realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Tree planting – dormancy delayed due to warm weather

The autumn colouring of the foliage of trees has been spectacular. The brightness and intensity of colour have been very special this autumn/early winter. I mention early winter intentionally, as the trees have been very slow to drop their leaves. However, looking at the hedges surrounding the fields, another factor has been clearly displayed: differences in the way the trees have reacted to the warmer weather. Take for example, mature oak trees: looking at similar oaks in the same hedge, some have now lost their leaves, while others comparable in size and age are still holding on to their splendid deep yellow coloured foliage.

These effects are due to the very high summer temperatures and droughty conditions. Cracks in the soil made it possible for the hot air –average temperatures in the UK have been about 2°C above normal – to travel deep into the sub soil. The resulting effects are now clearly visible. Trees in general are hanging on to their foliage for approximately 3 weeks longer than normal.

This has had an effect on trees in the nursery. In short, the lifting of fruit trees has to be delayed because the roots of the trees are still growing, which in turn is delaying dormancy. To lift fruit trees BEFORE dormancy will harm them. It will be possible to begin lifting trees only in the week after Christmas.

Oak trees, November 2018, showing different stages of leaf yellowing

Oak trees, November 2018, showing different stages of leaf yellowing

Garden orchard maintenance tasks, early December

Planting new trees

Soon we will have arrived at the beginning of a new tree planting season. Now is the time to prepare the spot where the tree is going to be planted. Just make sure that no grass or weeds will stop the young fruit tree roots developing properly. Remove any grass in the area around the tree, for about 1 square metre around the trunk. Later, once the tree has been planted, it will be good to apply an organic mulch on the same 1 square metre area around the tree trunk, but without the mulch touching the trunk. Provide a stake next to the tree and tie the tree to the stake with a FLEXIBLE tie. Protect the trunk of the tree with a proper guard. If deer are present a tall guard is essential. Here is a link to our main website where you can order trees.

Woolly aphids

This year a lot of woolly aphid are making their present felt. Effective insecticides are no longer available to the gardener or the allotment holder. Using luke-warm water and some detergent, brushing the affected branches will reduce the problem. Repeat the same treatment a month later.

Woolly aphid

Canker

Now the leaves have fallen, canker infections are clear to see. To stop winter spores from developing , cut out all surrounding wood and the wound itself, until no brown markings can be seen in the healthy green surrounding bark and cambium layer. Then paint the treated area with a wood sealing compound.

Canker

Overwintering aphids eggs

Spray the trees with a “winter wash” obtainable from any good garden centre.

Organic magic

All living creatures are interconnected, in ways that often we would never have imagined. For example, manure, which is classed as an animal waste product, is an essential food source to to living creatures in the lower part of the evolution chain, such as fungi and bacteria, including those that live in the soil, in symbiosis with tree roots. So live manure is a superb form of food and nutrients to trees, in our case fruit trees.

Trees love organics: it can come out of a bottle, for example liquid seaweed, or out of a container, natural herb mixtures, or out of a bag, such as dried chicken manure, or straight from the stable such as farmyard manure.

For trees this is pure magic and I have seen the undeniable results as regular as clockwork many times during my life! The real essence of organics is linked to the thousands of nematodes, microbes, fungi and bacteria which work in close harmony with the trees, permitting the uptake of nutrients and giving the trees a real tonic. This in turn improves leaf quality and reinforces the immune system.

Farmyard manure, dried chicken manure, liquid seaweed

Cherry growing in the garden

Many years ago, when I was growing up, I remember my parents battling away, trying to cover their the cherry trees with nets to stop the birds eating all the cherries. This was not very successful and in the end, they let the birds have most of these delicious fruits. How things have changed. It is now possible to plant cherries on a dwarfing rootstock. The ultimate height of these trees will be not much more than 8-10 feet, depending on depth of soil and soil quality. To cover this type of tree with a bird-proof net is very feasible. However, there is one other point not to be overlooked; apply the nets when the cherries are still green. If you try to cover the trees when the cherries are nearly ready and the birds have had already a taste of the fruits, then the birds will make holes in the nets and the battle is lost.

cherry
Another important point is that cherry trees can suffer badly from early attacks of greenfly, black cherry aphids. This usually happens as soon there is new leaf emerging, right at the beginning of the season, well before blossom time (late April). Visit your garden centre and choose the most nature-friendly option to overcome this potential problem.

cherry
A good selection of varieties is available to cover the cherry season. Many of those varieties are self-fertile and therefore pollination should not be an issue. The trees will need to be staked, and they should not be planted in a frost pocket. A double layer of garden fleece will protect the blossom from being damaged by spring frosts. For further details and tree orders, see our website Suffolk Fruit & Trees or send an email to enquiries@realenglishfruit.co.uk

Quince trees: the blossom, the scent, the ease of growing

The ornamental value of fruit trees can be outstanding. Fruit trees in blossom are an ever-returning beauty at spring time. However one particular fruit tree is greatly underestimated and even forgotten. That is the quince tree. I planted a selection of different varieties 20 years ago. Each variety has its own very attractive characteristics. But more of this later. The main point I would like to put across is that it is a very hardy type of tree: for most of the time, it is very capable of looking after itself, year after year and season after season. So if you are short on time, and you like the idea of abundant white and pink blossom, PLANT A QUINCE TREE!

quince

If, in addition to the blossom, you like the quince fruits as well, then plant 2 Quinces, not of the same variety. There is plenty of choice; Champion, Vranja, Portugal, Serbian Gold, Meeches Prolific. The fruits are a highly attractive and mostly deep yellow. The size of the fruits varies according to the variety. The scent of the ripening fruits, for example Vranja, is just wonderful. The intensity increases as the fruits ripen. The shape of the fruits is different from one variety to the next; Serbian Gold quinces are more apple-shaped while Vranja is more elongated. Meeches Prolific fruits are smaller in size, but of more distinctive flavour, useful when making quince marmalade or quince jelly, or as slices used to add flavour to apple pies. Meeches Prolific crops early, and it is also the most regular cropper.

quince
Quinces love organic matter and need to be planted in bare ground around the stem. NO GRASS!! For the first three years, keep 4 square feet around the trunk of the tree clear of grass and weeds and well mulched with organic matter/manure. In the first three years, during drought, help the tree with a full watering can regularly, to stop the tree from drying out.

Planting distance depends on soil depth. Deep loamy soils will produce a larger canopy, compared with stony, shallow soils. As a benchmark, allow 3 to 5 metre spacing, depending on site and soil quality. No need for detailed pruning whatsoever. Just remove the odd crossing branch or broken branch. That’s all. The trees are very independent and like to look after themselves. All you have to do is to enjoy their beauty and their flavoursome fruits. You can plant now: don’t delay, order your trees at Suffolk Fruit & Trees or send an email to enquiries@realenglishfruit.co.uk.

How to stop foxes and deer from raiding your apple trees

A reader and customer wrote to Dan a few days ago, about the first crop on his two new trees. The trees supplied by Suffolk Fruit & Trees are always 2-3 years old and so they dutifully flowered in the first season after fruiting. Dan advised to grow just two apples on each tree for their first crop in the garden, and so the owner removed all surplus fruitlets towards the end of May. His first two Cox apples grew to maturity, but the Fiesta apples were raided by foxes. And so what will happen in subsequent seasons when the Fiesta tree is in full production?

Dan said, “In the next and following seasons, when the fruit is beginning to ripen, you could try this method. It is often effective to hang a small, highly scented piece of soap using a metal S-hook. This often deters foxes and deer. Once the piece of soap loses its scent, it is no longer effective. Check and replace it if this is the case.”

Fox in a garden, photo Mike Holloway/flickr.com

Fox in a garden, photo courtesy of Mike Holloway/flickr.com

Crop rotation in fruit growing in the garden

As the volume of fruit grown commercially in the UK is nowhere near enough to satisfy demand, the departure of the UK as a member of the European Union is likely to cause a rise in prices for fruit in the shops. It is therefore very important that fruit trees in the garden are healthy and have a structure such that a good proportion of the fruit can be picked from ground level. This is perfectly possible provided the basic facts of crop rotation are not ignored.

For example we must remember that if an old apple tree is grubbed because it has reached the end of its life, then we certainly can plant another fruit tree on that spot, but not another apple tree. Crop rotation does not only apply to vegetables in the garden. It also applies to fruit trees. In other words, apple after apple or pear after pear is not to be recommended. If this is done all the same, replant disease will probably badly affect the new tree, and the growing and the cropping of the tree will be a disappointment. And yet it is so easily to achieve good growth and cropping of new trees. Just plant a pear or a plum or a cherry at the place where the old apple tree spent its time of life and all will be well. Water the young trees weekly and the trees will have a very good start in life. Particularly if well-rotted farmyard manure or garden compost is applied as an extra tonic.

Old fruit trees in a Suffolk garden

Old fruit trees in a Suffolk garden

The effects of weather on fruit trees, April-May 2017

This year, April and May have been very problematic weather-wise for anyone who is interested in home-grown fruit. On several nights, temperatures dropped to well below freezing. This has affected all the different types of fruit, inflicting moderate to severe frost damage to open blossom. Crop prospects are definitely a lot better on those trees which were covered with a double layer of garden fleece. Because of the tendency to flower earlier in the season, pears, peaches, nectarines and plums are all very badly affected. Apples, which flower later, usually still set some sort of a crop. This year I am afraid that even apples will have been thinned out a lot, particularly in frost pockets. We will know by the end of May for sure about the initial set. By early July we will finally know what’s left; this after the June drop has further reduced the number of fruits. Who said growing fruit is easy?

What to do next? Watch this space.

Evidence of frost damage on leaves

A question on espalier training

Here is a photo of the pear tree I bought and planted in February. It seems to be growing well! And, following advice on your web site, I plan to install the first espalier wire in the next couple of weeks.

young espalier pear

I see the two side branches growing at about 45 degrees to the main stem, with new growth on them going vertically upwards. Instruction on the website says tie them at 60 degrees to the horizontal. My question is, how high above the fork where the side branches come out, should I install the espalier wire? I assume I should do nothing about the tying new growth until August – is that right? At which point I will bend them to go along the wire.

Dan Neuteboom replies:
You have done a first class job of planting your tree. Just do nothing now and let the tree do its growing. By the middle of August adjust the angle of the 2 main side branches to approx. 60 degrees to the vertical centre leader. By August therefore place the horizontal wire at such a height to achieve this. Do not cut back or prune any of the branches.

A tree for blackbirds

At this time of year, blackbirds need an extra source of food. MALUS ROBUSTA is a beautiful wild apple tree, with red berries during the winter months. It is a wonderful tree for the garden. Malus Everest or Malus Royalty are particularly liked by honey bees in the early spring: they are blossom-heavy trees which need special recognition as part of the green movement in our locality. Take a look at our main website for contact details and further information.

Malus robusta

Malus robusta, photo courtesy of MPaola Andreoni/flickr.com