realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Tag Archives: orchard consultancy

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.

Pixie

Pixie

Pixie. Photo courtesy of whatamieating.com/flickr.com

This is a delicious small crisp apple. It will keep in cool conditions to well into the New Year. It should not be picked until well into October. Taste it first before you pick it. By nature, all small apples keep better when compared with larger ones. To ensure good fruit size in the variety Pixie, make sure that the tree structure is kept open so that light can penetrate throughout the canopy. Pixie is a healthy tree and a good pollinator.

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

Lord Derby

Lord Derby, image courtesy whatamieating.com/flickr.com

This is one of those cooking apples which may perform reasonably well on soils where Bramley or Howgate Wonder fail to grow. It is a cooking apple which ripens before Bramley and will do well on cold, wet and slow-draining soil. However no fruit tree succeeds on permanently waterlogged soil. It will need some fruit thinning in early June in order to produce fruit of sufficient size. It is a green apple which, as it matures, slowly turns yellow. It is best not to keep the fruit later than November. It makes good apple sauce. As it flowers late, it is quite resistant to spring frosts. It is self-fertile and a good pollinator for other apple varieties.

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

Limelight

Limelight

Limelight

This is a relatively new apple introduced in the 1980s. A well-flavoured good green eating apple, which is ready to eat in the September/October period. It crops well and regularly. It has a good resistance to spring frosts and is therefore suitable for growing in the north of England. It doesn’t need a lot of room and is very suitable for growing in a smaller garden.

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