We get hundreds of enquiries a year about growing fruit trees in the UK at altitude and our answers usually start off with something like:
"Unfortunately your location sounds beautiful but (from the perspective of fruit trees) terrible. Your site is high up and almost certainly windy given that you are south facing and prevailing winds are south-westerly, and the lava might be an issue...."
Because we do a good impression of being nice friendly people, we try to explain why this is a problem:
"You will face two problems. The first is that air temperatures will be lower in spring and autumn than on lower ground and so fruit trees will come into flower later and have less time to ripen. The second is that wind and pollinating insects do not go together.... if you do see any insects they tend to be travelling very fast."
We would love to sell as many orchards as we can, but without hedging or a windbreak they are a waste of time and money at altitudes over 800 feet unless peculiar circumstances apply.
To the would be "alpine" fruit grower, our advice would be:
- Start with soft fruit which have much later flowering times, mature more quickly and so will ripen in time. Also, because they are closer to the ground pollination is less of an issue as well as they provide better shelter for the odd flying friend.
- If you are determined to have a fine stand of apple trees and the odd pear, cherry and what-have-you plant a windbreak and wait at least 4 or 5 years while it establishes before you plant an orchard.
- Or you can try to grow your fruit trees as cordons against a south facing wall where they will be warmer and ripen more quickly.
- And above 900 feet don't bother.