Saturday, 21 November 2009

Book review-'Grow Your Own Fruit' by Carol Klein & RHS

Here's a book review I have just added to my page of fruit and cider book reviews on my web site, which I am gradually rebuilding after a provider problem. I intend to add reviews of Ciderland by James Crowden, Cider by CAMRA and Craft Cider by Andrew Lea when I find time.

Grow your Own Fruit (Carol Klein and Royal Horticultural Society)
Mitchell Beazley, ISBN 978-1-84533-434-5
hard back 224 pages

I borrowed this book from the library to have a look. It aims to be a comprehensive guide to all sort of fruit growing in the garden, headed up by the popular presenter Carol Klein from BBC's 'Gardener's World' which we usually watch when its on, although I've never really enjoyed it so much since Geoff Hamilton died. Partly nostalgia, partly other reasons I won't bore you with. Its a perfectly decent modern version of that old staple 'The General Purpose Fruit Growing Book' for the average gardener, covering everything from strawberries to melons, and although I prefer the Fruit Garden Displayed, this is a very decent substitute, especially if you like lots (I mean LOTS) of atmospheric colour photographs to look at, and of course if you're a fan of Carol. I'm not particularly, I mention for balance, but I mean no offence and its a decent book.

I haven't read every word, but where I have checked details against my knowledge, it's at least OK. On Quince and Medlars for example, she gets it right about culture, varieties, and how to store and use these somewhat unusual (but worthwhile) fruits. The advice on planting and pruning apples, pears, plums, bush fruit etc are fine (apart from one photo on page 79 showing a very protuberant angled pruning cut which I would never accept) details like removing water shoots, how to hold the secateurs (blade side nearest the tree) are 'industry standard' correct. There is a very acceptable section on pests and diseases which, unusually for anything associated with the 'organic'-fundamentalist BBC, actually mentions specific chemical pesticides necessary to achieve clean fruit. I don't agree with her choice of featured apples, for example I think Discovery is rubbish and she omits many of my top favourites, but that's perfectly normal-long live personal preference in such matters! And none of us knows it all, which is why its good to read more than one account and compare and contrast different writers.

Critical details about rootstocks, training restricted forms, pollination times, the (often neglected) need to thin fruits etc are present and correct. Grafting is not covered, but this is a populist BBC spin off book and most people don't graft, so that's not a major criticism. She does mention a number of old and new apple varieties and, importantly, draws attention to their faults, for example biennial cropping and large size of Blenheim Orange, short shelf life of the otherwise excellent cooker Grenadier, Cox's sickliness (like me, she more or less says 'great flavour, but best avoided'), the need to thin Sunset to avoid tiny fruits, etc. This is a good point-never trust a fruit book that heaps unstinting praise on every variety. Apples like Sunset are worth growing, just remember to thin them, etc. Apple faults are OK, up to a point, as long as you KNOW about them.

This is a comprehensive book which covers nearly all aspects of fruit gardening. I could have enjoyed it as much, possibly more, with fewer pictures of Carol smiling and posing for the camera and a few more of, for example, how prune fruit trees. There are 8 pages on gooseberries (8 pages? Almost nobody can RECOGNISE a gooseberry these days!)-there could have been a decent overview of cider in 8 whole pages. Most likely any reasonable person approaching fruit growing for the first time or wanting to gain more understanding, try some new sorts of fruit and generally do better will find this a pleasant fireside or bedtime book. Its certainly easy reading with so many pretty pictures. I think it might have been a better book for less detail on minor fruits like citrus, melons, gooseberries etc, and the space saved used for recipes for processing surpus fruit into goodies like chutney, cider and jam. But thats only a personal opinion.

VERDICT Certainly worth getting out of the library, although I don't think I'll be buying a copy, but then I do have a large collection of fruit books already. Priced at a very reasonable £16.99, this would make a very acceptable Christmas present for almost any gardener, and is certain better than many of the comparable older 'general purpose fruit grower' books in my collection. But I still prefer the Fruit Garden Displayed.

November 2009.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

cider video from Sheppey's and Burrow Hill

I have just seen this quite nice video with accompanying text on the Daily Mail online, looking at my 2 favourite cider makers, Sheppeys and Burrow Hill. do have a browse.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

FINAL 2009 MARKET-WInchester 8th November

STOP PRESS yesterday we carried out an assessment and sorting of the fruit in store and were left with just 30 boxes of sound fruit , mainly Sunset and Egremont Russet with also some Suntan, Kidd's Orange Red and Winter King. We need 10 boxes for a Fareham and 20 for a Winchester, so today Julia telephoned to pull us out of all markets for 2009 bar the Fareham this Saturday and Winchester on Sunday. We'll lose money on this, its too bad, you have to bid for places at the markets a year in advance and fruit yields can't be predicted so far ahead.

We'll be sorry to say goodbye to our friends until next July when we are hopefully back with the plums and earliest apples, but its been a hard year for various reasons and we're thrashed so we'll be glad of a temporary rest until pruning begins. I'll say a bit more about the ups and downs of the 2009 season later, but for now, just to advise folks of our inevitable decision, we can't sell fruit we don't have.

Basically, the Kidd's Orange red and a few other varieties were diminished by fungal dsease and bitter pit largely due to weather, and the Lord Lambourne crop (about 15% of our total and our main early autumn apple)failed abysmally, so to serve October markets we had to offer our Winter King, which we normally keep until later, but its been so warm this autumn that we had to bring them forward in any event as nothing has been keeping as well as usual. Fruit quality has been very good, with high sugar levels due to the warm late summer and autumn, but here we are out of fruit, I think earlier than every before.

We are begining to reflect on the season gone by and think about future plans, which may have to include refrigeration if we want to trade up to and beyond Christmas.

Anyway, good cheer to all and lets try to enjoy the autumn, despite the miserable prospect of a General Election next year in which either David Cameron or Gordon Brown will become Prime Minister. Nothing we can do about it so lets try to think about happy things, like the autumn leaves, bonfires, friends and the new cider.