realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Monthly Archives: November 2013

November tips – protect pears and plums from bird damage

A bullfinch, photo courtesy of Paul Starkey/flickr.com

A bullfinch, photo courtesy of Paul Starkey/flickr.com

Even though the trees will be looking bare, it’s important to apply cotton threads to pear and plum trees as soon as the leaves have fallen. This is a good method of deterring pigeons and bullfinches who otherwise will eat the fruit buds, essential for next year’s crop, in pears and plums. Ordinary cotton is fine, just wind it around the tree (slip the spool onto a rod or dowel to make things simpler) so that the threads are about six inches apart. What happens is that the bird flies towards the tree, doesn’t see the thread, touches it with its wing, gets a fright, and flies off. No damage to the bird is done, and it helps your tree!

Bordeaux mixture, a fungicide for fruit trees

Bordeaux mixture, based on copper sulphate and slaked lime, was first used on vines initially to discourage pilferers. Its fungicidal properties were discovered by chance. Photo courtesy of Diyanski/flickr.com

Bordeaux mixture, based on copper sulphate and slaked lime, was first used on vines initially to discourage pilferers. Its fungicidal properties were discovered by chance. Photo courtesy of Diyanski/flickr.com

Use Bordeaux mixture if fungi have been a problem. The copper in the mixture will stop the damaging spores of these fungi from getting a hold in your trees.

November fruit growing tips – tree guards

A tree guard. Photo courtesy of Villa root barrier.com/flickr.com

A tree guard. Photo courtesy of Guy Charlebois/Villa root barrier.com/flickr.com

Check your tree guards, replace guards that are too tight ones or broken.
If you have ordered new trees, mark out the planting positions with tall bamboo canes.

Medlars

Medlars, Photo courtesy of Michael Kirtley/flickr.com

Medlars, Photo courtesy of Michael Kirtley/flickr.com

Medlars are beautiful, but unfortunately largely forgotten trees. This is such a pity as these trees are so easy to grow and totally undemanding. The big white flowers are very eye-catching in the early spring. The tree itself is of moderate size and very easy to grow. Apart from keeping an area of about 1 square yard around the base of the trees free from grass and weeds during the first two years, after that you do not need to do anything, as the tree is then totally capable of looking after itself.

But then the fruit! People say to me… what do you do with it? Well this is the story.

When everything else  in the fruit line has been gathered up, stored or eaten, it is then that you should to go to your medlar tree and see if the fruits are ready to pick. The biggest mistake with medlars is that the fruits are picked TOO EARLY. In general, this time of the year, towards the end of November, is the right time to pick the medlars. If you pick medlars too early, the taste and soft texture does not develop properly. You will know when the fruits are ready to pick, when a brown spot appears on some of the fruits, and gradually gets bigger, while the fruits are still on the tree. Then test the flavour of the Nottingham Medlar: squeeze the fruit, suck it, and a soft texture of the fruit means that it is ready to pick. If the texture is still dry it is not ready yet . Do not pick all the fruits in one go, as the fruits ripen over a period of approximately 14 days. When lovely and soft, it is ready for the preparation of various Medlar dishes in the kitchen.

My grandfather had a tree in his garden. While he was digging his garden, as a little boy I kept out of harm’s way by eating his medlars. Delicious they were too!!

Click here to visit the Tree Varieties page where you can order the Nottingham Medlar and other fruit tree varieties

Maiden and Bush trees

Planting a tree. Photo courtesy of FO Littleover Parks/flickr.com

Planting a tree. Photo courtesy of FO Littleover Parks/flickr.com

Of course, we are not the only fruit tree suppliers on the market in the UK. Each supplier has their own policy as regards pricing and products. One particularly important factor in a fruit tree from a supplier is whether it is a Maiden or a Bush tree.

A Maiden is generally a tree in its first year, consisting of a single stem. For a few varieties, this may have a few initial side branches, but most will not. The buds on a maiden are mainly wood buds. So there is no chance of any fruit crop in the year after planting.

A Bush tree is a 2 to 3 year-old tree, ususally with several side branches, usually with a good number of fruit buds. Fruit buds are essential for early cropping. A bush tree is also helpful because the side branches are ready to develop into the main framework of the tree, with a “fruit table” positioned for comfortable picking. Not all fruit trees form side branches in the second year, but, if it is an apple, in any case the tree will start to produce fruit on the central stem. By nature, pears, plums and greengages always take longer to come into production . Therefore in particular with these fruit types it is wiser to start with a 2 to 3 year old tree.

The height of the tree is not a feature which encourages early cropping.

In conclusion, we would like to underline the fact that the fruit trees that we sell are Bush trees, well-developed specimens with useful side branches to encourage early cropping. This is why, with our trees, cropping usually begins the year after planting. They are sturdy, strong and healthy, with good levels of reserves in the tree structure. This helps them to resist diseases caused by the fungal spores that are always present in the air.

Other suppliers may seem to have prices lower than ours, but this is because the trees that they supply are Maidens, without all the advantages offered by Bush trees. We have specifically chosen to supply Bush trees because we feel that they offer a better deal for the purchaser.

Fruit growing tips for November – hygiene

Remove all rotten fruit and scabby leaves as these diseases will overwinter and will affect next year’s crop.

Scab on an apple leaf. Photo courtesy of keystonetree.com

Scab on an apple leaf. Photo courtesy of keystonetree.com

Quince – Cydonia vulgaris

Quince tree, photo courtesy of rmtw/flickr.com

Quince tree, photo courtesy of rmtw/flickr.com

Quinces are beautiful trees and live to a great age. These trees love to grow in fertile and moist soil. They love an open and sunny position. They are ideal near a stream. They have beautiful large blossoms, fairly late in the spring. A very hardy tree. They usually do best with a companion. I recommend Vranja and Meeches EarlyProlific. This last tree is smaller and more suitable for the smaller garden. The trees, once established need no further attention as they are very capable of looking after themselves. However in the early years it is important to remove crossing branches and any other branches which reduce the entry of light into the tree. The black marking that can occur on the fruits is caused by crossing branches that scar the quinces. As for all fruit trees, in the early years, it is important to give the quince trees water in very dry summer periods.
The fruits are very aromatic and should be stored by themselves, as the quince scent will adversely affect  the flavour of other fruits. Store them in a cool, frost-free place. The fruits are superb for the preparation of a large range of dishes either as an addition or by themselves.

There are several ways of preparing quinces for jams, chutneys, jellies etc. It is the initial preparation which is important to get right. The fruits are rock-hard and therefore need to be softened up before peeling and coring them:
1) wash the quinces,
2) wrap each one in foil,
3) bake in the oven until soft, for up to 1 hour.
4) unwrap when cool and remove cores and any skin,
5) use for recipes as required.

Click here to go to the Tree Varieties page, where you can select this and other varieties in a provisional order

November fruit growing tips

Waterlogged. Photo courtesy of Karen Martin/BIPAP/flickr.com

Waterlogged. Photo courtesy of Karen Martin/BIPAP/flickr.com

Check the gutters of any building for blockages near your mini orchard. A leaking gutter that causes soil to become waterlogged is death to the fruit tree.

Victoria

Victoria, photo courtesy of Karen Breslau/flickr.com

Victoria, photo courtesy of Karen Breslau/flickr.com

The most planted plum tree. Very productive, easy to grow, regular crops provided surplus fruitlets are thinned out by late June. It is suitable for fresh consumption as well as bottling, jam-making and processing. The tree is very sensitive to the disease Silver Leaf fungus. Avoid branch breakages or any other wounds that would enable the spores to enter the tree’s cambium layer.

Finally, if after all that, it looks you might have a crop of plums/greengages, thin the new young fruitlets, when they are the size of a small hazel nut. The fruits in singles need to be spaced 4 to 6 inches apart, depending on the variety. If one can find the time to this, you are more likely to have a crop every year.

Click here to go to the Tree Varieties page, where you can select this and other varieties in a provisional order

Shropshire Prune

Shropshire Prune, photo courtesy of wimbornedesign.blogspot.it

Shropshire Prune, photo courtesy of wimbornedesign.blogspot.it

Also known as Shropshire Damson. It is the best flavoured of them all. It is excellent for preserving, bottling or freezing. Not suitable as a dessert plum. If well pollinated  and not overcropped, it will produce regular crops. The trees are not very big and suitable for gardens. Harvesting late September.

Click here to go to the Tree Varieties page, where you can select this and other varieties in a provisional order