realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Tag Archives: pruning

Video: Two plum trees, one badly pruned, one well pruned

Dan Neuteboom shows us two mature plum trees, one of which has been pruned badly, while the other has been pruned well. One will produce little fruit, the other will set a good crop. The first tree was pruned with a chain saw, removing large branches, creating large wounds, leaving branches that are at the wrong angles, without consideration of the overall structure. The tree will react by throwing out a lot of new wood which will produce shade and stop light reaching the centre. The second tree shows a good structure, with a strong central leader, large horizontal branches well furnished with two and three-year-old shoots which are the best for fruiting. A tree that has a lot of two to three-year-old wood well positioned to receive light is a tree that will crop well. This tree will produce masses of flowers, bees will pollinate it, cross-pollination is ensured by the other plum tree, and all being well, there will be a good crop.

Video: Pruning a mature apple tree

Dan Neuteboom demonstrates how to prune a 50-year old Bramley tree. It is a tree that already has a good open structure, with plenty of fruit bud. All that has to be done when pruning the tree is to maintain the quality of the light reaching the centre of the tree. This means removing the upright shoots which will create a lot of shade once they have leaves on them. Dan is careful to leave the short twigs bearing fruit bud which are ideal for cropping.

Video: Pruning pear trees – how to tell the difference between fruit bud and wood bud

Dan Neuteboom describes the difference between fruit bud and wood bud on a pear tree. It is important to recognise the difference so that when pruning, you leave the fruit buds in position to ensure a good crop.

It can be difficult to get pear trees into production early. Pears tend to form fruit bud later than on apple trees. How do you prune the tree if you are not sure which is fruit bud, and which is wood bud? It’s best to delay pruning until the moment that you can easily see the difference. From mid-March to early April, you can see that the fruit buds are large and round, while wood buds remain smaller and more pointed. So it’s best to wait until this time to prune the tree. You can cut away the shoots that are filling up the tree, leaving the shoots with fruit bud and ensuring that they have maximum exposure to light. Click to watch.

How to keep a fruit tree in check and maintain its fruitfulness

This is a fundamental question for anyone growing fruit in the garden: how do you keep the trees in check, while at the same time keeping them fruitful?

The first thing is to protect the trees from spring frosts. As soon as the first flowers are open, it is very important that whenever a spring frost is forecast, the trees are covered before you go to bed with a double layer of garden fleece or the equivalent. By 9 o’clock in the morning, when the temperature has risen above 0 degrees Celsius, the fleece will have to be removed for pollination purposes. The point of all this is that temperatures below 0°C kill the flowers, which in turn prevents fruit from being formed.

This may sound like quite a lot of work to incorporate into your busy daily schedule. In actual fact it doesn’t take long and it can be quite easily done, on one condition: as long the trees are of a size not much taller than say approximately 8 feet. THIS CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED IF SUMMER PRUNING IS CARRIED OUT. Winter pruning increases tree size, summer pruning maintains tree size to the height and width you like it to be, without the tree losing its ability to crop the following year.

The important point to remember is that timing is of critical importance. As a general guide, summer pruning should be done as soon as the tree has been picked. Definitely no later than the end of September. Once leaf quality is starting to deteriorate, it is too late. Remove the older wood. Retain the fruiting spurs and the younger wood, and the two-year-old short darts. Always seal the wounds with “Heal and Seal”, obtainable from garden centres.

Not all varieties can be summer pruned in this way. Considering pear trees, the variety range suitable for this treatment is Concorde, Conference, Onward, Williams and Beth.

Quite a lot of apple varieties are suitable, but only diploid varieties. such as James Grieve, Red Windsor, Egremont Russet, Katy and Sunset. Triploids are usually too vigorous to be kept in control in this way. With tip bearers such as Worcester Pearmain, keeping size under control by summer pruning is possible but tricky, and with shy-bearing varieties such as Cox Orange Pippin, it is an uphill struggle. Therefore always seek advice. After all, fruit trees, all being well, should be a satisfying long-term investment. Similarly seek advice when you are considering cherries and plum varieties.

A dwarf stock is a help in controlling tree size, on good soils. On shallow soils, this is often not the case. A raised bed is a better alternative than planting in a poor soil.

Lastly, never let your trees dry out. Water weekly during the growing season. Do not flood the trees; one full watering can per week for each tree is enough. Do not starve your trees by planting in a bed of grass and weeds. The trees will dry out in no time!!

Watch a video on the subject of summer pruning:

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Weekly update for cherry trees – first week of August

Now that the cherry crops have been picked, that is if spring frosts and birds did not do any major damage to your crop prospects, it is a good time to consider the size of the trees. This is the right time now to summer prune your tree(s), bringing them back to a size you can cope with. DO NOT LEAVE IT TO THE WINTER TIME. Summer pruning means cutting out surplus older wood and creating more sun and room for younger 1 to 3-year-old wood.

Renovating old fruit trees

An old apple tree, photo courtesy of Chris Moore/flickr.com

An old apple tree, photo courtesy of Chris Moore/flickr.com

Fruit trees are a wonderful investment. If looked after well, trees will continue to crop year after year, even when the trees are 30 to 40 years old.

But what about a situation in which you have just moved house and you’ve found a totally neglected fruit tree in the new garden? What should be done?

If it turns out that the tree is cropping well, restrict the pruning to cutting out dead wood and crossing branches in the first year. The next year do a little more and improve the light entrance into the centre of the tree. Without good light the fruit tree is unable to make good fruit bud.

On no account try to remodel the tree all in one year. Old fruit trees do best when you bring on improvements gradually. In my experience an old tree reacts very favourably if 4 or 5 large branches are taken out rather than lots of little snips here and there.

Neglected trees usually will show lots of dense drooping fruiting wood totally overgrown by younger wood, which makes it all very dark and overcrowded. Over a number of years, gradually take out all wood which creates layer upon layer, in and around the canopy. The timing to do this job is also important. In order to reduce fungal infections to a minimum, choose a nice warm day in the July/August period rather than a period when the tree is without leaves and the healing of the wounds takes a long time.

You can bring the height of the tree down, provided this is done gradually over a number of years. This operation should be carried out any time in August towards the end of the summer. NEVER during the winter months. Always seal large wounds with either Arbrex or Heal and Seal or similar wood healing compounds.

If after 3 or 4 years you can throw your hat through the trees without the hat getting hooked up any where you will have done a great job. The old fruit tree will start a new lease in life and will thank you for it by producing wonderful fruits.

October fruit tree tips – pruning and light

This is the right time to cut out any broken branches. Seal the wounds with “Heal and Seal”.
If the top of the trees has extended beyond your reach, causing you problems during picking time, cut the top out now and seal the wound. It is best to do it now and not during the winter time.
If lots of new shoots and branches have darkened the centre of the tree, cut these shoots and branches out. You can do this now, while the tree is semi-dormant.

If you are interested in ordering trees ready to plant this winter, please visit our main website.

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

Video: Summer pruning

The main objective of summer pruning is to ensure that the apples on a tree develop good colour and flavour. When summer pruning, cut out the vertical shoots in order to enable light to enter the tree and come into contact with fruit that was previously shaded. Work on the lower part of the tree first. In addition to the one-year old shoots, you will also find some shorter darts, which should be left, because they are essential for next year’s production. Don’t prune the higher part of the tree too much, because pruning here tends to stimulate further growth.

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.

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