realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Tag Archives: orchard advice

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

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

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.

“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!

Pitmaston Pine Apple

Pitmaston Pine Apple

Pitmaston Pine Apple. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Wright/flickr.com

This is a well flavoured smallish apple particularly suited to the wetter parts of the UK. It has a high level of resistance to scab which often disfigures many varieties in areas of high rainfall. It is a small russety apple in need of good pollination. It is fairly upright and forms useful spurs. It also ripens in September and will keep in cool conditions for a couple of months. Mice love it as well!

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

Peasgood Nonsuch

Peasgood Nonsuch. Photo courtesy of Anne (Helen) Devereux/flickr.com

This apple wins beauty contests. It is so handsome and at the same time it is a wonderful dual purpose apple. It needs good pollinators in order to set a regular crop. I would use Egremont Russet as an early flowering variety backed up with Fiesta or Red Pippin as a later flowering same group variety. Peasgood Nonsuch is usually ready to pick by the middle of September. It will have a storage life to about the end of September.

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

Orleanne’s Reinette

Orleanne’s Reinette. Photo courtesy of Whatamieating.com/flickr

A very good tasting apple. Small in size but lovely and crisp. Keeps well and, provided it is well pollinated, it tends to settle down very quickly with good crops. Needs thinning in the heavy setting years. Tends to drop early if the soil is dry. Is a good keeping apple provided the apple is picked before it is fully mature.

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

Newton Wonder

Newton's Wonder

Newton’s Wonder. Photo courtesy of Clive Barker/flickr.com

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

Laxton Superb

Laxton Superb, image courtesy Eivind Kvamme/flickr.com

A very heavy cropper every other year. Branches will need to be supported to stop them from breaking under the weight of the fruit. Therefore it pays to thin the fruits out in early June. Also the size of the fruit will then be better. It is a good keeping apple but it should not be used as a pollinator. The tree needs to be staked well in case the heavy crop coincides with a gale just before picking time.

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

Preparations for planting

The rewards of a well-tended orchard

The rewards of a well-tended orchard

Fruit trees will look after themselves if you do the following things.

So you’ve decided that you’re going to plant some fruit trees, you’ve placed the order, and you know that you’ll receive the trees some time from November to April, the ideal planting time when the trees are dormant. Now is the time to prepare the planting site!

Check the pH of the soil. It should be between 6.3 and 6.6. Garden centres stock inexpensive pH meters.

Set out the planting positions, with tall bamboo canes, well before the trees arrive. You’ll have worked out the planting plan and the distances between trees with your supplier. Remove one square metre of grass sward for each tree position and remove this grass totally from the planting position. The reason is that the grass roots compete fiercely with the tree, and tend to stop the tree from establishing itself on the new site. Newly planted trees and grass are BAD companions!

Grass roots are very bad for the trees in the early years, when the trees need all the water available. Break up the topsoil and loosen the subsoil over 1 square metre for each tree. This is very important as tree roots hate stagnant water during the winter months. Keep the soil of the tree positions free from weeds for the rest of the season and for two years after that. The planting hole needs to be at least 1’6” in diameter and approximately 6” deep. Only put the best top soil on top of the roots. No subsoil. Loosen the subsoil with a rigid tine fork, before you plant the tree.

While the soil is reasonably dry, this is the best time to put the stakes in place near the planting positions. Set a stake upright in the middle of each 1 square metre. The stake needs to be 2” in diameter, 1’6” in the ground and 4’6” feet above the ground. Total length 6 feet.

If you think that you won’t be able to plant the trees straight away when they arrive, you’ll have to heel them into a shallow trench 8 inches deep and 6 inches wide.

Good drainage is absolutely essential for the trees to thrive. If drainage is suspect on your site, the trees will have to be planted on a mound. The height of the mound needs to be at least 10 inches above soil level and 3 foot wide in diameter. Only use the best topsoil to construct the mound.

Click here to read the complete story – including the planting operations and the tree’s first season

© Dan Neuteboom  5 Oct 2012