realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

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

Special feature trees

We are often asked about trees with certain characteristics, such as highly flavoured apples, red crisp apples, green eating apples and so forth. 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, sweet
Greensleeves, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith.

Green eating apples, sharp
James Grieve, Sturmer Pippin, Darcy Spice.

Green cooking apples
Genadier, Lord Derby, Warner King, Bramley, Bountiful, Arthur Turner, Reverend Wilks, Annie Elisabeth.

Red and partially coloured eating apples
Spartan, Worcester Pearmain, Fiesta, Red Pippin, Lord Lambourne, Red Windsor, Red Falstaff, Discovery, Royal Gala, Kidd’s Orange Red, Chiver’s Delight, Laxton Superb, Laxton Fortune, Sunset, Winston, Cox Orange Pippin ,Scrumptious, Winter Gem, Braeburn

Russet apples, whole or partial russet
Egremont Russet, Ashmead Kernel, Rosemary Russet, Duke of Devonshire, Suntan, Winter Wonder, Ellison’s Orange, Orlean’s Reinette.

General purpose apples, large
Howgate Wonder, Charles Ross, Blenheim Orange, Peasgood Nonsuch, Tom Put, Jonagold.

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.