realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Category Archives: Plums & greengages

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

How to thin plums

In late May-early June, if the set of fruit on plum trees is strong, it is a good idea to start thinning out the plums. If the trees have too many plums, size will be disappointing. Use a narrow-tipped cutter to remove some plums so that the ones left are a couple of inches apart. Where there are two together, cut them down to one. When plums overcrop, the branches break, and the fruit is not as good.

Narration: Dan Neuteboom
Camera: John Paddy

Further information on the RealEnglishFruit website
https://realenglishfruit.co.uk/

Video: Plum sawfly treatment – pheromone traps

To watch the video, scroll down and click on the thumbnail. The plum sawfly becomes active in late May and the first week of June, and it stays active right up until we pick the plums. The sawfly itself is quite an attractive flying insect, with reddish head and thorax and a yellowish abdomen, but unfortunately it lays its eggs on the plum flowers, and the young plum sawfly larvae tunnel their way into the plums as they develop. So the net result is that when you are ready to enjoy your plum, you discover that someone else has got there before you. For plum sawfly control, you can use a pheromone trap to attract the plum sawfly. The pheromone mimics the scent of the male sawfly, attracting the female and preventing her from laying her eggs on the plum tree. The plum sawfly pheromone trap show here is triangular in shape, with a sticky cardboard base containing a lure that releases the pheromone gradually. It stays active for about 6 weeks, and then you have to replace the lure. This video was filmed on 28 May, so right at the beginning of the period in which these traps should be placed. Once the sticky board is full of sawflies, just pull it out and replace it. Garden centres sell packs of replacement sticky cards and lures which makes the process cheaper. So if you install a plum sawfly pheromone trap now, and replace it in six weeks time, it will greatly reduce the damage caused to your plums.

Plum sawfly life cycle

The plum sawfly life cycle begins when the female fly lays its eggs on the plum blossom. The larvae burrow into the young plum, which reacts to the attack by exuding a sticky resin – often the only noticeable sign of the presence of the sawfly. The larva eats some of the plum from inside, and the plum may drop to the ground early, or the mature larva may crawl out and drop to the ground. In any case, when in the soil, it forms a cocoon, well disguised by soil particles. It spends the entire winter in the cocoon at a depth of about 5 cm. It pupates at plum blossom time. Another method that can be used to control the plum sawfly is to gently loosen the soil around the base of the tree in late winter and early spring, giving birds the chance to locate the pupae and eat them.

Video: The open-centre tree, ideal for plums and greengages

Dan shows us a 17-year old greengage that over the years he has transformed by removing the central leader. This creates a bowl-shaped tree in which the main framework branches slope upwards very gradually so that lots of light enters. This has stimulated the tree to produce flower all the way across the tree, even in the very centre. With plums and greengages, it is important not to prune in the winter. The pruning has to be done when the trees are still in full leaf, so that the risk of silver leaf is greatly reduced.

Video: Two plum trees, one badly pruned, one well pruned

Dan Neuteboom shows us two mature plum trees, one of which has been pruned badly, while the other has been pruned well. One will produce little fruit, the other will set a good crop. The first tree was pruned with a chain saw, removing large branches, creating large wounds, leaving branches that are at the wrong angles, without consideration of the overall structure. The tree will react by throwing out a lot of new wood which will produce shade and stop light reaching the centre. The second tree shows a good structure, with a strong central leader, large horizontal branches well furnished with two and three-year-old shoots which are the best for fruiting. A tree that has a lot of two to three-year-old wood well positioned to receive light is a tree that will crop well. This tree will produce masses of flowers, bees will pollinate it, cross-pollination is ensured by the other plum tree, and all being well, there will be a good crop.

Pigeon damage

Because of shortage of fresh green growth, pigeons are causing a lot of damage to the developing blossoms of many different fruit trees, but in particular to plums and green gages. This will carry on until more attractive sources of food become available.

Without blossom, there can be no fruit set, and so no fruit! Therefore if damage is only slight, no action needs to be taken. If the cold period continues, pigeons are capable of literally stripping off all the blossom. Black cotton threads, woven through the flowering branches, will usually stop the damage. 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 save the blossom!

apple_blossom-1200

Fruit tree advice for an old plum tree

IMG_2934-1200A reader writes: “We moved house in August last year, a beautiful garden with a plum tree which gave us lots of plums. It’s very old I think! I’m wondering how to prune, some of the branches are just snapping off! I need to ruin it I think! Can you help and give me some advice?”

Dan Neuteboom of Suffolk Fruit & Trees provides some answers:

Old plum trees very easily fall prey to two specific diseases; Bacterial Canker, and Silver Leaf.
Therefore, special attention needs to be given to the following points:

1) only carry out pruning operations when the tree is in FULL LEAF stage
2) reduce the weight of the total number of branches. Remove those which are old and broken and leave the well-illuminated branches
3) remove the too-dominant near-vertical branches
4) always immediately seal the wounds with Arbrex, obtainable from garden centres.
5) do not let the tree cope with droughty conditions during the summer months – ensure it gets enough water
6) do not over-crop the tree. Thin the fruitlets during June and July.

An old plum tree

An old plum tree

The greengage and the Armenian connection

Many people all over the world know the plum and consider these fruits nice to eat when mature and freshly picked. However, mention the word “greengage” and most people today have no idea of what you are talking about. And yet, as a type of plum, it is so delicate and flavourful that it is rightly considered as the most flavoursome of all the tree fruits known.

Let us compare the greengage with other fruits grown in the moderate climate zone. In a ranking of soft fruits, many would consider the raspberry to be at the top. Of all the fruits grown on trees, the greengage is rightly considered as unsurpassed in delicacy and flavour, when freshly picked and fully mature . So why are these trees and their fruits not better known? Why are these fruits, when in season, not more regularly available in modern supermarkets? Even in France and Italy it is more widely available on street markets when in season, but not in supermarket outlets.

In the UK, this special plum is known as a Greengage. If you spoke to people in Holland, for example, about this fruit, they wouldn’t know what you are talking about!

There are several reasons for this relative obscurity. One of the reasons is that this particular group of plums is only commercially success for a very small band of dedicated fruit growers, wherever they are grown. However if grown with plenty of TLC and dedication in the garden, the fruits are so special they need to be reserved for your own family and only the best of friends. If the crop is heavy, which is never the case 3 years in a row, it makes the most tasty of all jams.

Because of the quality of these fruits and my many years of experience of trying to grow these fruits, I consider it worthwhile to record my findings along with some historical background for these wonderful plums. The reader may want to skip various sections of this report. For that reason I will group the various details in a series of posts, as follows:

1) Historical background,
2) The most suitable sites for these plums,
3) Most suitable soils and their maintenance,
4) The different varieties available,
5) The essentials of growing these varieties,
6) The pruning needs of these plums,
7) Successful control of the pests and diseases.

In the photo below, greengages, photo courtesy of Rain Rabbit/flickr.com

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Pigeon damage on plums and greengages

Photo courtesy of Marle Hale/flickr.com

Photo courtesy of Marle Hale/flickr.com

It is at this time of the year, when the first newly emerging little leaves are a great attraction in all areas where pigeons are present in great numbers, where field rape is grown. The pigeons show a great desire to vary their food source. After having grazed the rape fields, the pigeons will move for a while to the nearest hedge cover. From that point they will attack any type of plum or green gage, severely damaging any blossom or young green leaves.

The net result is that the crop prospects of those trees will be set back greatly and may result in no crop at all. Anything that can be done to scare the pigeons away is worth trying. A mixture of various deterrents is better than just one. Click here to read about one method of protecting the trees.

The length of the period during which the trees are at risk will greatly depend on temperatures and type of weather. A long cold spell is the most damaging period. This season is likely to be a bad season as warm spring weather seems not to be expected just yet, according to the 10-day forecast by the weather experts.

Early Transparent Gage

This is an early flowering gage of delicious flavour. Very suitable for gardens with a spare wall to train along. It is self fertile.

Make sure you cover the tree with garden fleece if night frost is forecast when in bloom in April. It is very hardy and has stood the test of time. It is a regular cropper. The image below is published courtesy of www.nationalfruitcollection.org.uk

early transparent gage