideal ; just go round and dab all the flowers when they are fully opened and the job is done ! Everyones favorite variety is of course Victoria. However it does have a couple of small drawbacks; you will need to thin the fruit if the crop becomes too cluttered otherwise you may find the following year you get very little or no fruit at all, and also Victoria is more prone to disease than many other varieties – but still well worth having! Another worth trying is Opal, an excellent desert variety, or for a cooking variety you cannot beat Czar – very reliable and disease resistant.

Birds and wasps can be a nuisance when the fruit starts to ripen, so I would strongly recommend

that you cover the trees with some Horticultural Fleece or fine netting as the fruit starts to ripen . The easiest way to do this is make a light frame with some battening and hang this over the trees on some long hooks so it can be easily removed ; this makes it a lot easier to get to the fruit when  picking.

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