How to grow fruit the organic way

You've just bought a high quality fruit tree or bush, capable of providing you with years of delicious harvests. So what do you do next? Here we help you prepare your soil, plant, cope with pests and diseases, and then harvest and store.

To prepare your organic growing area – whether it is a pot, single bed or a large allotment – see Managing your soil and Home composting. And remind yourself of the Organic Gardening Guidelines. These are a code of practice, designed with a helpful traffic light system, to help you on your organic growing journey - whether you are a complete beginner, want to convert to organic, or be reminded of good organic practice.

Our How to Grow cards cover a selection of vegetables, fruit and herbs - including apples, pears, and soft fruit such as raspberries, strawberries and currants.

Planting

If the fruit tree or bush is bare-rooted, it is important that the roots do not dry out. Keep them temporarily wrapped in wet newspaper and covered in plastic. If you don’t know immediately where to put the tree or bush, then plant it temporarily in a spare bit of well-watered ground (called ‘heeling in’).

As fruit trees and bushes will be in the same spot for many years, good soil preparation is essential. Here are some tips:

  • If your soil is a heavy clay or silt, cultivate an area two or three times as large as the final planting hole. This is to help prevent water draining into and filling the hole
  • If your soil drains well and is reasonably fertile you only need to prepare a planting hole one metre in diameter. If your soil is poor, prepare a larger area and mix 1 to 2 spades of well-rotted manure or garden compost to the dug out soil
  • Dig a hole at least 20 cms deeper than the bottom of the roots
  • If you are planting into grass, dig the turf in when creating your hole. It contains valuable nutrients
  • Keep a perimeter of 60-75 cms clear of grass and weeds

Backfill your hole with a 20 cm layer of your prepared soil. This allows you to place your tree or bushes in the hole, with the exception of blackcurrants, so that they are no deeper than the original soil mark. It is particularly important with fruit trees not to bury the graft union (the bump at the bottom of the stem just above the roots) . Blackcurrants, however, should be planted 5 cm deeper than the original soil mark.

Fruit trees need a stake, so plant this at the same time. It should be approx 1.2m long, with 45 cms driven into the ground.

Water plants well after planting, then apply a mulch (see below). Finally, tie the tree to the stake, using rubber strips or old tights (do not use string or wire, they will cut into the stem as it thickens with growth).

During the first summer

It is vital to provide enough water to your new fruit plantings during the growing season, and to keep them free of weeds. Water regularly and generously if the weather is dry. A mulch - of old newspaper (at least 8 pages thick) or cardboard covered with straw, grass mowings or leaf mould - after you have thoroughly watered, will help to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.

Check out the How to Grow cards for a selection of individual fruits. Also see Pests and Diseases and Weed management. Soon you will be Harvesting and storing. We hope you enjoy growing fruit the organic way. Not only are you safe from chemicals, but you are encouraging a healthy life for you, the plants and the planet.