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  • How to grow plums

    Thanks to John Harrison of Allotment & Gardens.

    Plums are one of several fruit trees that used to be practical only if you had a large garden or area of orchard. These days the trees are grafted onto dwarf rootstock making it possible to buy small trees, dwarf pyramids and even minarette plums for container growing.

    Plums

    Some varieties of plums are better for eating, some for cooking. There are also sub-varieties: bullaces – tart and best used for cooking; gages / greengages – sweet dessert plums, good to eat fresh; mirabelles or cherry plums – extremely hardy and a good choice if providing a warm, sheltered situation is difficult; and damsons

    Growing Plums

    • Plums have reputation for irregular fruiting, for two reasons. The early flowering varieties are suspectible to frost and will need protecting with fleece if frost threatens while they’re in blossom. When they fruit successfully, plums are so prolific that the tree is exhausted and doesn’t have energy for a crop the following year.
    • Position in a sheltered, sunny spot and plant into well-drained, fertile soil. Drive a stake into the planting hole before placing the tree, to avoid root damage. Keep free from weeds and water regularly.
    • As the fruit begins to form usually in mid-May, thin by removing any damaged or diseased looking fruit, allowing sufficient space for each fruit to grow to full size without touching a neighbour. Check again for overcrowding after a further month or so. If you don’t thin, the weight of the fruit can damage the branches, encouraging diseases such as silver leaf.
    • Prune in late spring or early summer.

    Harvesting Plums

    • The fruits will be ready between August and October, depending upon the variety and the weather.

    Pests and Problems with Plums

    • Wasps are attracted to plums. Try hanging wasp traps in late June to catch the scouting wasps.
    • Caterpillars of the codling moth and the plum fruit moth can damage the fruit. Traps are available containing a pheromone that attracts the male moths, preventing breeding.

    Varieties of Plum

    • Some varieties of plums are better for eating, some for cooking. There are also sub-varieties: bullaces – tart and best used for cooking; gages – sweet dessert plums, good to eat fresh; mirabelles or cherry plums – extremely hardy and a good choice if providing a warm, sheltered situation is difficult.
    • If you are only growing one tree, ensure that it is self-fertile.
    • Blue Tit is well flavoured, prolific and hard, and holds the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
    • Duo-minaret trees, suitable for container growing, are available with two types of plum growing on the same stem.
    • Some varieties have a better resistance to diseases than others.

    Eating

    • Plums are delicious eaten fresh and make good pies, chutneys and jams.
    • They don’t keep for long, even in the fridge. However, they do freeze well.

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