Fruit Trees for a Northern Garden

Picking an apple straight from the tree grown in the North of England
Picking an apple straight from the tree grown in the North of England

We are frequently asked what varieties are best to grow in Northern England; the answer is very difficult for several reasons. First of all, everything is a matter of taste, as the old saying goes “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”. Equally, the North is a large area of varying soil types, soil pH, rainfall, altitude and length of season. This variation means that there are few universally suitable varieties for the whole region

This list aims to offer some suggestions for fruit trees suitable for growing in the garden and offer those embarking on fruit growing a fair chance of success.

  DUAL PURPOSE APPLES 
James Grieve:
The most popular apple grown by group members; though it can be prone to canker on poor soils.        
Pick: Sept. – Oct.
Season: Sept. – Oct.
Charles Ross
Large fruit, which eats well and has an orange flesh that holds shape when cooked.
Pick: Sept. – Oct.
Season: Oct. – Feb.
DESSERT APPLES   
Discovery
Bright red fruits have firm, fine-textured, juicy flesh with a fairly sweet and pleasant flavour, best eaten off tree as does not store. Irregular cropper. Scab and frost resist.
Pick: Aug.
Season: Aug. – Sept.  
Katy I Katja
Katy produces medium sized fruits that have red flushes on them. A heavy cropper that requires thinning. Good pollinator. Suitable for colder areas. Has crisp juicy fruits with a pleasant flavour.
Pick: early Sept.
Season: Sept. – Oct.  
Greensleeves
Frost resistant. Crops well producing fruit that has a sweetness with an almost honey like edge but with some acidity to balance the flavour. Can be susceptible to scab
Pick: Sept.
Season: Oct.
Egremont Russet
Crops heavily. Scab resistant. Frost tolerant. Suitable for pot culture. Fruits have firm, fine-textured, rather dry flesh with a rich, nutty flavour. (Named after Lord Egremont of Petworth, Sussex)
Pick: late Sept. /Oct.
Season: Oct. – Dec.  
Fiesta Cox cross.
Heavy cropper, reliable. Later and hardier than Cox which does not do well in the North. Fruits are crisp and juicy with a similar flavour to Cox
Pick: late Sept.
Season: Oct. – Dec.
Sunset
A Cox seedling that has a good flavour, slightly sharper than Cox. The apples are small, gold with orange flush and red stripes. The tree is compact and suited to growing in a pot
Pick: late Sept.
Season: Oct. – Dec.  
Spartan
This Canadian apple has a dark maroon flush with a bloom that makes this an attractive apple. It has a juicy white flesh with a sweet- sharp taste. Keeps well. Pick: Oct.
Season: Nov. – Jan.
Winston
This is a late apple, good regular crop but can have small aromatic fruit, so requires thinning for larger fruit. When first picked the fruit has a sharp flavour which mellows on storage. Used for juicing
Pick: late Oct – Nov.
Season: Dec- Apr  
CULINARY APPLES 
Keswick Codlin
Neat decorative tree, profuse blossom, reliable cropper producing a pale yellow, flushed fruit that has a hairline down one side. Cooks to a puree. Also makes a refreshing eating apple.
Pick: mid -late Aug.
Season: Aug—Sept/Oct  
Lord Derby
Fruit has a course texture but cooks well. Cooked when green, the apple has a sharp taste, acidity easing as it ages, Pick: Oct.
Season: Nov -Dec  
Bramley’s Seedling
The most popular cooking apple grown in the UK. Vigorous tree, needs space. Best on a fairly dwarfing rootstock. Frost prone Excellent keeper.
Pick: Oct.
Season: Nov. – Mar.
Howgate Wonder
A very large, reliable late season cooking apple that stores well through to spring and has good flavour. It is often reported as much sweeter than other cooking apples.
Pick: Mid Oct.
Season: Nov to March
PLUM 
Victoria
The most widely grown Plum in the UK. A heavy cropping tree which can be used for cooking or left to ripen for good dessert plum
Pick: Early Sept.
Season: Sept.  
   
PEARS 
Beth
A compact, reliable and heavy cropping cultivar that produces smooth skinned fruits that have a white flesh.
Pick: Late Aug.
Season: Early – Mid Sept  
Beurre Hardy
A reliable good quality, slightly rounded, almost completely russetted pear that has creamy, juicy flesh.
Pick: Mid Sept.
Season: Oct.
Conference
A reliable cropper in the North, even in unfavourable seasons. Better with cross pollination but will set fruit without. Pick: Late Sept.
Season: Oct. – Nov.
 

Rootstocks selection is important because it affects the final height of the tree. Our advice is to go to a reputable nursery and discuss with them the type of tree you want. Soil type as well as the available space and/or the desire for a particular type of tree will influence your choice of root-stock as poor drought-liable soils will require a more vigorous root-stock to provide the necessary growth. M9 rootstock has roots that break easily so needs permanent staking.

Purchase your tree from a specialist fruit nursery. Bare root trees can be planted Nov to early April provided the soil is not waterlogged or frozen. Container-grown trees can be planted any time but need to be kept well watered. Well prepared ground is vital; dig a hole, fork over the base and sides so the roots can spread. Add a general fertiliser and enrich with organic matter. Mulch with manure, compost or straw to a depth of 3 in, 18 in around but not touching the tree. During growth, water regularly with seaweed extract solution to aid root growth.

Your tree will need pruning and the group runs courses for members. Useful books include:

  • The Fruit Expert by Dr DG Hessayon
  •  RHS Encyclopaedia of Practical Gardening

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