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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

Top ten fruit tree tips for October

1) Finish picking the late maturing apple and pear varieties.
2) Only the best and undamaged fruits will store well. Juice the remainder.
3) The best storage regime is fruit in single layer trays and kept in the coolest condition, in the dark. Inspect the fruit every 10 days and remove fruits that are going off.
4) Cut out and treat any tree canker. Garden centres stock sealing compounds such as Heal and Seal and Arbrex.
5) Remove all bad and dropped fruit away from the orchard area. If not, it will affect next year’s crop, due to spores growing on rotten fruits and fallen leaves; scab infections.
6) Stock up on John Innes compost number 3, ready for planting newly-ordered trees.
7) If your quince tree was affected by leaf blight, spray with Bordeaux mixture
8) Apply grease bands if winter moth caterpillars have been a problem.
9) Mow the grass once more between the rows.
10) Remove all weeds and hiding places near the trunks of the trees to avoid mice damage to the bark of the trees.

Fruit almost ready for harvest

Fruit almost ready for harvest

A fruity detective story

The story begins with a letter.

“Hello Dan. Three years ago I bought from you 2 plum trees (1 Czar and 1 Marjories Seedling) and 1 apple tree (Bountiful) and now they have grown into sturdy trees. The Czar and Bountiful produced prolifically last year and the Marjorie Seedling less so, but this year it appeared that all three would produce magnificent crops (despite the best efforts of wood pigeons to strip the plum trees of their leaves). However, two weeks ago or so I noticed some brown patches on my Czar plums which have further developed and spread, and I am 99% certain that the tree is suffering from brown rot. Worse I am pretty certain that it has also spread to the other two trees, although it is in a less advanced state.

“I have removed the fruit concerned and I have sought information on the internet for a cure. However, all the advice is that, because this is a fungus, no cure is available. I understand that I may have to accept that I will lose this year’s crop and my main concern now is how to prevent a recurrence of the problem next year, if indeed prevention is possible. Any advice you have on what I can do in this respect would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for any help you can provide. Yours sincerely, B.G.”

___________

I of course remembered the trees that we had supplied, and the location, and so I wasn’t sure about the inception of brown rot. This is what I wrote back:
“Hello B. Usually brown rot only occurs on fruit which is nearly ripe to eat. I am therefore not at all sure it is indeed brown rot. In order to be more positive, please send me some pictures attached to your next email. I will need a picture of the tree as a whole, a close up picture of the leaves and another picture of the worst affected fruits on the tree.”

_____________

Here are the photos that Mr. B.G. provided:

011 Apple-1200

012 Apple-1200

013 Apple-1200

014 Apple-1200

015 Apple-1200

 

And here are the photos of the Marjorie Seedling:

008 M S-1200

009 M S-1200

010 M S-1200
_______________
The photos clarified the situation, and I was able to write back to Mr. B.G. immediately.
“Thank you for the pictures. Yes I do know what has happened. But first the good news!

There is nothing wrong currently with your tree; good dark green foliage and good sized leaf.

The bad news is the fruit which has been totally destroyed. The cause is the spores of the fungus ‘Brown Rot’. Earlier in the season you must have had a hailstorm. The pit marks on the fruit are visible on your photos. Wounds in plum fruits do not heal. Brown Rot fungus spores are in the air, throughout the growing season. After the hail the fruit got infected with these spores and I am afraid destroyed your crop. The points you should consider are the following;

1) Look out for a stump or old plum tree in your area, which could be the source of infection. Destroy that tree.

2) Thin your fruit to 2 per cluster as a standard procedure by the middle of June in any year. Space these doubles 6 inches apart. Brown rot fungus thrives in clusters of fruit.

3) If hail occurs again next year, spray without delay with Systhane fungicide. Once the spores get in the wounds it is too late. You can purchase Systhane from Amazon for little money!

4) Do remove all affected fruits as soon as possible from your garden. The fungus will overwinter on the fallen fruits and be ready to infect next year’s crop.

5) Water the soil under your tree during dry hot periods. If the soil dries out and then rain follows, the fruit will split and as a result, create enormous points of entry for brown rot spores.

6) Spray your fruit trees before leaf fall in November with Bordeaux mixture. This will safe guard the tree against silver leaf and bacterial canker infections.”

___________

So, all clear. The hunt is on for the rotting plum tree stump that caused it all!

Bordeaux mixture, a fungicide for fruit trees

Bordeaux mixture, based on copper sulphate and slaked lime, was first used on vines initially to discourage pilferers. Its fungicidal properties were discovered by chance. Photo courtesy of Diyanski/flickr.com

Bordeaux mixture, based on copper sulphate and slaked lime, was first used on vines initially to discourage pilferers. Its fungicidal properties were discovered by chance. Photo courtesy of Diyanski/flickr.com

Use Bordeaux mixture if fungi have been a problem. The copper in the mixture will stop the damaging spores of these fungi from getting a hold in your trees.

Special measures needed to put your fruit trees back on the right track

A Cox tree close to harvest. There has been lots of vertical growth as a result of the relatively light crop

This growing season has been of a difficult nature for most fruit trees. It was cold and predominantly wet, particularly during blossom time in the early part of the season. It was too cold for the honey bees to come out of the hives or out of the hollows of old trees such as oaks and willows. As a result of that, many fruit trees had a light to very light crop due to the lack of pollination. As a result, most fruit trees have put on too much shoot growth, which made the tree canopy too dense. If your fruit trees are as described above, then my advice is as follows;

Taste your fruits and when they taste nice and are ready to eat, then pick them carefully and make use of them the best way possible. Follow this up by sharpening your pruning saw and secateurs and prune your trees NOW and not during the winter time. Open up the trees to make plenty of room for the light to get right into the middle of the trees. Light is the most important source of energy for trees. A well thinned-out tree canopy is the best way to produce a quality crop next season. Totally remove dead wood from underneath the canopy. Take out half a dozen crossing branches as thick as your wrist, to lighten the canopy. Seal all the larger wounds with “Heal and Seal” obtainable from your garden centre. Loosen your tree ties as these may be too tight now.

Cherry trees and plums need to be treated with Bordeaux mixture, after the pruning session, to reduce the effect of bacterial canker and/or silver leaf. Follow instructions on the packaging obtained at the garden centre.

Click here to read more about pruning on the RealEnglishFruit website

Click here to see the tree varieties available from RealEnglishFruit