A Short History of English Fruit

The first National Fruit Show took place on Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 October 1933, almost 79 years later, the Show is still representative of its industry.  British growers in the 1930’s had plenty to contend with, orchards were often overcrowded some had other crops such as gooseberries and blackberries and in Kent many orchards were grown in hop gardens to ensure the grower gained as much income as possible.  It was in the 1930’s that East Malling Research Station, which had been established in 1913, offered growers and nurserymen viable rootstocks with orchards being planted with Malling16 (M16) and CrabC .

The famous M9 rootstock was one of the first released by this selection programme.  Although M9 was available, M2 with its promise of early production was a draw for many growers.  It was only after problems with the control of tree vigour on M2 that large numbers of orchards were planted using M9, which still remains one of the most widely planted commercial rootstocks, a standardised form known as Jaune de Metz which was sourced from Europe.

The standard trees in many orchards at the time had a large trunk averaging 6ft 6” and an overall height of 25 – 30ft.  The planting distance was 24ft – 36ft apart, the most popular dessert varieties to plant at this time were Cox’s Orange Pippin, Beauty of Bath, James Grieve and Laxton’s Superb and culinary varieties included Bramley, Lord Derby, Grenadier and Howgate.

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