realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Category Archives: Orchard maintenance

September 2019: tasks in a garden orchard

This is the month when many varieties of apple, pear, plum, greengage and quince will need to be picked. It is important to ensure that the trees are picked at the correct time. If you pick too early, the fruit will shrivel and it will lack taste. If you pick too late, the fruit will not keep and the wind will cause serious fruit drop. So you may ask, when is the correct time for picking? Taste the fruit: if it eats well, pick the fruit. If it is difficult to pick and the fruit will not come off easily, then delay picking. Test the tree again 3 or 4 days later, and you may find that things have changed very quickly, particularly after a couple of really cold nights. This applies particularly to apples and pears.

Once the fruit has been picked, select the best fruits for keeping and use the damaged fruits for processing, soon after picking. Store the fruits in single layers and make sure you choose the coolest place available for storage. Also make sure the location is vermin free. Lots of other creatures, such as mice, will soon discover where the next meal will be available, particularly in the late autumn and winter months.

Remember to visit your fruit storage place weekly and remove any fruits that are rotting. If you forget to do this, it will adversely affect the quality of the remaining fruits.

Click here to see the complete year’s calendar of garden orchard work.

Dan Neuteboom

Dan Neuteboom

Take a look at our latest videos:

Suffolk Pink apples and their colour
In Suffolk Pink, colour is produced not just by the effect of sunlight, but requires another factor as well. Which is it? Click to find out.

Chip budding
Nurseryman William Seabrook demonstrates the chip budding technique. Click to watch.

Grafting, success and the occasional failure
Grafts are not always successful. William Seabrook examines two grafts performed in April, one showing excellent growth, while the other evidently went wrong. Click to watch.

Summer pruning on Suffolk Pink
Summer pruning is important to develop colour on ripening apples. Click to watch.

Summer pruning on pears
When doing summer pruning on pears, think ahead to next year’s crop. Click to watch

What to look for when buying apple trees
Dan Neuteboom talks about what to look out for when buying fruit trees. A healthy tree is essential, but you can also look for characteristics that indicate a rapid start of fruiting. Click to watch.

Pruning pear trees in August and September
How to keep pear trees in a shape that stimulates good cropping and keeps the fruit low down on the tree for easy picking. Click to watch.

Garden orchards, update for the month of August

This is a very important time in the fruit calendar. Many fruits are either close to picking or already being picked. The early plums such as Mirabelles, and likewise apricots, are being picked, and greengages, plums and early apple varieties will soon be ready.

Wasps are now very active and efforts have to be made to find the nests close by in order to reduce the numbers of these insects. The plum moth and codling moth have been a real nuisance this year. The lure and sticky pads in the pheromone traps in our area had to be renewed twice due to the large number of moths present. Woolly aphids have also been present in far greater numbers when compared to other years. Also bacterial canker, silver leaf and common tree canker in many cases have been a problem. Therefore, all considered, any wounds made during the summer pruning activities will need to be sealed with a wound-healing paint without delay.

Secondly it is most important that the essential summer pruning of peaches, apricots, cherries and plums is carried out and completed this month. The same applies to specially-trained apple and pear tree shapes such as fan, espalier, cordon and stepover.

Wherever possible, before pruning and picking, remove and destroy any damaged fruit such as fruit affected by brown rot. These fruits should be taken out of the orchard because they are infectious to other trees. If birds are a problem, nets will have to be put over the fruit to reduce any damage caused.

Apples this year are cropping irregularly in many places. Usually the young trees are fine and fruit needed to be thinned earlier in the year. This year, many older trees are showing a light crop. Pears on the other hand are doing well this year.

Finally, now is the time to prepare the containers that will be used for picking. In addition, check that the storage area for fruit is clean and free from mice, insects etc.

Video channel:

Here are some videos that may be useful this month:

How to control wasps in the garden

Pheromone trap for the sawfly

Summer pruning

Example of nets on a cherry tree grown on a wall

There is also a lot of information on the main website realenglishfruit.co.uk

dan neuteboom

Dan Neuteboom

Video. How to support fruit tree branches

In a previous video we saw a freshly-planted tree. This tree was tied out last year, and you can see the amount of regrowth that has taken place. The tree has set a lot of fruit, and so Dan has provided support by using strings tied to the top of the stakes and looped around the branches. It is a temporary arrangement that stabilizes the tree. Once the framework is fixed, and the branches hold their position naturally, at the end of the season it is a good idea to remove the strings to ensure that they don’t get enveloped by the growing branches. This tree gives a good idea of the shape that we need: drooping branches, strongly-developed framework branches, well furnished with new wood. With an apple tree it’s important to support branches to prevent breakage.

Narration by Dan Neuteboom, camera John Paddy

Video: Pruning a mature apple tree

Dan Neuteboom demonstrates how to prune a 50-year old Bramley tree. It is a tree that already has a good open structure, with plenty of fruit bud. All that has to be done when pruning the tree is to maintain the quality of the light reaching the centre of the tree. This means removing the upright shoots which will create a lot of shade once they have leaves on them. Dan is careful to leave the short twigs bearing fruit bud which are ideal for cropping.

Garden orchard maintenance tasks, early December

Planting new trees

Soon we will have arrived at the beginning of a new tree planting season. Now is the time to prepare the spot where the tree is going to be planted. Just make sure that no grass or weeds will stop the young fruit tree roots developing properly. Remove any grass in the area around the tree, for about 1 square metre around the trunk. Later, once the tree has been planted, it will be good to apply an organic mulch on the same 1 square metre area around the tree trunk, but without the mulch touching the trunk. Provide a stake next to the tree and tie the tree to the stake with a FLEXIBLE tie. Protect the trunk of the tree with a proper guard. If deer are present a tall guard is essential. Here is a link to our main website where you can order trees.

Woolly aphids

This year a lot of woolly aphid are making their present felt. Effective insecticides are no longer available to the gardener or the allotment holder. Using luke-warm water and some detergent, brushing the affected branches will reduce the problem. Repeat the same treatment a month later.

Woolly aphid

Canker

Now the leaves have fallen, canker infections are clear to see. To stop winter spores from developing , cut out all surrounding wood and the wound itself, until no brown markings can be seen in the healthy green surrounding bark and cambium layer. Then paint the treated area with a wood sealing compound.

Canker

Overwintering aphids eggs

Spray the trees with a “winter wash” obtainable from any good garden centre.

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

Excessive rainfall during the growing season

In many parts of the country we are experiencing very high levels of rain fall. This comes at a time when large amount of oxygen are needed in the soil. If soil drainage is not efficient in the soil where the fruit trees are planted, the trees can literally drown. Where there is excess water around the roots of the trees, the oxygen-bearing air is driven out of the soil and the roots die. The effect will not be visible immediately. However, as soon as droughty conditions return, the symptoms will be clearly visible: shoot die-back. More seriously, the trees’ immune system will have been seriously damaged. This means the trees will be an easy target for all types of fungal diseases, such as tree canker, armillaria root rot, crown rot, silver leaf, just to name a few.

Summarising, the soil is the tree’s home. It pays handsomely to ensure that all surplus water, up to a depth of 2 feet of soil, can drain away without any hindrance. Air can enter the soil again and all will be fine.

Flooding conditions, photo by Dave Gunn/flickr.com

Flooding conditions, photo by Dave Gunn/flickr.com

Tasks for garden fruit trees in June – part 2

Check your pheromone traps for codling and plum moths. Renew the lure if necessary. Start spraying the apple varieties which have a tendency towards bitterpit in the fruits. Apply fruit nets where bird trouble might occur, cherries in particular. Continue thinning out the fruitlets to doubles or singles. Remove scabby fruits at the same time. Start the summer pruning programmes of plums, cherries and greengages. The same applies to nectarines, peaches and apricots. Hang rolled up corrugated cardboard in the trees to attract the caterpillars which would otherwise damage foliage and fruits. Regularly inspect and renew when caterpillars are caught. Deal with aphids if present in too large a number in folded-up shoot tips. Do not let the trees dry out. This in particular applies to potted trees. Continue with foliar feeding if foliage of the fruit trees is not up to the mark. Make a start on preparing the ground where new trees will be planted in the autumn.

After natural drop, in June it is advisable to reduce the number of fruitlets in a group like this

After natural drop, in June it is advisable to reduce the number of fruitlets in a group like this

Death of established fruit trees

Apart from old age, some times trees die unexpectedly, even at a young age.
The death of fruit trees can be caused by several factors:

1) Collar rot
2) Armillaria root rot
3) Soil contamination with aggressive chemical substance
4) Tree canker
5) Tree trunk restriction
6) Drought.

Drought is often the cause if the trees are not cared for and the competition of grass and weeds is too severe, combined with a long dry period. If this is not the case, then a careful examination of the tree will need to be carried out.

Examine the tree trunk very carefully. Is there an obstruction that has grown into the tree trunk and is causing severe restriction? If this is the case some new and healthy-looking young shoots will appear below the restriction. This will also be the case if tree canker is girdling the tree. Next, use a sharp knife to peel back a portion of the bark on the trunk. If no healthy yellowish cambium under the bark is present and the wood is brown and dead, then points 1, 2 or 3 , as mentioned above, are the most likely causes of the tree trouble. An example of Point 3 is when a chemical substance such as concentrated weedkiller has been poured onto the ground next to the tree.

If this is not the case, we will then be left with points 1 and 2 as the most likely cause. In both cases, the chance of the trouble spreading to other trees becomes an issue, because the fungus remains active on the tree roots. If it is the armillaria fungus, the toadstools will appear around the trunk in the late autumn period. However the bootlace-like fungal threads will then already have arrived around the roots of your nearest fruit tree or ornamental tree. In that case grubbing the tree in total is the only option.

Summarising, if after a detailed examination, you find that the likely cause of tree death is armillaria, then you will have to grub the tree immediately, remove it off the site, roots and all, and burn it, as soon as you can. Armillaria fungus is very active in finding and infecting its next victim.

Whatever the outcome of your examination, my advice is to always use new, clean soil if you want to replant a fruit tree this coming autumn. Taking in consideration crop rotation principles, do not plant apple after apple or pear after pear etc. Vary the tree types. So, for example, apple after pear will be fine.

Armillaria

The illustration above is from “The Book of gardening: a handbook of horticulture”, 1900, edited by William D. Drury. It is accompanied by the following text:
“Armillaria mellea (Agaricus aielleus) This is a most destructive fungus found upon living ornamental trees, such as Conifers, as well as upon orchard trees. It is responsible for the disease known as Tree Root Rot. The fungus is most abundant, and is found both as a saprophyte and as a parasite. The clusters of Mushrooms at the base of trees are very familiar; they are, moreover, conspicuous alike as to size and colouring. The cap is of a pale yellow, with darkish scales upon it; the stem is also yellow. The fungus finds access to healthy trees either by means of its spores, which germinate on an injured part of the bark; or by means of the very peculiar mycelium, which is black and stringlike, and always endeavouring to penetrate the roots of healthy trees. The only thing that can be said in favour of this fungus is that its sporophores, or Mushrooms, are edible, though not particularly rich in flavour, being somewhat strong. Care should be taken to carefully remove and either eat or burn all specimens of the fungus, so that the danger of trees being infested by the spores which are shed is minimised. The mycelium found under the bark is white and felted. Once a tree has been badly attacked nothing can save it from destruction, as the mycelium spreads under the bark with considerable rapidity. Preventive rather than remedial measures should be adopted. These may well consist in the removal of all dead stumps on which the fungus is growing as a saprophyte; and in isolating the infected live trees.”

Night frosts in the UK

tree cover during frost

We are now entering a week with frequent night frosts. This can be very harmful for fruit trees in the blossom stage. It is very important to cover the blossoms with a double layer of garden fleece or similar, to prevent the blossoms being damaged by the spring frosts in the early hours of the morning. If it is warm during the day, in the sun, give the pollinating insects enough room to visit the blossoms, to ensure a reasonable fruit set. It is all extra work but it does pay off!