realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

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Video: Planting new fruit trees – variety choice

Many new houses are being built in the UK, and so there are thousands of new gardens. It is very difficult to know which fruit tree varieties to plant. Here Dan Neuteboom shows us an apple varieties chart that provides some suggestions and that has proved over the years to be fairly accurate. It lists a series of apple varieties, shown according to the period at which their fruit ripens, and then their fruit keeping time, with the months from July right through to March. An important consideration in variety selection is fruit tree pollination – apples do better if they are properly pollinated, and in fact, adequate fruit trees cross-pollination is essential. As a rough fruit tree pollination guide, you should plant any three of the varieties shown if there are no other varieties close at hand. If there are already some apple trees in the vicinity, you can get away with planting two of the varieties on this list. Another important consideration regards blossom and frost-tolerant fruit trees. Everyone loves beautiful blossom, but if you are in a location that is frost-sensitive – and that means frosts in April and May – fruit trees have no problem at withstanding frosts in winter – it is best to choose varieties that are frost-resistant (marked “F” in this diagram). Examples of frost-tolerant fruit tree varieties are Discovery, Red Ellison and Spartan. Another factor is the location in terms of latitude. Some varieties can be planted nationwide, including northern districts. Varieties that do well in the north include Discovery, James Grieve, Worcester Pearmain, Lord Lambourne, Charles Ross and Egremont Russet. Lastly, there is the question of tree health. No-one likes to have to spray trees, and so it is best if this can be done only in the case of urgent need. Some trees by nature have little need for spraying, such as Ashmead Kernel, a compact tree that needs very little treatment, likewise Egremont Russet, Red Ellison and Discovery. In addition to a primary selection of varieties according to location, another very important factor is the soil of the new garden, essential for the success of new trees. This will be the subject of another video.

Video: How to improve pollination on a cherry tree

A cherry tree in a garden may not set fruit for several reasons. One reason could be the lack of pollination – the transfer of pollen from one cherry variety to another that is essential for fruit set. If you have just the one cherry tree in your garden, you can compensate for this problem by cutting a branch from another cherry tree in blossom, putting it into a milk bottle with water, and placing the bottle at the centre of your tree. Bees will then visit the flowers both of the branch and the tree itself, and perform the cross-pollination needed to get a crop. It’s a simple but effective technique.

Video: Tree bark, tree health, and canker treatment

It is a good idea to take a look at your tree at regular intervals and assess its overall health. The colour of the bark provides a good indication of health. If the colour of the trunk and main limbs is a bright grey shade, you can be sure that there are no drainage problems, and the root system is happy. If on the other hand the colour of the main trunk is reddish, this is an indication that the tree has been waterlogged, and the root system has suffered. In this case the only solution is to try to improve the drainage.

At this time of the year, April, you can check for other diseases that are easier to locate when there are still no leaves on the tree, such as bacterial canker and ordinary tree canker which is caused by a fungus. If you find canker, use a special curved canker knife to cut it out. Cut away the brownish, canker-affected parts until the wound is entirely green. Then coat the wound with anti-fungal paint. The tree will heal the wound itself.

Video: The open-centre tree, ideal for plums and greengages

Dan shows us a 17-year old greengage that over the years he has transformed by removing the central leader. This creates a bowl-shaped tree in which the main framework branches slope upwards very gradually so that lots of light enters. This has stimulated the tree to produce flower all the way across the tree, even in the very centre. With plums and greengages, it is important not to prune in the winter. The pruning has to be done when the trees are still in full leaf, so that the risk of silver leaf is greatly reduced.

Video: Improving pollination and cropping by grafting on a second variety

Dan Neuteboom shows us a 15-year old pear tree that was cropping irregularly. To improve the situation, he grafted a second pear variety onto the main variety, right at the centre of the tree, choosing a variety that flowers slightly earlier, so that the pollen of the grafted variety is ready as soon as the flowers of the main variety are opening. The system helps ensure good cross-pollination, encouraging fruit set, and therefore a good crop. An easier way to obtain the same effect is to place some flowering branches in a bottle and hang it in the tree. The graft is a permanent solution. See this video for more details on how to perform the graft. Click to watch.

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: How to shape a young tree without pruning

A young trees doesn’t crop because of pruning, it crops in spite of pruning. In its early years, the ideal pyramid shape can be achieved by selecting a central leader, and using string, clothes pegs and spacers to bend down the branches that will form the main table, the base of the pyramid. Click to watch.

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.