Allotment Book Review: The Fruit Tree Handbook

It’s not a secret that I have a yearning to own an orchard. It’s not something that comes up in the average conversation, it’s true, but many people who know me are aware of this particular ambition of mine. I’ve documented my fruitless (pun intended) quest for a quince tree small enough for our allotment site, for example. As a result, books about fruit trees feature much more often on my wish-list than would normally be the case for a non-orchard-owning individual.

The Fruit Tree Handbook, by Ben Pike, is a book I’ve been looking forward to for a while … not just because it covers some of the rarer trees like the eponymous quince and the medlar but because it has that most rare of sections – an orchard management plan! Yes, I’ve been able to indulge my fantasy of buying a neglected orchard and bringing it back to productive life, via the pages of Ben’s book!

This is a book for the tree grower, pruner and fruit harvester, not the cook. If it has a weakness it’s the sections on storing and using fruits that follow each tree section: they definitely feel like an afterthought and have little detail. For example, I would very much like to know how to scald plums with boiling water to stop their skins toughening when frozen – is this blanching or pouring boiling water over plums in a colander? Do they have to be left in the water for only a split second, or for longer? The alternative, Ben says, is to ‘use ascorbic acid’ but how?

On the other hand, if you want one book on pruning fruit trees, this is the one. The illustrations are clear and easy to follow, the pruning schemes (based either on the formation of new trees or working with established ones like those one inherits on an allotment site!) are comprehensive and intelligent and the intention behind pruning – the bit that’s often left out – is so clearly stated that if you have any doubt about what you are doing you can revisit the purpose to each stage of pruning and from that understanding of purpose, work out how to tackle any tree. Brilliant work, beautifully presented.

As I say, this is not a book for a fruit user, but its value to any fruit tree owner is immense – it’s both a manifesto for growing fruit and a horticultural bible. Like most gardening books these days, it’s also a visual feast, with a blend of informative photographs and aspirational ones: clear pictures of fruit scab are balanced with evocative ones of elderly gents with ladders and fruit boxes in poetic looking orchards. One of the most useful parts of the text is an excellent glossary, which I think a beginner would find invaluable, and having tested the index extensively against my own experience, I think the more experienced grower will find it contains just about everything I could think of, from diploids to Winter Nellis!

Highly recommended as a book to browse for the sheer pleasure of reading about this wonderful part of the British landscape, as well as a good reference manual for your garden, allotment or orchard trees.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Thursday, November 24, 2011


Anonymous enammom said...

Apple training course heres. Here is useful thing to prunning apple trees.
This information is
very helpful to cultivate apple.

December 2, 2011 at 3:48 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Thanks enammom but there's no link in your comment?

December 2, 2011 at 6:45 AM  

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