realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Category Archives: Plums & greengages

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!

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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

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!

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

Rivers Early Prolific

Rivers Early Prolific

Rivers Early Prolific

Rivers Early Prolific is a small to medium sized, deep blue plum, which ripens in late July/ early August. Very suitable for jam-making. It is self-fertile and has a high level of resistance to silver leaf fungus.

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

Purple Pershore

 

Purple Pershore, courtesy of Pershore Plum Festival/flickr.com

Purple Pershore, courtesy of Pershore Plum Festival/flickr.com

This is another reliable cooking plum ready around mid August. It is self-fertile and flowers late and thereby mostly escapes the worst of the spring frosts. If over-cropping occurs, it will not crop the following year. It makes a large tree and therefore it is not easy to handle unless grown on a dwarfing stock. One of the few plums that is resistant to silver leaf fungus.

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