Sustainable fruit tree farm

Sustainable fruit tree farm

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Sustainable fruit tree farm

This is a brief summary of the experience of an innovative tree farm managed by a local community in the Cotswolds of Oxfordshire, UK. The community wanted a source of produce that was socially, ecologically and economically sustainable as well as a source of income for themselves. The tree farm, in partnership with another, will provide both, all of which will be produced using organic practices.

The Community Garden

The Greenacre Garden is one of many community gardens in the district of Oxford and has been in operation for nearly 15 years. It has been the subject of several recent publications [1][2] and is a good model of a long established community based organic garden, which has now begun to expand in the light of growing demand from surrounding areas.

In 1996 the council of Oxford, which includes the Oxfordshire village, decided to start growing fruit and vegetables for local consumption in the city itself, to save on import bills. The council bought a site in the centre of the city and built a huge glasshouse which can be closed in the winter. It was a good site to start because of the high population density, and the site was a reasonable distance from the Greenacre garden. The Greenacre garden is a mixed vegetable garden but with many fruit trees in its orchard. They were originally all apple trees, but gradually replaced these by apricots, peaches and cherries, as well as two varieties of plum. The Greenacre garden has always been a community enterprise, and it now includes a number of community members, the local nursery, the local school and the local church. It is owned by Oxford City Council.

Fruit Trees in Oxfordshire

There are three main types of fruit trees grown in Oxfordshire. Of these the most common are the plum, cherry, and pear. The latter two are relatively hardy, but the plum is usually thought of as a tree that should be kept where it is. We have also had problems with apple trees in the past, and they have not proved particularly hardy or disease-resistant. Other species of fruit, such as the apricot, the peach, and the apple varieties such as Cox's orange, are fairly easy to grow from seed in a home garden, and can be encouraged by planting them out in the autumn.

Fruit Trees in Oxford for the Spring and Summer

For fruit to be available for eating as summer starts, it must be picked while it is ripe, and stored or processed until it is fully ripe, otherwise it will go bad. It is now usual for commercial growers to treat fruit with chemicals to delay the ripening process, but this is not necessary in a home or community garden. In this case the fruit is usually left in the field until it is fully ripe and then it is picked, stored and eaten straight away. There are some fruit varieties that do not ripen properly, and these should be stored in a refrigerator for best flavour and eating qualities. There is some debate over how long the fruit needs to be refrigerated, but many people feel that the best quality is obtained after a couple of weeks.

In our garden we have plums, which we pick early in the morning before it gets too hot. We then spread them out on wooden frames to dry out overnight, although the frames have to be placed inside when the sun is strong. During the hot, dry days of summer, you do need to protect them from the sun and you must also ensure that they are free from predators such as birds and slugs.

The plum is one of the easier fruit trees to grow, although it does need a deep root system to be successful. For a start we planted the trees in the autumn, and the fruit needs to be picked fairly early, and eaten quickly after ripening, or the fruit can deteriorate. It is also worth remembering to pick all the plums before they start to ripen to ensure maximum flavour and nutrients. The fruit should also be stored in a refrigerator until ready for eating.


### Fruit Trees For Home and Community Garden

There are many varieties of fruit trees that are suitable to grow from seed in the home or community garden. Unfortunately, not all the varieties are suited to the conditions in which we live, so it is always a good idea to first study the variety before planting the tree.

The majority of fruit trees will fruit and continue to produce long after they have been harvested and will not need pruning. Therefore, the aim is to establish the tree before harvest. Once you have the tree established, you need to think about where the fruit will be stored. As mentioned, a refrigerator is probably a necessity, but if you have an area of your garden set aside for growing fruit trees and it is not possible to store them in a refrigerator, then an icebox is also a good option. An icebox is a small metal box that is placed into an ice-filled area (which keeps the fruit cool). You will need to use a water sprinkler in the summer or watering cans to water the trees every two or three days, but you don't want to water the roots in case the tree is growing in soil that is quite wet.

We have listed some of the fruit varieties below to help you to choose the one that is best suited to your own conditions and lifestyle. However, we suggest you take a good look at the variety before planting, as they are not all suited to garden conditions.

* Pomegranates (Punica granatum)

Pomegranate trees are best suited to a well-drained soil with plenty of sunshine. Fruit is available all year and the leaves are edible.

* Avocados (Persea americana)

Avocados can be grown year-round if they have plenty of sunshine, but for maximum ripening you need to keep them at night in a heated greenhouse or polytunnel. The leaves can be used in salads and soups and the fruit is a favourite to make guacamole.

* Grapes (Vitis vinifera)

Grapes have very short growing seasons, so you should ensure that you plant your trees in the spring or early summer and are prepared to give them some frost protection in winter. The leaves are quite edible and can be used in salads or in a dressing made from the vinegar.

* Apples (Malus pumila)

Apple trees are also frost sensitive, but not as short-lived as grape varieties, and apples need little or no protection in winter. The leaves can be used in salads or stir-fries, and the fruit can be used fresh or in jams.

## How to grow

Grow your fruits and vegetables in a garden that provides the perfect environment, with lots of direct sunlight, a free-draining soil, warmth in winter and access to water. You don't need a huge garden – a 2 x 2 metre plot will do. Don't use manure unless you are advised to do so. Do not grow fruit and vegetables at the same time in the same area. Keep your fruit trees and vegetables in separate pots so that you don't need to worry about disease or insects being transmitted. If you have a raised bed, then use it for vegetables, if you have a raised container or a frame, then put your fruit trees in there.

* Apples (Malus pumila)

An apple tree is relatively short-lived, but you can grow a succession of fruit over three years, so you can reap a good crop over a long period. You may find that your apples are attacked by codling moth or