Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

What to do when the trees that you ordered arrive

If you have ordered a batch of trees from a nursery and, once they have arrived, you are unable to plant them immediately, what can you do?


Before planting, put the roots of the trees in a bucket of water for 10 to 12 hours.


Heeling in procedure:
Dig a trench of a couple of feet long, 8” wide and 6” deep, cover the roots completely with damp crumbly soil and your trees are very happy to sit in that trench for weeks, until you are ready to take them out of the trench and put the trees in their permanent planting position. If rabbits are a problem, protect the trunks of the trees with a spiral plastic guard.

In this way, you are giving yourself plenty of time to plant the trees, when you have got the time to do a good job and the weather is cooperating.

Never forget the soil is the permanent home of the tree. 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 is the same level of stress as is caused, for us humans, by the upheaval of moving house.

The main points of successful transplanting fruit trees 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 a crumbly soil, which is essential for new roots to be able to access the soil’s nutritional store of basic food elements. Lumpy soil on top of the roots, causes starvation of the young fruit tree.
4) Don’t plant fruit trees in water or a water logged soil or frozen soil. The tree will suffocate, as it cannot get hold of the essential oxygen for the roots to live and work properly.
5) Before you put the tree in the ground, knock in a good quality, six foot upright round stake to give the tree support to establish well, in your soil. Make sure the stake is 1’6” deep into the soil.
6) Take your wheel barrow and mix in the wheel barrow your best topsoil with John Innes compost number 3 at a 50/50 ratio.
7) Put that wonderful mixture on top of the roots, move the tree up and down, for this mixture to filter in between all the roots. Firm it gently; making sure 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. This to be applied after planting is completed.
9) Allow no permanent grass and weeds to get hold on that square yard around the tree trunk. This is essential for the tree to have the full benefit of the provisions you made, in the form of mulch and manure.
10)In the spring, when the tree is beginning to show green, green fly or aphids is a major hazard. Your garden centre will stock the remedy. Secondly, make sure your tree has the benefit of an ample moisture supply. Therefore water the tree on a weekly basis. That is in the period April to September. A full 5 litre watering can for each tree is all you need to do to ensure the tree will grow away well from day one. Do not let the grass encroach on the 1 meter square around the tree trunk. This area must stay grass and weed free for the first 3 years.
11)If you have purchased a pre-trained fan or an espalier, plant the tree WITH the bamboo frame. Plant the tree with the union placed 2 inches above soil level. Not higher as it will affect re- growth of the tree.
12) The angle of the branches may be adjusted by July. If you so wish, you can then loosen the ties and remove the bamboo frame.
13) Greenfly is a real damaging pest, appearing without fail on newly planted fruit trees in the months April, May and June. Your garden centre will stock the various options available to control this very serious pest.

Read more about planting trees here.

New video: how to make dried apple rings

Dan recalls his childhood experiences in Holland during the Second World War, when food became scarce and so people sliced and dried their apples so that they could be used as a source of basic nutrition all year round. The apples were cored and sliced, and the slices were hung on a string in a warm, dry place such as an airing cupboard. Dan demonstrates how to make dried apples at home using a technique that he remembers from the early 1940s but that in fact has been performed in many locations for centuries. Narration by Dan Neuteboom, camera by John Paddy. Click to watch. Read more at

How to make dried apple rings

September 2019: tasks in a garden orchard

This is the month when many varieties of apple, pear, plum, greengage and quince will need to be picked. It is important to ensure that the trees are picked at the correct time. If you pick too early, the fruit will shrivel and it will lack taste. If you pick too late, the fruit will not keep and the wind will cause serious fruit drop. So you may ask, when is the correct time for picking? Taste the fruit: if it eats well, pick the fruit. If it is difficult to pick and the fruit will not come off easily, then delay picking. Test the tree again 3 or 4 days later, and you may find that things have changed very quickly, particularly after a couple of really cold nights. This applies particularly to apples and pears.

Once the fruit has been picked, select the best fruits for keeping and use the damaged fruits for processing, soon after picking. Store the fruits in single layers and make sure you choose the coolest place available for storage. Also make sure the location is vermin free. Lots of other creatures, such as mice, will soon discover where the next meal will be available, particularly in the late autumn and winter months.

Remember to visit your fruit storage place weekly and remove any fruits that are rotting. If you forget to do this, it will adversely affect the quality of the remaining fruits.

Click here to see the complete year’s calendar of garden orchard work.

Dan Neuteboom

Dan Neuteboom

Take a look at our latest videos:

Suffolk Pink apples and their colour
In Suffolk Pink, colour is produced not just by the effect of sunlight, but requires another factor as well. Which is it? Click to find out.

Chip budding
Nurseryman William Seabrook demonstrates the chip budding technique. Click to watch.

Grafting, success and the occasional failure
Grafts are not always successful. William Seabrook examines two grafts performed in April, one showing excellent growth, while the other evidently went wrong. Click to watch.

Summer pruning on Suffolk Pink
Summer pruning is important to develop colour on ripening apples. Click to watch.

Summer pruning on pears
When doing summer pruning on pears, think ahead to next year’s crop. Click to watch

What to look for when buying apple trees
Dan Neuteboom talks about what to look out for when buying fruit trees. A healthy tree is essential, but you can also look for characteristics that indicate a rapid start of fruiting. Click to watch.

Pruning pear trees in August and September
How to keep pear trees in a shape that stimulates good cropping and keeps the fruit low down on the tree for easy picking. Click to watch.

Suffolk Pink apples and how they develop their colour

The effect of sunlight on helping fruit to colour up is familiar to everyone. Summer pruning is performed in part to enable light to reach the fruit so that its colour can develop. But this year, Dan Neuteboom noticed that another factor must be involved in colour development, in particular for the variety Suffolk Pink. By late August, the fruit was ready to pick, but much of it was far less coloured than is normal for this variety – whose lovely colour gave it its name. In fact, when they saw a sample of the crop, the supermarkets that stock this fruit on their shelves said that they couldn’t buy it because of its lack of colour.

Over the last couple of months, the weather has produced very hot days, and warm nights, so with a far lower temperature excursion than normal. Temperature excursion is evidently involved in the development of fruit colour, and it is this that has changed with respect to a normal year. The only solution is to leave the fruit on the tree in the hope for some cooler nights. Click to watch the video. Narration by Dan Neuteboom, camera by John Paddy.

suffolk pink

For more information on the origin of Suffolk Pink, read this web page.

Chainsaw surgery – treating bacterial canker. New video

Bacterial canker is a disease that usually kills a tree. In the latest video published on the RealEnglishFruit video channel, Dan Neuteboom explains how he treated a damson tree that was afflicted by bacterial canker, by cutting away the infected parts of the trunk with a chain saw, and painting the wounds with creocoat (a creosote substitute).

It’s easy to see when a tree has bacterial canker: dieback on parts of the tree, and dead areas of bark developing in spring and early summer, with brown gummy liquid oozing out of the trunk. Small round brown spots appear on leaves and later fall out, leaving small holes, known as “shotholes”.

It is an infectious disease, and so it’s best to prune stone fruit trees – plums, greengages, peaches, apricots etc. – only when the tree has leaves and is fully active, so during the summer, because in this period the tree has a degree of resistance to bacterial canker and can heal its wounds. By the end of August, no more pruning should be done on these trees.

Dan’s treatment of this particular tree was performed in July.

The disease is caused by plant-pathogenic bacteria Pseudomonas syringae, which exists in different forms specific to certain tree species. The bacteria land on the leaves where they reside on the surface, and can cause leaf infections in spring and early summer by entering the leaf spores, causing the “shothole” effect. Cankers develop when the bacteria exploit the wound caused by leaf drop or other damage to branches and enter the phloem cells just under the bark – the cells that transport sap rich in sugar and nutrients. The bacteria’s development here blocks the sap tubes causing the death of part or all of the tree.

Garden orchards, update for the month of August

This is a very important time in the fruit calendar. Many fruits are either close to picking or already being picked. The early plums such as Mirabelles, and likewise apricots, are being picked, and greengages, plums and early apple varieties will soon be ready.

Wasps are now very active and efforts have to be made to find the nests close by in order to reduce the numbers of these insects. The plum moth and codling moth have been a real nuisance this year. The lure and sticky pads in the pheromone traps in our area had to be renewed twice due to the large number of moths present. Woolly aphids have also been present in far greater numbers when compared to other years. Also bacterial canker, silver leaf and common tree canker in many cases have been a problem. Therefore, all considered, any wounds made during the summer pruning activities will need to be sealed with a wound-healing paint without delay.

Secondly it is most important that the essential summer pruning of peaches, apricots, cherries and plums is carried out and completed this month. The same applies to specially-trained apple and pear tree shapes such as fan, espalier, cordon and stepover.

Wherever possible, before pruning and picking, remove and destroy any damaged fruit such as fruit affected by brown rot. These fruits should be taken out of the orchard because they are infectious to other trees. If birds are a problem, nets will have to be put over the fruit to reduce any damage caused.

Apples this year are cropping irregularly in many places. Usually the young trees are fine and fruit needed to be thinned earlier in the year. This year, many older trees are showing a light crop. Pears on the other hand are doing well this year.

Finally, now is the time to prepare the containers that will be used for picking. In addition, check that the storage area for fruit is clean and free from mice, insects etc.

Video channel:

Here are some videos that may be useful this month:

How to control wasps in the garden

Pheromone trap for the sawfly

Summer pruning

Example of nets on a cherry tree grown on a wall

There is also a lot of information on the main website

dan neuteboom

Dan Neuteboom

Relevant points for the garden orchard in the month of July

This is the best time of the year to carry out summer pruning on plums, pears, cherries and peaches. Watch a video
Check that nets protecting the various fruit crops are still bird proof. Watch a video
Check pheromone traps for apple sawfly and plum sawfly. Replace the lure if necessary. Watch a video
Prepare the ground for planting new fruit trees in the autumn/winter period.
Thin fruits if their density on the tree is too high. Watch a video
Cut out tree canker and paint the wounds to stop re-infection. Watch a video
Spray to prevent bitter pit in apples.

How to thin plums

In late May-early June, if the set of fruit on plum trees is strong, it is a good idea to start thinning out the plums. If the trees have too many plums, size will be disappointing. Use a narrow-tipped cutter to remove some plums so that the ones left are a couple of inches apart. Where there are two together, cut them down to one. When plums overcrop, the branches break, and the fruit is not as good.

Narration: Dan Neuteboom
Camera: John Paddy

Further information on the RealEnglishFruit website

How to grow figs in the UK

Figs do much better if they are in some sort of container, rather than planting them directly in the ground, because they have very strong root systems. Dan shows us a fig that he planted 8 years ago, in a container made with a base of bricks, and soil placed on top of the bricks. This system enables the fig to grow well, but not too strongly. This method of preventing the tree roots from penetrating down into the soil encourages It to convert its growth vigour into cropping, and as you can see in the video, it is bearing a lot of fruit all over the tree. So if you would like to plant a fig primarily for its leaves, then you can plant it straight into the ground. If you want the fig to crop, the most important of Dan’s fig growing tips is to plant it in a suitable container, not too small, or do something similar with bricks or stone.

Narration: Dan Neuteboom
Camera: John Paddy

Video: Ladybirds, great friends for fruit growers

A ladybird is the biggest friend the fruit grower can have. They inhabit fruit trees and eat the aphids. Unfortunately, this year – the video was filmed in May 2019 – there are far too many aphids when compared to the number of ladybirds, and so on their own the ladybirds can’t keep them under control. You can help by spraying the trees with a soapy liquid made with a washing-up liquid, at the concentration that you would use to do the washing-up. It won’t kill the ladybirds, nor the ants. But it will finish off the aphids.

Narration: Dan Neuteboom
Camera: John Paddy

Further information on the RealEnglishFruit website