Along with my asparagus from seed project, this is the second Real Men Sow long term, dynamic, could take years to complete posts. It’s about trying to train a maiden greengage tree into a fan, and all being well I should be eating greengages and asparagus in about 4 years. Or not, if it all goes wrong.
July 18th, 2013
When I first introduced my new growing space, The Patch From Scratch, I stuck up a picture of The Ugly Wall. Initially, I’d decided that the space is perfect for compost bins, as well as an important breathing space where I can temporarily store bags of weeds or a small pile of manure. Trouble was, that was never going to be very pretty, so I was left searching for other ideas to jazz up the horrible wall.
I finally came to the decision that I’d try something I’d never done before. Like the asparagus from seed, this was going to take at least four years and could easily fail. I was going to try and train a fruit tree into a fan.
I chose a greengage tree for two reasons. Greengage, along with rhubarb, is my favourite fruit, and unlike plums and apples, you rarely find friends and colleagues giving away plastic bags brimming of them come the end of summer.
The space I have in the ugly corner is about 5 feet across, so about right for one tree. Having a tree in isolation meant I needed to choose a self-fertile variety, so I plumped for a Cambridge gage from the excellent Blackmoor nursery.
Growing a fan requires a maiden (one-year-old tree) on a suitable rootstock. MM106 is the most suitable rootstock for a tree of the size I am training, but M26 is also okay too.
My tree arrived, looking very healthy. I planted it straight into a pre watered hole, adding some manure and ensuring the rootball was well covered.
Now was time to get out the secateurs and cut back. I must confess I found following the instructions in Harry Baker’s Growing Fruit rather daunting. This might be because the book uses words like ‘lateral’ and ‘feathered’. I’m a simple, untrained boy who normally just sticks some seeds in a pot of soil and hopes. Suddenly, this all seemed very pro.
However, this is my understanding: a feathered tree is one with several branches sticking out the side.
Laterals are a secondary branch that grows off the main trunk, or other main branches. Incidentally, the main branches are called scaffolds. All scaffolds were once laterals.
I think that makes sense.
Once the tree had been in the ground for a couple of weeks, I got stuck into my laterals and feathers.
I have cut back my feathered maiden to a lateral about 24 inches above the ground, leaving one good bud on each side beneath it. I then cut the remaining laterals to one bud, and it looks like this.
1st April 2013
I suddenly remembered I needed to build a structure to train the tree up against. So I’ll cover this as hastily as I erected my structure. I put three posts against the wall, with horizontal wires approximately a foot apart.
Middle of May 2013
We have new growth, and I need to select three shoots to train. The top shoot is ready to be trained upwards by attaching it to the wiring, but the others will have to wait until early summer when there is some more growth.
I’ve got to fess up and admit I have absolutely no idea whether I’ve done this correctly. There is lots of fresh new growth, but none seem to be going in the right direction. This is quite possibly one of the scariest jobs I’ve done in the garden.
In a few weeks’ time, I’ll know whether my bottom laterals are going to do what I want them to. Until then I’ll just have to hope.
To be continued…