Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Orchard work, late March

We have reached the end of March. Frosty nights are occurring quite frequently. It is therefore essential to protect the blossoms of early flowering fruit trees such as Apricots, Peaches and fruit trees planted on south-facing walls. The best way to do this is to use a double layer of garden fleece firmly secured to branches with strong cloth pegs. If the trees are too big to protect as a whole, then protect branches that are well-laden with blossom on their own. After all, it is better to have some fruit, compared with none at all. Make sure the bees and pollinating insects can find entry routes on the side, so that they can visit the flowers. If insects are absent, aid pollination with a soft haired paint brush, when the flowers are fully open. Gently stroking will do the trick.

Secondly, if you want to graft over some poorly cropping trees, now is the time to do it. Use fully dormant, one year old grafting wood. This is fully matured wood which was grown last year. Use 6-inch pieces of wood and make sure that cambium is fitted to cambium. Secure with raffia  or strong tape. Make sure all air is excluded, so that the wounds in contact can grow together. To ensure this, use grafting wax or strong adhesive tape.

Lastly, all planting of bare root fruit trees has now come to an end. It is essential to make sure that late-planted fruit trees do not dry out. Around the tree trunks, place mulch mats of at least 3 foot square. Use a mulch of wet straw, hay or well rotted compost or manure, to fully cover the mulch mats. Keep the tree roots well watered on a weekly basis.

If you haven’t done it already, do make sure autumn cropping raspberries are cut back to ground level. Summer cropping raspberries need to be pruned differently. Cut out all last year’s cropping wood, but leave in last year’s newly-formed shoots. Space the shoots 3 to 4 inches apart and securely tie them along a wire strained between posts along the row.

Dig out docks and stinging nettles along the row, before these weeds become too powerful. Having done that, apply a 4-inches-deep mulch of wet hay or straw along the row, if the soil is drought-sensitive. Water frequently during long dry/warm spells in order to keep the root systems fully active.

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