Delicious varieties to keep you in succulent fruit into autumn.
Nothing beats picking a juicy, ripe, sun-warmed plum straight from the tree. The rich flavour and melt-in-the-mouth flesh is an experience to be treasured. The range of plum varieties sold in supermarkets is limited as they’re easily damaged, with a very short shelf life. So to get the total plum experience you need to grow your own. While the main plum season runs from late July and peaks in August, the varieties profiled below are mostly self-fertile, so don’t need a pollinating partner, and fruit into September and October. Prune, damson and greengage varieties are god pollinating partners. In plums there are dessert varieties suitable for eating fresh, and culinary varieties for cooking, while most of those identified below can be used for both purposes.
It’s important to select the right kind of rootstock for your plum variety and to suit your location and purpose, as they will determine how much growth they make each year, how large the trees ultimately grow and, to a degree, influence fruit production and quality. If you want a dwarf tree around 2.5m-3m (8-10ft) tall, ideal for a bush or fan, select a Pixy root stock, but thin out fruit to avoid trees over producing smaller fruit. Krymsk1/VVA-1 rootstock has the same characteristics as Pixie. Being slower growing trees on these stocks will need staking for support until they establish. The most popular and widely-used stock is St Julian A which is ideal for most purposes, either free-standing trees to 3-3.5m (10-12ft) or fans. Brompton stock is the most vigorous, producing trees over 4.5m (15ft). Trees on rootstocks will take 3-5 years for the trees to start fruiting. Roots stocks will sucker and you will need to pull out sucker shoots at the base as they appear.
Plums generally need an open, sunny site, or if being trained as a fan or pyramid on a south or west-facing wall. Avoid exposed sites and frost pockets. A moist, well-drained neutral or slightly acidic fertile soil is ideal. Trees can be planted container grown or bare root from November.
Prune from late spring and summer, (April to August) rather than winter, when dormant to avoid infection.