realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Monthly Archives: October 2015

How to keep a fruit tree in check and maintain its fruitfulness

This is a fundamental question for anyone growing fruit in the garden: how do you keep the trees in check, while at the same time keeping them fruitful?

The first thing is to protect the trees from spring frosts. As soon as the first flowers are open, it is very important that whenever a spring frost is forecast, the trees are covered before you go to bed with a double layer of garden fleece or the equivalent. By 9 o’clock in the morning, when the temperature has risen above 0 degrees Celsius, the fleece will have to be removed for pollination purposes. The point of all this is that temperatures below 0°C kill the flowers, which in turn prevents fruit from being formed.

This may sound like quite a lot of work to incorporate into your busy daily schedule. In actual fact it doesn’t take long and it can be quite easily done, on one condition: as long the trees are of a size not much taller than say approximately 8 feet. THIS CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED IF SUMMER PRUNING IS CARRIED OUT. Winter pruning increases tree size, summer pruning maintains tree size to the height and width you like it to be, without the tree losing its ability to crop the following year.

The important point to remember is that timing is of critical importance. As a general guide, summer pruning should be done as soon as the tree has been picked. Definitely no later than the end of September. Once leaf quality is starting to deteriorate, it is too late. Remove the older wood. Retain the fruiting spurs and the younger wood, and the two-year-old short darts. Always seal the wounds with “Heal and Seal”, obtainable from garden centres.

Not all varieties can be summer pruned in this way. Considering pear trees, the variety range suitable for this treatment is Concorde, Conference, Onward, Williams and Beth.

Quite a lot of apple varieties are suitable, but only diploid varieties. such as James Grieve, Red Windsor, Egremont Russet, Katy and Sunset. Triploids are usually too vigorous to be kept in control in this way. With tip bearers such as Worcester Pearmain, keeping size under control by summer pruning is possible but tricky, and with shy-bearing varieties such as Cox Orange Pippin, it is an uphill struggle. Therefore always seek advice. After all, fruit trees, all being well, should be a satisfying long-term investment. Similarly seek advice when you are considering cherries and plum varieties.

A dwarf stock is a help in controlling tree size, on good soils. On shallow soils, this is often not the case. A raised bed is a better alternative than planting in a poor soil.

Lastly, never let your trees dry out. Water weekly during the growing season. Do not flood the trees; one full watering can per week for each tree is enough. Do not starve your trees by planting in a bed of grass and weeds. The trees will dry out in no time!!

Watch a video on the subject of summer pruning:

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Critical Points to be followed to enable your trees to do well

Planning and preparation

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 the live roots of any other tree.

4) Stay away from any type of hedge. When planting several fruit trees, for every metre in height, calculate 1 metre’s planting distance from the other trees. For example, if the final height of the tree will be 3 metres, it should be at least 3 metres from any other tree.

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

6) Moist soil is fine. Waterlogged soil is a no. If in doubt, plant the tree in a raised bed.

7) The tree should be staked at all times, from planting, right through its life. Use a 2” diameter, circular-section, treated stake, 6 feet in length.

Planting

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

9) Then dig a decent-size planting hole at spade depth. 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 wheel barrow and mix it with blood and bone meal.

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 onto the trunk.

Maintenance throughout the tree’s life

14) Keep 1 square metre of soil around the trunk free from grass and weeds, during the growing season, from April to September, in every year of the tree’s life.

15) Water your tree weekly during the growing season, above all from May to September. 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.

Dan Neuteboom featured in the magazine The Fruit Grower

Dan Neuteboom from Suffolk Fruit & Trees was featured in the September 2015 issue of The Fruit Grower. The article describes his 12-month test of an ethylene filter designed specifically for smaller-scale fruit growers. When fruit is put into store, it is alive, and so it carries on its metabolism though at a slower rate due to the cool temperature. Apples and pears produce ethylene as they ripen, and this changes the fruit colour and gradually makes it softer. So an ethylene filter such as that by Fresh Pod, tested in the trial, helps fruit in store keep better and for longer, without losing flavour or firmness. Here is the original article:

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In the article, Dan provides advice for those growers wishing to use the filter. Some of his tips can be followed by anyone who wants to store some fruit from a garden apple or pear tree:

  • Store fruit that is slightly under-ripe to maintain fruit firmness
  • Pick fruit for storage when it is cool, so early in the morning
  • Only store undamaged fruit
  • Remove fruit showing signs of rot
  • Ideal storage temperature is 3-4°C

Below, the photo published in the article:

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For further information on the magazine The Fruit Grower, see www.actpub.co.uk

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Weekly update for the fruit garden – first week of October

It is now getting close to picking time for late varieties such as Tydeman’s Late Orange, Winter Wonder, Suntan, Crawley Beauty, Court Pendu Plat, Winston, Newton Wonder, Jonagold, Laxton Superb, Lord Derby and Lane Prince Albert. Always treat late storage apples with the respect they deserve. That means storing them in single layers, in the coolest room or in the cellar in the dark. The closer the fruit is kept to 4 degrees Celsius, the longer the shelf life. Look at the fruit once a fortnight and remove any rotten apples.

You can also hang the fruit in slices on a piece of string, out to dry. This of course needs to be done in a warm and dark cupboard. This was often done during the Second World War, in order to have some fresh dried fruit during the cold winter months.

Don’t forget to put the grease bands on the trunks of the trees. Garden centres stock those items.

It is still not too late to spray trees with Bordeaux mixture to stop nasty fungi developing during the winter months. This applies particularly applies to plums, greengages and cherry trees while still in leaf.

Laxton Superb, image courtesy Eivind Kvamme/flickr.com

Laxton Superb, image courtesy Eivind Kvamme/flickr.com