HOW TO GROW DAMSON TREES
First choose a rootstock because this decides how big the tree will grow. Dwarfing trees on Pixy stock are best for smaller areas but if you have an orchard then vigorous St Julien stock will be more appropriate. Damsons are very hardy and can grow well even in the North. Good fertile reasonably drained soil is best. Pruning consists of removing lower branches and shortening long leaders in late Summer.
The range of varieties is relatively small compared to, say Plums, but there are enough good ones to suit everyone’s needs. Self fertile types such as Shropshire Damson or Merryweather are most popular and are good varieties. Farleigh Damson or King of the Damsons are also well worth growing but will need a pollinating partner. Damsons ripen late, in September traditionally.
PLANTING DAMSON TREES
Dig the soil over so it is well prepared and friable. Incorporate some growmore as an added fertilizer, and compost or leafmould to enhance the texture of the soil. Dig a hole large enough to take the roots comfortably so the roots are covered by about “ of soil. Make sure the roots are well spread out, fill in with friable soil and firm well. Water heavily until established. Staking mat be necessary in exposed areas or until the tree is established.
Damsons are quite late ripening so don’t be tempted to pick them too soon. They should part quite readily from the tree and have a little ‘give’ in them and be a uniform deep blue/purple colour. They may ripen in more than one flush making it necessary to go over the tree two or three times.
HOW TO GROW DAMSONS IN POTS
As long as you have a dwarfing tree on Pixy stock for example, you can easily grow delicious Damsons in pots of about 30 litre capacity. Use a loam based compost and site in a sheltered spot. Regular watering is the key to success, especially during the main growing season and when the fruits are swelling. You can feed annually with seaweed extract or by using osmocote tablets.
GROWING DAMSONS AGAINST A WALL
As Damsons are quite hardy they can tolerate any aspect, even a North or East wall that isn’t much use for other fruit trees. You will need a space of 200cm’s high and wide to accommodate the tree and make sure the soil isn’t too dry as sometimes it can be against a wall. You can buy a ready trained tree or train it yourself in situ, this is often a good idea as the tree will settle and adapt to it’s surrounding more readily. Self fertile Merryweather is a good variety for a wall.
AFTERCARE FOR DAMSONS
Consists of regular pruning which encourages heavier crops. Take out old or weak growth completely and prune back by one third strong leading growths. Also remove lower branches near to the ground to get a good shape. Mulch the tree annually with mushroom compost or chippings. This helps conserve moisture. Feed with growmore, work it gently into the soil around the roots and water in. Provide additional water during dry spells, especially whilst in fruit.