realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

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Peach leaf curl disease

Peach leaf curl

If you grow peaches, nectarines and apricots, this is the main problem. It can be avoided bycovering your peach tree or your apricot tree with a double layer of garden fleece from late January until the middle of May, every year.
Peach leaf curl disease is caused by a fungus, Taphrina deformans. It will attack the tree species of peach, nectarine and apricot. The symptoms are the development of large reddish blisters on the leaves. The tree is seriously weakened as photosynthesis bythe leaves is seriously affected. Eventually the tree is starved to death as it is no longer able to make essential carbohydrates, through photosynthesis. Leaves tend to fall prematurely and growth comes to a complete standstill.
The fungus attacks the tree from late January until the middle of May. After May the fungus is no longer producing spores and therefore cannot cause new infections.

How to avoid these troubles

Actions to be taken immediately are the complete removal of leaves affected. This applies to the fallen leaves as well as the affected leaves still attached to the tree. Make sure the leaves are all collected up, put in a plastic bag and then put in the non-recycling bin. The fungal spores survive over winter on the fallen leaves!
Make sure the tree is well watered and does not stand in a carpet of weeds and grass. Apply a full watering can of water twice a week, particularly during the summer months. Mulch the tree with well rotted farmyard manure. The area to be mulched must be of a minimum size of one square yard.

Never let the tree go short of water! By late January cover the tree with a double layer of garden fleece. Fasten the fleece securely. Make sure the wind cannot affect it or lift it off. Keep your eye on the tree and if a tear develops in the fleece after particularly bad weather, repair the damage properly. This fleece needs to stay in position until the second week of May. After that time, carefully remove the fleece.

Never prune the tree during the autumn and winter months when the leaves have fallen. It is at that time that new infections occur very quickly. Prune during the middle of May or during late August, making sure that the old wood is removed to make room for new shoots to form. This is essential as the fruits of peach and nectarine are formed on one year wood only. Seal the pruning cuts with “Prune and Seal”, a compound available from your garden centre. The foliage of a well pruned tree dries up quickly, with less chance of new infections.

The cooking apple Doctor Harvey

Doctor Harvey cooking apple

Doctor Harvey cooking apple

If there is one cooking apple which I took to very much in my younger days it is this apple. In the late Fifties we had a small orchard in East Suffolk. The village was quite isolated in the depth of rural Suffolk. At that time close to us lived a wheelright, well in his eighties. He had an ancient workshop full of magnificent old tools. He never had electricity or running water. Just his own pond on the side of his garden. Next to this pond was a very old cooking apple tree, Doctor Harvey. During the winter months he would bake these apples. This was his sweet and it would keep for a week, without the use of a fridge, which he never had the use of. I saw a lot of him during the winter months as the land work was restricted to the short daylight hours. In the evening, by the light of an oil lamp, we would enjoy eating this apple together during the cold winter months right up to the end of March. He was a bachelor all his life and was very dedicated to keep this old tree in good condition as long as he lived. He passed on to me what he knew about the history of this apple. According to him this variety was already well known for many years in Suffolk and its origin was in Cambridgeshire. In that county Doctor Harvey was a master of Trinity Hall. Gabriel Harvey owned an estate at around 1630, in which the tree had been bearing fruit for many years. It is therefore one of the oldest known English cooking/baking apples. It is a regular bearer of good sized fruit, totally green in colour. Best harvested in late October. It has a very good shelf life and as all apples do it will become sweeter as the days go by. Nowadays with the aid of a fridge or a cold store, it will retain its original flavour much longer when stored at 3 degrees Celsius. A most wonderful baking/cooking apple. Delicious apple pies as I remember it well. Definitely worth planting particularly on rootstock MM106.

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

The British cooking apple

The value of cooking apples is greatly underestimated. There is no dispute that by and large we do appreciate the specific flavours of the traditional eating apples. There is always a place to be found in the garden, however large or small, for a good eating apple, particularly if it has, apart from a good flavour, good keeping qualities. Due to mass production and the fact that it may have been transported from far and wide, the flavour of supermarket fruit is always suspect. It is good to see that many people have started to plant young fruit trees in their own gardens.

But what about cooking apples? At this time of the year, during all the cold winter months, over the centuries it has been recognized by many chefs and people who love to cook, that the sharpness of a good cooking apple makes a great addition for various dishes, warm or cold, which otherwise would be too sweet on their own. Years gone by, cooking apples were transported from all over the country to London, as their taste and flavour were greatly appreciated by top London restaurants. Take for example Norfolk Beefing, a splendid flavoursome apple: the price paid for these apples was the highest during the winter months. Then there is Dr. Harvey, a long-lasting good winter cooking apple from Suffolk. In fact many counties championed their own cooking apple as the best of the lot. I will be writing about a a fair number of cooking apples, which all are splendid, each in its own way. Of course, Bramley is well known and is in no danger of fading away. However it is a real pity that supermarket culture has led us to believe that a good cooking apple needs to be green. This is way off the mark, as many excellent cooking apples are coloured. Even Bramley! The real Suffolk Bramley has a good deal of colour on its cheeks.

When you think of planting some apple trees in your garden, do give some thought to planting a good cooking apple that keeps well. It will be particularly useful to you during the winter months. I can recommend the following from experience:

Annie Elizabeth
Arthur Turner
Bramley’s Seedling
Bountiful
Dr. Harvey
Dumelow’s Seedling
Edward VII
Howgate Wonder
Lane Prince Albert
Newton Wonder
Norfolk Beefing
Sops in Wine

It is as well to order these varieties in advance, as numbers available are limited.

Time to plant for best results

A good crop on a well-tended apple tree

A good crop on a well-tended apple tree

There is a lot of confusion around the topic about which is the best time to plant. Many people believe that March to May is the best time to plant. In fact in most cases it is the opposite! By far the best time to plant trees is in the period from early December to the middle of March. And in that period it is most important to choose the right moment to plant, soil wise and weather wise.  It is a mistake to delay the planting to the last moment. The weather  is very variable and unpredictable. The best way of doing it is to have the trees on site, from early January onwards. When you receive the trees, heel them in, near the house, in a trench 8 inches wide and 8 inches deep, cover the roots totally with soil, and leave them until that moment when weather and time are opportune for planting. These moments of ideal planting conditions may only last for a day. If the trees are on the site one can make use of these ideal opportunities , which occur spasmodically during the winter months.

Now, why is it so important to plant early? It is a mistake to think that when the trees are put in the soil they start to grow from that moment. Trees need time to adjust and closely associate with the soil, in order to rebuild the micro-feeding roots. This process can take as much as from 3 weeks to a month, depending on soil temperature. Without these roots being functional, the trees are totally dependent on the reserves stored in the thicker roots and in the woody parts of the tree above ground . Once those reserved are used up, the tree, if not planted early enough, starves, and will look miserable for the rest of the season.

Finally, don’t put big lumps of soil on top of the tree roots. Micro roots cannot grow in this. Instead, visit your garden centre, and buy some of the best tree planting compost such as John Innes compost number three. Cover all the roots with it, move the tree gently up and down to enable the crumbly soil to filter in between the roots, then secure the tree to the stake or the wire or the fence and make sure the union of the tree is 5 cm above the soil. Apply a mulch around the tree and water weekly with 5 litres of water once growth has begun around April time.