Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Tag Archives: fruit tree advice

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

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!

Newton Wonder

Newton's Wonder

Newton’s Wonder. Photo courtesy of Clive Barker/

This is a good cooking apple. Good size and good level of acidity. Suitable for the north of England. However in my own personal experience it has one weakness; it is prone to bitter pit. That means that in the flesh of the apple there are brown spots of a corky nature. It does best on soils with a pH of 6 to 6.3. In these conditions, it remains relatively free from bitter pit trouble. It’s not really suitable for growing on alkaline soils. Picking by mid October is about right. Picked too early it tends to develop bitterpit again.

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

Good crops of fruit and orchard hygiene go together

Orchard hygiene

After harvest, there are still lots of tasks to perform to ensure hygiene and reduce the chance of fungal infection

A very good gardening friend of mine, who lives in one of the surrounding villages, has demonstrated in practice, year after year, how it is possible to grow all types of fruit without the intensive use of manufactured chemicals, irrespective of variety, pests or diseases, or bad weather conditions, such as low temperatures at blossom time. He takes great care to ensure that his trees grow in an environment in which the chances of infection have been reduced to a minimum, by practicing the elementary principles of good orchard hygiene.

Once he has picked the fruit and removed non-productive branches from the tree canopy, he makes a special job of removing any fruit left on the ground underneath the tree crown. He picks up all deteriorating fruit, however bruised or rotten it may be, and puts it all in the non recycling bin. The net effect of this action is that there are less spores floating around his fruit trees next year, and so there is less chance of fungi finding a spot to infect  his fruit. Another benefit of this is that his fruit is of better keeping quality. In addition, he removes any wood affected by mildew. This is easy to spot as it has a silvery appearance. If brown irregular growths are appearing on some of the branches, he makes sure it is cut out at exactly this time of year (early October). Likewise, he cuts out wood infections such as tree canker or bacterial canker, and he ensures that any ingrowing tree ties on the branches are removed. The wounds are then covered with a sealing compound such as “Heal and Seal” using a smallish paint brush. This is very effective and stops new infection occurring this or next season..

During the winter months he will further attend to his trees and remove lichen and tree moss which are reducing the young branches’ ability to produce good strong fruit buds. But I will discuss this during the winter.

A quick reminder: if you’re interested in planting a few trees, this is the best time to plan the site and order the trees, so that you can plant from December to March. Take a look at our list of varieties, and our Orchard Packs that make everything simple!

Click here to visit the RealEnglishFruit website

Fruit picking and storage

Fruit almost ready for harvest

Only pick your fruits when the weather is dry. The net effect will be that the fruits keep better when stored in the cool for keeping. For immediate consumption or juicing, pick the fruit when the taste is to your liking, irrespective of weather conditions.

Pick apples which taste right, before they are fully mature. Store in a cool vermin-proof, dark place. Spread out in a single layer. Any sound but slightly damaged fruit needs to be eaten or juiced now. Only sound fruit should be stored for the longer term.