Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Grow super early fruits


Your greenhouse can increase your GYO production in so many ways. Naturally one’s most often used for starting plants off earlier and in summer most greenhouses are filled with tender annual crops. Recently they’re becoming utilised for growing salads and other leafy crops almost year round. Of course the frost free greenhouse was actually effectively invented to house Citrus for the winter. But there’s another less common and very valuable application; that is forcing or bringing into crop sooner fruits more commonly grown out of doors. These early out of season crops then have immense value both nutritionally and economically

The idea is simple, by not growing but moving plants such as peaches indoors in late winter these receive a pleasant shock and ‘imagine’ spring has sprung. You don’t need heating as glass alone is sufficient to bring crops into growth and maturity early. This means you’re harvesting many weeks even months ahead of the same outdoors. Thus gooseberries, blueberries and strawberries crop from late April not late May, apricots, peaches and nectarines ripen June not August, figs and grapes follow suit. Then after cropping the plants go back outdoors to recover till the following year.

Thus because the plants live outdoors from summer through autumn and winter they don’t build up pests such as scale or red spider mite in the same bad way as permanently housed plants. Even better, the chill outdoors gives that winter dormancy which many crops need for success. To be fair tub culture does require a reliable feeding and watering regime but in return it also reduces the amount of pruning considerably.

Blueberries crop from April

To be forced the plants need be of a size and maturity to be willing to crop anyway if kept out of doors, and they must be grown in, or moved into, large movable containers to be transported. (I use a two-wheel sack barrow, one’s strongly recommended!)

Bring the plants in from January, in batches if you have several the same. Water and feed from when they leaf, hand pollinate the flowers (with a fluffy cotton-bud) and keep very well ventilated. Thinning the fruits will improve the quality of those remaining. As soon as the crops are picked then move each plant back outdoors again.

So start getting your plants ready, any of the above are simple, especially strawberries, be warned kiwis, raspberries, cherries, plums, apples and pears less so.