Growing your own plums
This fruit is a perennial favourite, especially the Victoria plum, which is always a best seller. Plums are very easy to care for once established and the modern varieties available have provided an opportunity to grow them in smaller gardens. Those grafted onto St Julien, semi-dwarf root stock, provides a medium sized tree of around 2-2.5m (7-8'). Growing as a fan also saves space. Plums are not grown as cordons or espaliers.
The plum is the most popular of the stone fruits, and gages, damsons and bullaces are very close family members. When choosing your tree it is necessary to decide on size, dessert or cooking plum, and blossom time. Some are earlier to blossom than others and with fewer pollinating insects around, these varieties will need extra help with a soft artists brush. Late blossomers will find life a little easier. Also, as plums are less widespread than apple trees make sure you have a self-fertile variety, or two compatible cultivars. It is also a fact that the dessert plums are less hardy than the less fleshy cooking cultivars.
- Autumn through to early spring is planting time, with October/November being the best time of all.
- Train into a fan on a south facing wall to save space. This method makes it very easy to net to protect fruit from bird damage.
- Pruning should be done in early summer, and all cuts painted with a sealing compound to discourage silver leaf infection.
- Plums benefit from thinning the fruitlets in July, this is after the usual 'June Drop' has occurred. Remove any diseased or deformed specimens, plus the 'king fruit' in the centre which is low quality and misshapen - leave around 7.5cm (3") between fruits to allow them to develop well. Not only will this mean better, larger and juicier fruit, but the danger of broken branches from too much weight will be avoided. If there are still a large number of fruits left after thinning you can prop up the branches that are most at risk.