realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

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

Special feature trees

We are often asked about suggestions for trees with certain characteristics, such as highly flavoured apples, red crisp apples, green eating apples and so forth. As you still have time to plant new trees (about a month – until the end of March), here are some suggestions for trees of specific characteristics:

Highly flavoured apples
Ashmead Kernel, Egremont Russet, Herefordshire Russet, Winter Wonder, Suntan, Winter Gem

Green eating apples
Granny Smith, Greensleeves, Bountiful, Golden Delicious

Red crisp eating apples
Spartan

General purpose apples
Charles Ross

Mild cider apples
Katy, Greensleeves, Tom Putt

White blossom crab apples
Malus Everest

Red berry crab apples
Malus Robusta

Crab apples for pots
Sun Rival

Crab apple jelly trees
John Downie

To find out more about the varieties that we can deliver, just visit our variety index and click on the links.

If you’d like to make a provisional order, just choose the varieties and fill out the web form on our Tree Variety page.

As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you need more information.

Malus John Downie

Malus John Downie, photo courtesy of Andy/Andrew Fogg/flickr.com

Growing apricots in the UK, top ten tips

Early Moorpark

Early Moorpark

It is a great delight to grow apricots and look after apricot trees. It is a very amenable type of fruit and fairly easy to grow. Here I provide some tips from practical experience.

1. An apricot tree has to be on a South facing wall and the planting hole needs to be thoroughly prepared. Use John Innes, number 3, soil-based tree planting compost and make sure the tree is not subject to a leak in the gutter above it.

2. Fix large-size shelf brackets onto the wall above the apricot tree and construct a wooden shelf. You can use this to fasten the double layer of fleece each year as soon as the first flower begins to open. At that moment, cover the entire tree, and make sure the wind cannot blow off the fleece at any time. It has to stay in position until the middle of May. Lift the fleece during the day only, when the tree is in flower, so that pollinating insects can carry out their work. All this because the Apricot is very sensitive to frost. In addition, until leaf starts to develop, it is sensitive to fungal diseases such as “peach leaf curl” and bacterial canker. The great thing about apricot growing is that you do not need to use any chemicals, if you protect the tree as outlined above.

3. The tree loves organic matter around its base, but not touching the trunk. It hates the grass around its base, so mulch the tree well, to keep grass and weeds away from around the trunk area.

4. Never let the tree struggle for moisture.

5. Thin the young fruitlets when the size of a large pea and space them to at least 4 to 6 inches apart.

6. It will need a space of approx. 6 to 7 metres wall length. Shorter is possible but more summer pruning is necessary. NEVER prune the tree during the winter months but always when there is a full canopy of leaves. Pick the fruit when turning yellow in August and flavour has developed well.

Golden Glow, photo courtesy of coblands_plants/flickr.com

Golden Glow, photo courtesy of coblands_plants/flickr.com

7. One has to be aware of the fact that over-cropping of apricots can lead to having too much crop in one year and not enough in the next year. This applies particularly to the 1 year old wood of well-grown healthy trees. If there is an abundance of blossom on this wood, then this wood needs to be cut back before the blossom has a chance to set fruit.

8. When the size of the best young fruits has reached around 10mm in fruit size, then it is the right time to seriously reduce the number of fruits. Bring back bunches of fruitlets to singles and space the fruits 6 to 8 inches apart. Always retain the largest fruits.

9. Continue to foliar feed the tree and water the tree during the summer months. A shortage of moisture during the summer will affect the quality of the fruit buds the following year.

10. If any summer pruning needs to be done later during the summer months, remove surplus strongly-growing laterals. Do not cut out any new shoots which have closed down early. These usually carry the best fruit buds for the following year and therefore should be retained.

The most important thing: remember that the tree blossoms very early, usually in March or early April, and that if blossom is exposed to temperatures of -1 degrees Celsius or colder, it will be killed, and no fruit will be formed. That’s why protection with garden fleece is essential during spring frosts as described above.

We can supply apricot varieties suitable for growing in the UK. Click here to go to the tree varieties page, where you can use the web form provided to ask for any additional information you may require with regard to your order.

Apricot Fan Training

Here are the instructions for fan training an apricot tree:

February/March
Start with 2 side branches
Cut these back by about 2 inches. Remove all other growth. (March)
Promote strong growth. (Water, nutrients, warmth).
Seal all fresh pruning cuts with “Heal and Seal” compound to prevent bacterial canker infection.

Late September
Select 2 shoots on either side.
Tie in with bamboo canes at 45 degree angles
Cut back the original side branches and the extra 4, by about a third of their length.
Continue to feed well (slow release fertilizer, Osmacote or the equivalent).

February/March of the following year
Select the final 2 branches.
Carry out the same procedure as in the previous year.
After cropping (August), cut out the wood that carried a crop. Tie in new canes to replace the wood that carried fruit. Develop fruit spurs.
Apricot crops best on younger wood, but it does crop on the older spurs.
Never prune plums, cherries, apricots, peach and nectarine during the winter months but ALWAYS as soon as you have picked the crop. This to avoid disease build-up.

Espalier training of apricots

Follow instructions and recommendations as published here.

Tips for garden fruit trees, December-January

1) Check stakes and ties. Make sure the supporting stakes have not rotted off at ground level. Loosen ties where needed, if too tight.
2) Start pruning apple, pear and mulberry trees that have reached regular cropping.
3) Check that rabbit and deer guards are in good working order.
4) Check fruit in store. Remove rotten fruits
5) Apply farmyard manure where trees have been struggling
6) Cut out dead branches and canker wounds. Paint wounds with Arbrex or similar.
7) Apply winter wash if greenfly/aphids were a source of trouble last year.
8) Protect fruit buds of plums and pears. Bullfinches can cause serious damage during the winter months.
9) You’re still in time to order new trees. In addition to the 5-tree Orchard Pack, Suffolk Fruit & Trees is now offering a Two-Tree Training Pack for Cordon, Espalier and Fan-Shaped Trees, specially selected for training, and at a reduced price with respect to ready-trained trees.

Bullfinch by Jacob Spinks flickr

Bullfinch, photo courtesy of Jacob Spinks/flickr.com

It’s almost time…

People who work in garden centres know that plants sell best when they have flowers on. In the same way, customers often start thinking about planting fruit trees in spring, when days are warmer and the sap is rising. In the winter, people like to be warm and cosy. Fruit trees are different: they like to be handled when it is cold and all the leaves have come off.

Trees evolved their life cycle to survive harsh winter conditions. In winter, there is far less light for photosynthesis, and the low temperatures can easily freeze and kill the leaves. So in the winter months, the tree shuts down, shedding its leaves and virtually halting its uptake of water from the soil, because sap movement has come to a standstill. That’s why January, February and March are the best time to plant fruit trees.

So, if you’re thinking about planting a few trees, now is the time to order, ready for delivery from December to the end of March. It’s also important to avoid planting trees in grass and weeds. Young fruit trees must be given a chance to build up their root systems unhindered by grass encroachment. Always make sure that a square yard of soil around the trunk of the trees is completely free from grass or weeds.

Young fruit trees ready for delivery

Excessive rainfall during the growing season

In many parts of the country we are experiencing very high levels of rain fall. This comes at a time when large amount of oxygen are needed in the soil. If soil drainage is not efficient in the soil where the fruit trees are planted, the trees can literally drown. Where there is excess water around the roots of the trees, the oxygen-bearing air is driven out of the soil and the roots die. The effect will not be visible immediately. However, as soon as droughty conditions return, the symptoms will be clearly visible: shoot die-back. More seriously, the trees’ immune system will have been seriously damaged. This means the trees will be an easy target for all types of fungal diseases, such as tree canker, armillaria root rot, crown rot, silver leaf, just to name a few.

Summarising, the soil is the tree’s home. It pays handsomely to ensure that all surplus water, up to a depth of 2 feet of soil, can drain away without any hindrance. Air can enter the soil again and all will be fine.

Flooding conditions, photo by Dave Gunn/flickr.com

Flooding conditions, photo by Dave Gunn/flickr.com

Tasks for garden fruit trees in June – part 2

Check your pheromone traps for codling and plum moths. Renew the lure if necessary. Start spraying the apple varieties which have a tendency towards bitterpit in the fruits. Apply fruit nets where bird trouble might occur, cherries in particular. Continue thinning out the fruitlets to doubles or singles. Remove scabby fruits at the same time. Start the summer pruning programmes of plums, cherries and greengages. The same applies to nectarines, peaches and apricots. Hang rolled up corrugated cardboard in the trees to attract the caterpillars which would otherwise damage foliage and fruits. Regularly inspect and renew when caterpillars are caught. Deal with aphids if present in too large a number in folded-up shoot tips. Do not let the trees dry out. This in particular applies to potted trees. Continue with foliar feeding if foliage of the fruit trees is not up to the mark. Make a start on preparing the ground where new trees will be planted in the autumn.

After natural drop, in June it is advisable to reduce the number of fruitlets in a group like this

After natural drop, in June it is advisable to reduce the number of fruitlets in a group like this

June fruit tree update

Your young fruit trees are now at top activity; new roots and shoots are being formed and young fruitlets are appearing. Therefore additional water, one full watering can a week, will help the tree very much. Any tree planted in a pot or a container, whose roots are therefore restricted, will need extra moisture in particular.

By the end of June, the clusters of young fruitlets will have to be thinned out. Two fruits per cluster will be plenty. Make sure these clusters of young fruitlets are spaced out. Approx. 6 to 8 inches apart is about right. The reason for this is because for each fruit to be able mature properly, it will need the help of 20 fully grown leaves.

Now is the optimum time to place your pheromone traps. Just read the notes placed for the month of May for further details.

Thinning fruitlets

After thinning, the result should be 2 fruitlets per group

Planting young fruit trees

P1020556-1100

The critical points to get right to ensure that the trees to do well.

1) The soil is the tree’s home. Only the best will do. Use John Innes compost number 3 as a soil improver, if necessary. Ideal pH: 6.3- 6.8

2) Choose a spot in full sunlight.

3) Do not plant the tree on live roots of any other tree or on old orchard land.

4) Stay away from any type of hedge. The distance depends on the height of the hedge: for example if the hedge is 3 metres tall, plant the tree at least 3 metres from the hedge canopy.

5) Prepare the planting spot well before the tree’s arrival.

6) Moist soil is fine. Waterlogged soil is a no. Plant in a raised bed when in doubt.

7) The tree should be staked at all times from planting, right through its life. Use a 2”diameter, round, treated stake, 6 feet in length, treated against wood rot fungi.

8) First put the round stake upright in the ground, to a depth of 1’6”.

9) Then dig a decent-sized planting hole at spade depth. Approx. 1’6” diameter. Loosen the sub soil with a rigid tine fork. Keep the union of the tree above soil level.

10) Put the top soil in a wheelbarrow and mix it with some blood and bone meal and some garden compost or well rotted manure.

11) Always make sure crumbly soil is put back on top of the roots. Not big lumps of stiff clay. Firm the soil with your boot.

12) Tie the tree with a flexible adjustable tie. An old nylon stocking is perfect.

13) Put a rabbit guard on the trunk. If deer are a problem, use the appropriate guard.

14) Keep 1 square metre of soil around the trunk free from grass and weeds, during the growing season, from April to September during the next 4 years. Use a soil membrane from the garden centre. WITHOUT THIS, THE TREES WILL STRUGGLE. Grass is the worst enemy of young fruit trees.

15) Water your tree weekly during the growing season, above all from May to September. A full watering can for each tree. The first 3 years are decisive for healthy tree development.

16) Prevent aphids from damaging your trees. This applies in particular just before flowering time and soon after that. Any garden centre will stock what you will need for this. Use an approved organic method in order to save the ladybirds, lacewings and earwigs. These are excellent predators and the earwigs remove lots of caterpillars.

Peach leaf curl disease

Peach leaf curl disease (Taphrina deformans) is the main issue you have to be aware of with peach, nectarine and apricot growing. I f you follow my guidelines you will have no trouble with this fungal disease.

Apricot has the same trouble, but in a milder form. However, if you cover your peach tree or your apricot tree with a double layer of garden fleece from late January until the middle of May, every year, or bring the potted tree indoors during the winter months, the disease cannot develop.

Peach leaf curl

Peach leaf curl, photo courtesy of Scot Nelson/flickr.com

The fungus Taphrina deformans attacks the tree species of peach, nectarine and apricot.

The symptoms are the development of large reddish blisters on the leaves. The tree is seriously weakened as photosynthesis by the leaves is seriously affected.

Eventually the tree is starved to death as it is no longer able to make essential carbohydrates through photosynthesis. Leaves tend to fall prematurely and growth comes to a full standstill.

The fungus attacks the tree from early February until the middle of May. After May the fungus is no longer producing spores and therefore cannot cause new infections.

How to avoid peach leaf curl disease

There are various options for controllilng this fungus. Some varieties are more resistant than others. However this is no help if you already have to cope with this problem.

Actions to be taken immediately are the complete removal of leaves affected. This applies to the fallen leaves as well as the affected leaves that still attached to the tree. Make sure the leaves are all collected up, put in a plastic bag and then put in the non-recycling bin. Make sure the tree is well watered and does not stand in a carpet of weeds and grass. Apply a full watering can of water once or twice a week, particularly during the summer months. Mulch the tree with well rotted farmyard manure. The area to be mulched must be of a minimum size of one square yard.

Never let the tree go short of water! By late January cover the tree with a double layer of garden fleece. Fasten the fleece securely. Make sure the wind cannot affect it or lift it off. Keep your eye on the tree and if a tear develops in the fleece after particularly bad weather, repair the damage properly. This fleece needs to stay in position until the second week of May. After that time, carefully remove the fleece.

Never prune the tree during the autumn and winter months when the leaves have fallen. It is at that time that new infections occur very quickly. Prune during the middle of May or during late August, making sure the old wood is removed to make room for new shoots to form. This is essential as the fruits of peach and nectarine are formed on one year wood only. Seal the pruning cuts with “Prune and Seal”, a compound available from your garden centre. The foliage of a well pruned tree dries up quickly, with less chance of new infections.

If it is not possible to cover the peach tree, to avoid the disease you can spray with copper during the first week of February and repeat the spray 14 days later. Follow the instructions on the packet in detail. Garden centres stock it. At leaf fall in late November put on another spray of copper.

Peach leaf curl disease is spread by rain droplets. The fungus over-winters and is hidden in crevices of the bark and between the bud scales. Therefore consider planting a peach tree in a 15 to 18 inch diameter pot. By the end of January, wheel the potted peach tree into a cold shed or a cold green house or a cold poly tunnel. In that way no fleece is needed as the tree is sheltered from the winter rains. By the middle of May it is safe to take the pot outdoors again. Then position the tree in a warm sunny place and water it weekly or twice a week when very warm weather is occurring. Never let the tree go short of water as it will surely die.

Feed the tree monthly with a suitable foliar feed , obtainable from garden centres.