Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

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Fruit growing tips – top ten tips for December

Stake, rabbit guard, the area around the tree cleared of weeds

Stake, rabbit guard, the area around the tree cleared of weeds

Some important points for December:
1) Check apple trees for canker on the stem and branches
2) Check that rabbit guards are in place
3) Check fruit held in store; remove rots
4) Do not prune plums, gages and cherries in winter
5) Prune apples and pears. Improve light entry
6) Plant replacement trees. Winter is the ideal time for that.
7) Check for grown-in or restricting ties around tree trunks
8) Replace broken stakes
9) Apply farmyard manure around the trees
10) Remove stinging nettle and perennial weeds.

How to plant your trees

Photo courtesy Simon Sherlock/

Photo courtesy Simon Sherlock/

So, you have ordered your trees from, and they have been delivered safely to your door. What do you do now?

If the soil is not frozen, and your planting site is ready, you can go ahead and plant them. If not, you can wait for a few days, leaving the trees in the pack in which they arrived. They will survive for 8 days in a cold but frost-free place.

If you think that it’s likely that you won’t be able to plant within a week, you should heel the trees in. To do this, dig a trench of a couple of feet long, 8” wide and 6” deep, open the pack, put the trees into the trench, and cover the roots completely with damp crumbly soil. Your trees can stay there for weeks, until you are ready to take them out of the trench and plant them.

Don’t forget that the soil is the tree’s permanent home. The better the soil is prepared for the transplanting operation, the better the tree will grow. Its food and its drink come via the soil. For a fruit tree, transplanting causes the same level of stress as is caused, for us humans, by the upheaval of moving house.

The ten principal factors to ensure successful tree planting are:

1) don’t plant fruit trees in the shade;
2) don’t plant fruit trees on top of live roots of other trees;
3) plant fruit trees in crumbly soil, which is essential for new roots to be able to access the soil’s nutritional storehouse of goodies;
4) don’t plant fruit trees in standing water, or in waterlogged soil, or in frozen soil. The tree will suffocate, as it cannot get hold of the essential oxygen that the roots need to live and work properly;
5) before you place the tree in the ground, knock in a good-quality, six-foot upright stake to give the tree support. This will ensure that it will become established well;
6) in a wheel barrow, mix your best topsoil with John Innes compost number 3 at a 50/50 ratio;
7) put that wonderful mixture on top of the roots, and then move the tree up and down (holding the trunk) so that the mixture filters in between all the roots. Firm the soil gently. Make sure that the union of the tree is 5 cm above the finished soil level. Not less. Apply the rabbit guard or wire netting surround, to avoid damage to the bark of the tree;
8) apply a mulch of wet hay or straw, or better still well-rotted manure around the trunk of the tree, without touching the stem, over an area of at least 1 square yard;
9) remove all permanent grass and weeds in that square yard to start off with. This ensures that the tree receives the full benefit of the mulch and manure that you have given it;.
10) in the spring, when the tree is beginning to show green, make sure your tree has the benefit of an ample moisture supply. Therefore water the tree on a weekly basis, in the period from April to September. A full 5-litre watering can for each tree every week is all you need to do to ensure the tree will grow well right from day one. Do not let the grass encroach on the 1-metre square around the tree trunk. This area must stay grass and weed-free for the first 3 years.