Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Fruitset May 2012

Fruit set

This season the long, wet and cold period we all experienced before the current hot spell, has had a major influence on this year’s crop prospects. Some trees have set reasonably well while other trees only show a light crop. Apart from the weather, it has shown again that trees which had a grass and weed free area, of one square metre around the trunks of the trees, have been able to set a much better crop on most varieties of fruit. Just think back to the sequence of events, weatherwise, to date: many of us experienced the driest winter on record. Then it started to rain and it didn’t want to stop. The wind stayed in the North and it was very cold at the same time. As a result during the blossoming of the trees, there was very little insect activity in the orchard. The bumble bees were the only ones around. Pollination was largely achieved by wind-blown pollen. It is this sort of situation where orchard design, variety choice and micro climate will have a major impact on crop prospects.

Summarising, pollination, variety choice and soil management and to a lesser extent the choice of rootstock, can still achieve a good crop of fruit, in spite of very unfavourable weather conditions during the blossom period. Therefore it pays to get the best advice applicable to your particular orchard site. Blossom periods are never alike. Some years the early varieties do best, other years the late flowering varieties excel. Therefore the best assurance of regular cropping of the orchard as a whole can be achieved by planting different types of fruit, as well as different and compatible varieties.

Summer pruning as part of the cordon training of fruit trees

1)  Trees can be contained in growth by using dwarfing rootstocks, if available. But this should be accompanied by the correct application of the summer pruning principles. Winter pruning must be omitted, except the cutting back of the leading shoot, when it has grown too long.
2) Plant the trees at a 45 degree angle. Fasten the trees to 6-foot long strong bamboo canes. These canes themselves are held in that position with the aid of three horizontal wires, which are strained between two strong end posts.
3) Maintain an adequate moisture level in the root zone of the trees during the growing season. Also make sure the union of the trees are approximately 1.5 inches above the soil level.
4) Avoid over cropping by carrying out fruit thinning by the middle of June. This applies after the trees have been 2 years in the ground.
5) The worst pest is aphids. Easy to control if done early. Once the leaves have curled up it is too late. Be on your guard over the next 3 to 4 weeks.
6) Watch out for any holes in the new leaves. Remove caterpillars as these spread out, and go on to damage more leaves
7) Because of the wet start of the season, early new growth of laterals and sub laterals may be strong. Pinch out the growing tip of these shoots by mid June. Don’t cut back the central leading shoot just yet. About the end of June is right for the central leader.

The cordon system

The cordon system

Update of fruit tree needs during May

The weather has been very wet and cold. This has also had its effect on the delayed appearance of the various pests. However aphids and caterpillars are fully active now.

Be aware that as soon as the temperature goes up so does the activities of these various pests.  stocks various organic substances. It is very important to try organically-based compounds in order to retain a correct biological balance. One way of treating your trees while also saving the predators of the various pests is using a totally organic garlic spray mixture. Insects abhor the smell and taste of garlic.

Aston Garshield

Follow the recommendations as printed on the plastic bottle. Most garden centres stock it under the name of Aston Garberry or Aston Garshield. It is a mixture of various plant  and garlic extracts.

Further information obtainable from

A good look once a week

Ladybird, an efficient predator

Ladybird, an efficient predator

A good look at your fruit trees once a week is all its take for your fruit trees to do well.

Trees can look after themselves reasonably well once they have been in the ground for a year or two. It is the first 2 to 3 years when the trees need a helping hand from time to time. This has all to do with the fact that trees, like everything else that grows in your garden, will need to adjust to the prevailing conditions. By that I mean it will take time for the various predators to settle either in or close by your trees to keep the various pests under control. For that reason young trees often suffer from aphid attack at this time of the year. As soon as you notice that some leaves are beginning to curl, open the leaves up. If aphids are present then you have to deal with this. You can either try to remove them with water or organic soap. Or your garden centre will have a wide variety of liquids, organic or otherwise to deal with this problem. You can also try to cut the affected leaves off and put them in the non recycling bin.

In my experience, orchard hygiene and companion planting are the two most important factors in keeping pest and disease pretty well under control, without having to resort to sprays and various chemicals. Patio trees are often found to be in very good condition. The simple reason is that as a matter of routine any diseased or distorted leaves have been regularly removed during the growing season, from the patio.

Therefore it is a very good habit not to let things drop on the ground or anywhere near the trees, but to put diseased twigs or leaves in the non recycling bin. In that way one avoids a build up of various afflictions.

Fruit that has dropped, or rotting fruit, must not be left under the trees.

If your trees are in the chicken run then things become easier still, as the chickens are fond not only of the dropped fruit but also remove lots of grubs and caterpillars which otherwise would have had a go at the ripening fruit.

Many of the scab and mildew spores overwinter on fallen autumn leaves and twigs. To avoid re-infection in the following spring, it pays to remove and dispose of the old leaves by the end of November/ December. From that point of view it is a good move to tie around the trunks of the trees proper grease bands. Most garden centres stock them. It will stop various insects such as the winter moth from crawling up the trunk of the trees and causing damage to foliage and young fruitlets.

As mentioned earlier, over the medium term it is an excellent idea to build up the numbers of predators of the various pests which may harm the fruit and the leaves. Each predator has its own specific host plant, tree or bush. If you have the room to grow these various plants, then the various pests will be kept under control by natural means.

Hover flies, lacewings and ladybirds are all very active in keeping various pests such as aphids and red spider mite at a low level. Nasturtiums, marigolds and fennel attract hover flies into the garden. Earwigs consume many young aphids in various stages of developments. They like to overwinter in upturned flower pots filled with straw or short cut bundles of open bamboo canes.

Provided one is in the routine of feeding small birds such as blue tits and long tail tits during the winter months, these little birds consume lots of grubs and caterpillars which otherwise would have found their way into the fruits. Finally, garlic sprays are abhorrent to many insects. These can be obtained from most garden centres, in case the predator numbers in a particular season are at a low level.

Take a look at our website for further information and advice.

Home grown food is tastier and cheaper. An option open to many!

Apple trees

Apple trees

If only I had known that, I would have done so and so. This is how the saying goes. Well, there are three headlines which few people have any doubt about:
Cash will get shorter, food costs will continue to rise, as will the cost of petrol and diesel. Fortunately, for many people there are options to consider, to do something about the family’s cost of food. What’s more it is a pleasant, healthy and exciting undertaking; GROW YOUR OWN! Many of us will think that’s not for me, I don’t know anything about this.

In my experience Nature is very forgiving. As long as the will is there and an effort is made, the food in the form of fresh tasty produce will be appear from your garden, allotment or patio, sooner than you think. People in the UK are in a very fortunate position. A multitude of garden centres, friends and neighbours are only too pleased to help you to get started to make much better use of your garden, allotment or any piece of ground to start growing your own food. And at a low cost.

Sound second hand tools are available from car boot sales and charity shops. Second hand book shops can supply you with additional information on how to grow your fruit and vegetables. Just plant and sow at the right time of the year, go to your plot at least once a week and you will be amazed how nature provides to all who are trying.

To make a real success of it, think in the following basic terms. Make sure you feed your soil on an annual basis byadding organic matter. This can be farmyard manure or green manure from the council or your own compost from your compost bin. The other basic requirement is to be ready to supply moisture to your fruit and vegetables when periods of drought occur. For this you do not need lots and large volumes of water. Just make sure you only put the water where it is needed. Close to the plants and trees by using drip irrigation and in many instances backed up with a water preserving mulch such as pieces of old carpet, layers of newspaper or cardboard, wet hay or straw or such like.

As far as tree fruit is concerned, go for the smaller tree, if space is at a premium. If you want the trees to begin to crop the year after planting, go for the type of fruit you can grow anywhere in the UK. That is, apples on a semi dwarf rootstock. Make sure to ask for advice which varieties crop well and on a regular basis. If you have plenty of room then plant apples on rootstock MM106. Pears, plums and cherries all take longer to come into production. Only consider peaches and apricots if you have a south facing wall with a good additional water supply. As I said Nature is very forgiving and it will give you plenty of time during the growing season to steer things in the right direction. By that I mean keeping the weeds down in order for your fruit and vegetables to do well.

Now if you follow this approach, you will have the best and healthiest food. Far better and cheaper than your supermarket. What’s more, it is fun and relaxing to work with plants and trees. It will give you plenty of room to do things, the way you want to do them, at your own pace and in your own time.

Newly planted trees and night frost

We would like to warn you that night frosts have been forecast for the next five days. The cropping prospects of your newly-planted trees will be greatly influenced by the level of frost. If temperature at night does not fall below freezing point, then don’t worry, everything will be fine. If on the other hand, night temperatures drop significantly below zero, to between -2 and -5 degrees Celsius as forecast, the blossom will freeze, and the crop will be severely reduced.

There is a remedy. Cover the trees with a double layer of garden fleece during the coming cold nights, and the blossom will be saved. The crop will then not be affected.