realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Category Archives: The whys and wherefores of fruit trees

Relevant points for the garden orchard in the month of July

This is the best time of the year to carry out summer pruning on plums, pears, cherries and peaches. Watch a video
Check that nets protecting the various fruit crops are still bird proof. Watch a video
Check pheromone traps for apple sawfly and plum sawfly. Replace the lure if necessary. Watch a video
Prepare the ground for planting new fruit trees in the autumn/winter period.
Thin fruits if their density on the tree is too high. Watch a video
Cut out tree canker and paint the wounds to stop re-infection. Watch a video
Spray to prevent bitter pit in apples.

Video: A pear tree in bad condition

Dan takes a look at a 7-year old pear tree that is showing evident signs of distress. Trees react to the treatment that you give them. In this specimen, there is very little fruit bud, and the new shoots are very thin. The problem is caused by the competition of grass and stinging nettles. To take action, a square metre around the tree has to be cleared of grass and nettles, best done by covering the area with mulch that will smother the weeds. Secondly, the tree centre should be opened up so that light can get back into the centre. Thirdly, give the tree some extra food, namely extra water, and farmyard manure if possible. Trees are like people: people can survive for quite a long time without food, but trees and people cannot survive long without water. Here you can see a combination: the tree didn’t get enough water because of the enormous competition with the nettles, and on top of that it didn’t get any food whatsoever. Yet pears are by nature very strong-growing trees.

Video: How to shape a young tree without pruning

A young trees doesn’t crop because of pruning, it crops in spite of pruning. In its early years, the ideal pyramid shape can be achieved by selecting a central leader, and using string, clothes pegs and spacers to bend down the branches that will form the main table, the base of the pyramid. Click to watch.

Video: William Seabrook demonstrates whip & tongue grafting, and rind grafting

In this video, William Seabrook provides a close-up demonstration of whip & tongue grafting, on a fifteen-year old tree that will be changed to a different variety. In the first section, he explains exactly how to make the cuts in the tree and the scion to ensure that the graft is successful. The double cut enables optimum contact between the vascular cambium tissues of the two parts and holds the scion firmly in place, ready to be securely fastened with the sealing tape and grafting wax. Callousing will appear within three to four weeks.

The rind graft method is used to create a graft on a larger piece of timber. The first diagonal cut is followed by a short cut at the end of the scion to create a point, and then another cut that creates a 90-degree angle in the cambium tissue. The bark of the parent branch is cut for a length corresponding to the scion, and then the knife is used to lift the bark. The scion is then inserted so that the right-angled surfaces come into contact with the corresponding surfaces in the branch. The graft is finished in the usual manner, with sealing tape, and then grafting wax is applied to seal the cut surfaces to prevent the entry of air or rain. The grafting wax should be applied generously because the rising sap has a tendency to push out from the cut surfaces. Click to watch.

Tree planting – dormancy delayed due to warm weather

The autumn colouring of the foliage of trees has been spectacular. The brightness and intensity of colour have been very special this autumn/early winter. I mention early winter intentionally, as the trees have been very slow to drop their leaves. However, looking at the hedges surrounding the fields, another factor has been clearly displayed: differences in the way the trees have reacted to the warmer weather. Take for example, mature oak trees: looking at similar oaks in the same hedge, some have now lost their leaves, while others comparable in size and age are still holding on to their splendid deep yellow coloured foliage.

These effects are due to the very high summer temperatures and droughty conditions. Cracks in the soil made it possible for the hot air –average temperatures in the UK have been about 2°C above normal – to travel deep into the sub soil. The resulting effects are now clearly visible. Trees in general are hanging on to their foliage for approximately 3 weeks longer than normal.

This has had an effect on trees in the nursery. In short, the lifting of fruit trees has to be delayed because the roots of the trees are still growing, which in turn is delaying dormancy. To lift fruit trees BEFORE dormancy will harm them. It will be possible to begin lifting trees only in the week after Christmas.

Oak trees, November 2018, showing different stages of leaf yellowing

Oak trees, November 2018, showing different stages of leaf yellowing

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

How to stop foxes and deer from raiding your apple trees

A reader and customer wrote to Dan a few days ago, about the first crop on his two new trees. The trees supplied by Suffolk Fruit & Trees are always 2-3 years old and so they dutifully flowered in the first season after fruiting. Dan advised to grow just two apples on each tree for their first crop in the garden, and so the owner removed all surplus fruitlets towards the end of May. His first two Cox apples grew to maturity, but the Fiesta apples were raided by foxes. And so what will happen in subsequent seasons when the Fiesta tree is in full production?

Dan said, “In the next and following seasons, when the fruit is beginning to ripen, you could try this method. It is often effective to hang a small, highly scented piece of soap using a metal S-hook. This often deters foxes and deer. Once the piece of soap loses its scent, it is no longer effective. Check and replace it if this is the case.”

Fox in a garden, photo Mike Holloway/flickr.com

Fox in a garden, photo courtesy of Mike Holloway/flickr.com

Crop rotation in fruit growing in the garden

As the volume of fruit grown commercially in the UK is nowhere near enough to satisfy demand, the departure of the UK as a member of the European Union is likely to cause a rise in prices for fruit in the shops. It is therefore very important that fruit trees in the garden are healthy and have a structure such that a good proportion of the fruit can be picked from ground level. This is perfectly possible provided the basic facts of crop rotation are not ignored.

For example we must remember that if an old apple tree is grubbed because it has reached the end of its life, then we certainly can plant another fruit tree on that spot, but not another apple tree. Crop rotation does not only apply to vegetables in the garden. It also applies to fruit trees. In other words, apple after apple or pear after pear is not to be recommended. If this is done all the same, replant disease will probably badly affect the new tree, and the growing and the cropping of the tree will be a disappointment. And yet it is so easily to achieve good growth and cropping of new trees. Just plant a pear or a plum or a cherry at the place where the old apple tree spent its time of life and all will be well. Water the young trees weekly and the trees will have a very good start in life. Particularly if well-rotted farmyard manure or garden compost is applied as an extra tonic.

Old fruit trees in a Suffolk garden

Old fruit trees in a Suffolk garden

Tips for garden fruit trees, December-January

1) Check stakes and ties. Make sure the supporting stakes have not rotted off at ground level. Loosen ties where needed, if too tight.
2) Start pruning apple, pear and mulberry trees that have reached regular cropping.
3) Check that rabbit and deer guards are in good working order.
4) Check fruit in store. Remove rotten fruits
5) Apply farmyard manure where trees have been struggling
6) Cut out dead branches and canker wounds. Paint wounds with Arbrex or similar.
7) Apply winter wash if greenfly/aphids were a source of trouble last year.
8) Protect fruit buds of plums and pears. Bullfinches can cause serious damage during the winter months.
9) You’re still in time to order new trees. In addition to the 5-tree Orchard Pack, Suffolk Fruit & Trees is now offering a Two-Tree Training Pack for Cordon, Espalier and Fan-Shaped Trees, specially selected for training, and at a reduced price with respect to ready-trained trees.

Bullfinch by Jacob Spinks flickr

Bullfinch, photo courtesy of Jacob Spinks/flickr.com

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