Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Monthly Archives: October 2013

October fruit tree tips – orchard hygiene

Remove all dropped or rotten fruit under the tree. This to avoid a build-up of the brown rot fungus. If scab or mildew did occur during the season, remove all leaves from the ground to avoid a build-up of the spores of the damaging fungi. Apply an approved winter wash to the tree, if pest or disease have been a serious problem.

October fruit tree tips – tree maintenance

Take the tree guards off the trunk. Look for canker. Clean the trunk of any accumulated debris, such as moss and weed remains, grass cuttings etc.
If there is canker, cut it out with a sharp knife. Seal the wound with “Heal and Seal”.
Put the tree guard back on.
Check the stake. If broken or rotted off at ground level, replace the stake before the winter gales cause damage to the root system of the tree.

Maiden and bush trees

When one is considering purchasing fruit trees, it is very important to know what sort of tree one can expect.
This is a 1 year old tree and needs at least 3 years before cropping can be expected.
This is a 2 to 3 year old tree. If planted prooperly and looked after well – fed and well watered during the growing season – the apple trees will usually start cropping the year after planting.

It is for this reason that 2 to 3 year-old trees are more expensive than maidens. Bush trees of most varieties already have several side branches. The first fruits will be formed on those side branches.
If over the following years the lower branches are gradually removed then the tree is transformed in either a half standard or standard tree. Usually these trees will have formed a clear trunk of approx. 1 to 1.5 meter length.
From the early cropping point of view, the bush tree is generally most suitable.
Half standard and standard trees take longer to re-establish themselves.

October fruit tree tips – tree ties

A plastic tie on a stepover tree

A plastic tie on a stepover tree

Now the leaves are beginning to drop, this is a good time to carry out a detailed inspection of each fruit tree. Over the next few days we will be providing a few tips on possible problems and how to deal with them.

Our first tip is about tree ties. Check that they are not too tight. Adjust or renew.

Soils and container choices for mobile trees

Suffolk PinkIt is important to ask the question: are fruit trees suitable to live and produce fruit in containers? Just visualize the enormous change we humans present to fruit trees. Under normal conditions the trees can explore and find the nutritional elements they need in a great volume of soil. If they cannot find what they need close by, the tree roots grow either deeper or further outwards until they finds the major/trace elements essential for their wellbeing. If however we plant our trees in a container, then we dramatically curtail root growth and make the trees very much dependent on us for their nutrition and moisture requirements. Some plants are more fruitful in containers. Take for example the fig. If it is planted in good, well-drained soil without any root restriction, it will tend to produce wonderful leaves. But this is often, under our climatic conditions, at the expense of fruiting.

Summarising, if we plant fruit trees in containers, then the type and quality of soil is of the greatest importance. What is a good quality soil? A good soil has a crumb-like structure, and the sand and clay particles are present in such a ratio to make it possible for the tree to take up everything that it needs; oxygen, water and the essential nutritional elements. Soil-based John Innes compost number 3 comes the closest to fulfilling these requirements.

There are numerous choices available in the form of containers for fruit trees. Containers have a great effect on the wellbeing of fruit trees. To begin with, the size/volume of the tree is in direct relation to the size and capacity of the container. The bigger the container, the larger the tree. That of course if soil and water are readily available for the tree roots to explore. Secondly, not only the dimension of the container used is of influence. It does make a difference if it is a clay pot, plastic or made from any other material. Roots of fruit trees like to stay cool. Thin plastic pots are not suitable. Double-walled plastic is fine. Whichever pot is chosen, the drainage holes must never be blocked. Excess water in the container kills a tree just as quickly as drought. Therefore make sure the holes are loosely covered with broken clay pot pieces. A good size container will have a depth of 45 cm and a diameter at the top of approximately 40 cm. After a couple of years, repot the tree in a larger pot, using a soil-based compost.

When to feed and how to water your trees

A watering can is not ideal. Particularly in containers one needs to pay close attention to the fact that more often than not the water, when applied using a watering can, escapes via the sides of the pot or container. The water comes through the drainage holes and one thinks one has done a good job of watering. The centre of the pot stays dry and the trees suffer from water stress. It is better to apply the water via a drip system , which applies little water each time it drips. Also, soil is often very difficult to rewet if allowed to dry out too much.

Apply water and nutrients at a regular intervals, definitely before wilting occurs. For fruit trees, apply a general purpose fertilizer such as Growmore in the early spring. To strengthen fruit buds apply a light dressing after picking the fruit. Slow release fertilizers can do a good job. You can also foliar feed your trees with very good results. Fruit trees like good light conditions and if possible a sheltered position.

Some cooking apples will do reasonably well if partly shaded. However cherries, pears and peaches do best when grown in full sunlight. Plums do also well in slightly shaded positions. No fruit tree does well if put completely in the shade of a wall or another tree.

Which types of fruit tree can be grown in containers?

Single stem trees such as cordons usually do well. More demanding are espalier and fan types of trees. Pears, and apricots are ideal for growing as espaliers. Cherries, peaches and plums do better when grown in an open fan shape.

Over cropping

It is very nice to grow a good crop. If you overcrop the tree, the following year the tree does not crop at all or only a little. It therefore pays to thin the fruitlets, whichever type of crop it is.

Top Ten Tips on caring for fruit trees

Dan Neuteboom

Dan Neuteboom

The fundamental thing to remember is that even though trees don’t talk or run around, they are living organisms and highly responsive to human beings. Regular visits to the trees are important, not least because in this way one can develop an understanding about the tree’s needs and behavior. One can then respond in the right manner to achieve good results in terms of growth and fertility. Trees that are well looked after will live much longer than us! Try to understand the tree’s needs by frequent visits, and all will be well.

Top Ten Tips
1) Do not plant an oldish or so-called “mature” tree, as you may be starting off with lots of problems. Plant a healthy 2 to 3-year old tree, and cropping will start the year after planting in the case of apples, peaches and apricots. Pears, plums and cherries will take another one or two years to start cropping.
2) Fruit trees are like youngsters; give them room to stretch out and grow, when they are young. Cropping will follow sooner then you think.
3) Make sure the trees have full light. That’s their source of energy. Shade always reduces cropping.
4) The soil has to be the best. The soil is the tree’s home. A tree likes its soil to be well aerated and full of nutrients.
5) Make sure that the soil and subsoil are never waterlogged, particularly in winter. Stagnant water is a death sentence for a fruit tree.
6) From April to September, water weekly, when the trees are young. 10 to 15 litres per week is a minimum. More in hot periods.
7) During the growing season, take note of the leaves. If they are deep green, the tree is happy. If they are a different colour, the tree is telling you something and needs your help.
8) Only transplant trees from December to March. This is the period of dormancy.
9) Keep one square metre of soil around the trunk totally free from grass and weeds. This solves many fruit growing problems.
10) When you think that picking time is near, taste the fruit. If you like the flavour, pick the fruit gently, without bruising it, and store it in a cool dark place at a temperature as close to 3° Celsius as possible. A second-hand fridge is ideal for storing all fruits.

Variety choice; eating, cooking, juicing, slicing, baking, cider making

apples on treeIf you are planning to have your own orchard, or just a few trees in the garden, the question arises of which variety of fruit to plant . The most reliable trees from the cropping point of view are apples. Secondly you may then ask yourself, which apple variety suits me best? Which type of apple will be liked by the children and which apple does grandma prefer? I don’t want all the apples to ripen at the same time. So how do I set about making the right choice? In the end it all comes down to a few elementary principles.

1) All apples, picked when mature, will become sweet. Some are by nature sweet when it is harvest time. Others have a degree of sharpness at harvest time and will retain their sharpness longer. Therefore if you plant more than one tree, it is best to choose different varieties. In that way your fruit will not all ripen at the same time. At harvest time, all apples are crisp. However the late maturing apples keep their crispness the longest.

2) All apples will cook. However some apples are better suited than others. The same applies to baking and apples used for slicing. Some apples will retain their shape when baked, others go to mush. If you would like to order trees from us, just indicate the characteristics you are looking for on our online form, and we will tell you.

3) The best apples for keeping are the late maturing apples, picked in October, some even in November, particularly the smaller sized apples. However, always keep them in a dark place, which should be the coolest possible. The ideal temperature at which to keep apples is around 3 degrees Celsius.

4) Humidity around apples is important to reduce shrivelling. When you store your apples, cover them loosely with plastic, for example an open plastic bag.

5) If you have the room, store the fruit in single layers. This will reduce the spread of rotting from one apple to another.

6) Finally if you lack the space, then keep the apples in the bottom of your fridge as soon as you have picked them.