realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

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This is the difference…

pears_pete_1_smOf course, you can buy trees that are cheaper. You can always buy something cheaper. But is it really cheaper, and is it worth it, when it’s something like a tree that will be with you for half a century, that will improve your garden and increase the value of your property, and will provide you with the pleasure of blossom and fruit year after year?

The trees that Suffolk Fruit and Trees supplies are different. In the words of one customer: “I am delighted with the quality of the trees, so different to the twiglike fruit tree I received from a newspaper offer previously. Thank you for your efficiency and advice.”

The fruit trees that we sell are Bush trees, well-developed specimens with useful side branches to encourage early cropping. This is why, with our trees, cropping usually begins the year after planting. They are sturdy, strong and healthy, with good levels of reserves in the tree structure. This helps them to resist diseases caused by the fungal spores that are always present in the air.

Other suppliers may seem to have prices lower than ours, but this is because the trees that they supply are Maidens (the first-year, twiglike trees referred to by the customer quoted above), without all the advantages offered by Bush trees. We concentrate on the supply of well feathered 2 and 3 year old trees. We also sell maiden trees but only when well feathered with side branches. As a last resort we will sell single stem maiden trees, if the older trees have been sold out.

There is another difference. To quote another customer: “We would like to thank you for your help and wonderful guidance and instructions you sent us, both in choosing and caring for our apple tree.” And another, who said: “From the very first time I contacted you it was obvious that you were not just looking to sell me trees but genuinely wanted to look after me and my wife so that we had exactly the orchard we wanted (…) You have given us good old fashioned service that is so rare these days.”

In other words, the real difference, with Suffolk Fruit and Trees, is our support and expert advice. Our aim is to ensure that your fruit trees thrive and provide you with fruit as soon as possible, and for years to come. Our advice begins with ensuring that your choice of trees from our extensive selection will work well, whether they are for a patio pot, garden or orchard. After your purchase, our after-sales service provides assistance and tips on planting, getting the trees to grow well and crop as soon as possible, and personalized advice on what to do if unexpected difficulties arise.

By way of conclusion, here is another piece of customer feedback. “After many trials and tribulations, sadder and wiser, I met Dan, who for several years now has supplied all my fruit bushes and trees and given me a huge amount of good (and sometimes!) stern advice. The result? You should see it – fantastic! Everything is booming!”

Click here to read more customer feedback

Making a wildflower meadow

The wildflower meadow that you can see in the photos was initiated in 2000. We sowed grass and a perennial wild flower mix. Soil should not be fertilized, and it should be of poor vigour. Otherwise, grasses will grow too strongly.

Wildflower meadow, detail

Wildflower meadow, detail

Mow in mid-late August; leave the grass there for a few days to allow flower seeds to drop. Then remove the hay.
Repeat every year, sowing new varieties as desired.
It is a good idea to keep a diary of your meadow, recording what you have sown and what has grown. Often what is planted or sown doesn’t appear the next season, but only after a couple of years. Sometimes it appears, but in a different place with respect to where it was sown. The balance of grasses and flowers varies from year to year, affected by climate and presumably by various other factors.
By way of example, the following lists illustrate the development of our wildflower meadow in Suffolk.

Click on the thumbnail below to watch the video of this wildflower meadow:

Planted in June 2001: grass seed and wildflower seed mix.
Wildflower species planted:
Small daffodils
Bluebells
Grape hyacinths
Fritillaries
Blue anenomes
Scilla
Chionodona
Crocus
Primroses
Cowslips
Oxlips
Snowdrops
Scabious
Cornflowers
Cassia
Cyclamen

Sown July 2002:
Birds nest orchid
Nipplewort

Observed in 2002:
Lots of grasses
Red clover
Pink clover
White clover
Dog daisies
Thistles
Docks
Field buttercups
Creeping buttercups
White campion
Weld
Chicory
Yarrow
Knapweed
Common vetch
Tiny field vetch
Black medick
Birds foot trefoil
Geranium (small flowers)
Scarlet pimpernel
Hedge woundwort
Common broomrape
Plantain (two species)
Scentless mayweed
Pineapple weed
Ragwort
Common catsear
Bristly Oxtongue

Wildflower meadow, many different grasses

Wildflower meadow, many different grasses

Planted in 2003/2004:
Scabious
Red campion
Meadow sweet

Observed in 2003:
Toadflax (gone 2009)
Corncockle
Ragged robin

Observed in 2004:
Sorrell
Lots of cowslips (planted and from seed)
Yellow bedstraw

Planted in 2005:
Goatsbeard
Yellow rattle

Observed in 2005:
Lots of cowslips
Lots of dandelions
Broomrape
Tassel
Yellow bedstraw
Toadflax

Geranium

Geranium

Observed in 2007:
Chickory
Broomrape
Lots of cowslips
Yellow bedstraw
Ragged robin
Several scabious
Lots of bugle
Agrimony

Observed in 2008:
Lots of cowslips
One good ragged robin
White bee orchid (not in wildflower meadow itself, but on a bank about 20 yards away)
A large clump of yellow rattle (not where sown in 2005)
Two clumps yellow bedstraw
One white bedstraw

Sown in 2008:
White bee orchid between birch and prunus serrula
More bee orchid seeds and yellow rattle

Observed in 2009:
Hundreds of cowslips.
Grass less vigorous
Lots of yellow rattle
The white bee orchid flowered again
Two bee orchids in the meadow
Four yellow bedstraw, one white

Observed in 2010:
As in 2009, but no bee orchids on the bank, and one on the field
More dog daisies and bedstraw (one white)
One Pyramid orchid

Pyramid orchid

Pyramid orchid

Planted in 2010:
Ragged robin
Mulleins

Observed in 2011:
Long drought in spring, meadow poor. No orchids at all. Nothing of the things planted last year. Yellow rattle not good. Many geraniums.

Yellow rattle

Yellow rattle

Observed in 2012:
Much better, lots of rain in spring/early summer. FLowers all very good including rattle but no orchids. One weedy ragged robin, 4 bee orchids. Grass very lush. Geraniums look good. Lots of broomrape.

Burrow of a small animal, used by bumble bees

Burrow of a small animal, used by bumble bees

Wildflower meadow, dog daisies

Wildflower meadow, dog daisies

Wildflower meadow path, mown for access purposes

Wildflower meadow path, mown for access purposes

Wildflower meadow, more dog daisies

Wildflower meadow, more dog daisies

Top ten fruit tree tips for September

1. Start preparing the ground where you are intending to plant your new orchard, cordons, fans or espalier-trained fruit trees. Check the pH of the soil which needs to be between 6.3 and 6.8. If the pH of the soil is below 6.3, apply some lime and work into the soil.
2. Make sure the site and position is right; not in a frost pocket or on the northerly and shady sites of buildings, walls or hedges.
3. Apply plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure and work into the soil up to a depth of 15 inches.
4. Remove and kill perennial weeds such as bramble, stinging nettle and couch grass.
5. Eliminate wasps nests and remove rotting fruits, which will hide the wasps, from the orchard floor.
6. Remove any rotting or damaged fruits from the trees. Pick the fruit that is ready to eat. Do not store early-maturing fruits such as Discovery and Grenadier apples. Fruit for storage needs to be slightly immature. Fruit that is too ripe will not store.
7. Finish the summer pruning programmes as mentioned in the August tips.
8. Check the storage space for your fruit; it needs to be clean, cool and free from vermin such as flies and mice.
9. Check that the thermometer in the store is in good working order.
10. Start discussing which varieties would be suitable for your location with a knowledgeable and experienced fruit specialist. All types of fruit are site sensitive!

A good crop on a well-tended apple tree

A good crop on a well-tended apple tree

A wild flower meadow

A bumble bee in a wild flower meadow

A bumble bee in a wild flower meadow

In this video, Dan and Henrietta Neuteboom describe the benefits of a wild flower meadow for fruit trees or an orchard.  Wild flowers attract a large number of insects for many months of the year, above all bees, which ensure good pollination. And a wild flower meadow is very beautiful in itself. Click on the icon below to watch the video.

Click here to read more about wild flower meadows and fruit growing.

Top ten fruit growing tips for August

1) Keep watering your fruit trees, particularly if they are carrying a crop .

2) Look at the trunk of the trees to ensure that the bark is not damaged by lawn mowers or strimmers.

3) Mice are increasing in numbers, particularly around fruit trees. Keep the area around the trunk, grass and weed-free, as this is the sort of shelter that mice like.

4) Fruits which will store, after harvesting, for a later date; raspberries, black currants, red currants, blue berries and gooseberries freeze beautifully, without loss of quality. Check to make sure you have enough space in your freezer.

5) Keep a diary of your growing experiences, particularly if something went wrong during the growing season.

6) All fruits are ripening off later this year, due to the cold slow start in March/April time. Do not pick too early, otherwise the fruit will shrivel and will lack flavour.

7) Carry out summer pruning where necessary. Plums, cherries, green gages, peaches, nectarines and apricots must not be pruned after the end of August in order to avoid infections of various tree diseases. Apples and pears can be pruned at any time during the winter months

8) August is an ideal month to improve drainage in areas where you intend to plant trees, and loosen the soil to a two-spade depth. This is particularly true if a hard layer of soil is found within the first 60 cm of the soil profile.

9) Let us know, as your tree supplier, if you intend to plant certain specific varieties of fruit. The more unusual varieties sell out quickly. We will have good quantities of standard varieties. However, we recommend contacting us right away in order to organize your new area of fruit trees. Click here for further information on our orchard packs.

10) Label your anti bird nets. This makes it is easier to use the right nets in the right place next season.

Top ten fruit growing tips for July

Bumble bee

Bumble bee

1. It is very important for the health and welfare of bees to grow the right type of flowering plants favoured by bees for pollen and honey gathering, throughout the summer months. I t doesn’t need to be complicated. At this time of the year Angelica and red clover are definite favourites. Bumble bees are always on the look out for disused mice tracks in the soil. That’s where it likes to build its nest for the queen.

2. Red currants, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are now beginning to ripen. Late-picked gooseberries are sweeter than the ones picked in June.

3. Support heavily cropping branches of plums, apples and pears. However, overcropping will greatly reduce next year’s crop. To reduce the threat of the silver leaf fungus entering via broken branches of too heavy-cropping plum trees , drastically reduce the number of fruits now and space the fruits 6 inches apart, leaving the best sized fruits.

4. Space the apples six inches apart, after the middle of July.

5. Check weeds around trees and bushes. Tie in the newly-forming shoots of loganberries, blackberries and tayberries.

6. Tie in the replacement shoots of peaches. Check the fruit cage for holes in the netting. Birds are good at finding the holes and eating your cherries, redcurrants, blueberries and raspberries.

7. Check tree ties. Too many trees are severely damaged due to ingrowing ties.

8. Place the pheromone traps to reduce the damage caused by caterpillars of the codling moth and plum sawfly now.

9. All fruits need a steady supply of moisture. Check the soil. If too dry, apply water at 10 day intervals.

10. If apple and pear shoots are growing too strongly, remove the growing tips of the new growth. Carry out summer pruning where trees are becoming too dense and light is excluded.

Click here for more growing tips

Fruit tree maintenance, seasonal tips, early June 2013

Fruit set

Fruit set

Because the season is approximately 3 weeks later then normal, there are various points which are of importance now.

In general trees which are 4 years or older have shown a good deal of blossom. If this is not the case then bullfinches may have been at work in February. Or if there are plenty of pigeons around, these birds can strip the majority of the early developing leaf as well as the developing blossom.
If fruitset looks good then wait until early July before thinning the fruit. This is to ensure that the natural thinning has finished before you start thinning yourself. Thinning is important, because if the trees are having to mature too many fruits, then blossom next season will be sparse and very weak.

Planning a new orchard

Well-rotted manure

Well-rotted manure. Photo courtesy The Word Factory Ltd/flickr.com

To create a successful multi fruit orchard, it is very important to carry out the various soil preparations during this time of the year. The winter months, the correct time to plant fruit trees, are often not good for soil preparation, as the soil is already too cold and handles badly. The quality of the soil in the planting hole will determine how quickly and how well the newly-planted tree settles down in its new home.

The rootstocks that you will be using depends on the space available for planting fruit trees. Dwarf rootstocks are recommended when limited space is available. If a good deal of space is available, then the trees would do best if planted on semi-vigorous stock such as MM106, Quince A and St Julien A. These trees need to be planted approximately 3.5 to 4 metres apart. The exact number of trees needed also depends on the proximity of other large trees, such as hedgerow trees, oak, ash and sycamore. Fruit trees do badly when planted on the live roots of other trees. Follow this link to find out more about tree size and rootstocks.

I think that it is a good idea to set out the orchard at this time of year, initially using 6-foot tall bamboo canes. This way you can mark the planting spots of your new trees, in relation to hedgerows, buildings etc.; it gives you an idea of how the new multi-fruit orchard will look. Variety choices can only be made once you have decided which type of fruit you want to plant. Follow this link to view a list of fruit tree varieties.

The ideal pH of the soil is 6.3 to 6.8. Outside those limits, nutritional deficiencies will occur when the trees get older. Fruit trees love well-rotted good organic stable manure, provided straw is used as a base material and not sawdust or wood chips. The more manure you can work into the ground during the summer months, the better the trees will perform in years to come.

How to prune a fruit tree

In the video below, Dan Neuteboom provides an overview of pruning theory and practice. Apologies for the not optimal sound quality, there was quite a breeze blowing in Suffolk, mid January 2013.

“Grease-banding” fruit trees

Grease bands around tree and stake. Photo courtesy Royal Horticultural Society

Some of you may remember The Grease Band from the 1970s, they played with Joe Cocker and featured in a memorable performance at Woodstock. But in this article I’m talking about soil rather than rock!

If you would like to reduce the harmful effect of caterpillars in the early spring, munching away on the newly appearing blossoms and young fruitlets, without applying chemicals and insecticides, then grease bands are an old-fashioned but highly effective method. It is all based on the principle that certain female species of various insects are wingless and begin to crawl their way up the tree, via the trunk or low-hanging, ground-touching branches. The stake next to the tree may be used as a route to climb into the tree. The pests I am referring to are the larvae of the Winter Moth, the Mottled Umber Moth and the Vapourer Moth. These larvae, once they have arrived at their destination, will begin to deposit their eggs around the fruit buds and in the crevices of the bark all over the tree. No damage occurs this time of the year. When the winter has passed and the temperatures begin to increase, then the eggs of the larvae, deposited this time of the year, will produce lots and lots of little caterpillars. These will begin their munching feast on all that freshly-appearing green foliage. Then, worse still, once blossom time is over, they will then start chomping away at the young fruitlets just as they are appearing.

It is now – early-mid October – that the larvae of those insects begin their journey from the soil into the trees. If applied correctly, the grease bands will trap them. Follow the instructions on the packet. Any good garden centre stocks them at this time of the year. Keep your grease bands in place to the end of April as in the spring other insects will also try to climb into the tree for the same purpose. Grease bands are therefore very valuable not only at this time of the year but also during warm days in the winter and the spring, repelling all sorts of creepy crawlers. Remember to attach them to the stake as well.

Some types of grease are applied directly to the tree trunk. Photo courtesy of veggies-only.blogspot.it

To tell the truth, I have only ever used grease bands of the type in which the sticky stuff is on sheets of plastic, so that the grease itself is not in contact with the trunk. There are types of grease sold in tubs that can be applied direct to the trunk of your fruit trees, as shown in the photo. Perhaps someone could tell me about their experience on this. In any case, another thing that should be done at this time is to cut the low ground-touching branches back to at least 18 inches above soil level

Now, if you have a nice little orchard with wire netting around it, keeping the chickens in, then most of these wingless insects will have been consumed by the chickens. There is no better way of biological control of various pests, than having lovely egg-laying chickens settled in your orchard. What’s more it is a wonderful way of not only daily collecting the chicken eggs, but also at the same time keeping an eye on your beautiful fruit trees.

If you’d like to order some trees, take a look at our main website. P.S., we don’t sell chickens!