realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Monthly Archives: November 2013

November tips – protect pears and plums from bird damage

A bullfinch, photo courtesy of Paul Starkey/flickr.com

A bullfinch, photo courtesy of Paul Starkey/flickr.com

Even though the trees will be looking bare, it’s important to apply cotton threads to pear and plum trees as soon as the leaves have fallen. This is a good method of deterring pigeons and bullfinches who otherwise will eat the fruit buds, essential for next year’s crop, in pears and plums. Ordinary cotton is fine, just wind it around the tree (slip the spool onto a rod or dowel to make things simpler) so that the threads are about six inches apart. What happens is that the bird flies towards the tree, doesn’t see the thread, touches it with its wing, gets a fright, and flies off. No damage to the bird is done, and it helps your tree!

Read our month-by-month list of tasks in a garden orchard.

Bordeaux mixture, a fungicide for fruit trees

Bordeaux mixture, based on copper sulphate and slaked lime, was first used on vines initially to discourage pilferers. Its fungicidal properties were discovered by chance. Photo courtesy of Diyanski/flickr.com

Bordeaux mixture, based on copper sulphate and slaked lime, was first used on vines initially to discourage pilferers. Its fungicidal properties were discovered by chance. Photo courtesy of Diyanski/flickr.com

Use Bordeaux mixture if fungi have been a problem. The copper in the mixture will stop the damaging spores of these fungi from getting a hold in your trees.

Update: Bordeaux mixture is now illegal in the UK. The organic, non-toxic alternative is winter wash.

November fruit growing tips – tree guards

A tree guard. Photo courtesy of Villa root barrier.com/flickr.com

A tree guard. Photo courtesy of Guy Charlebois/Villa root barrier.com/flickr.com

Check your tree guards, replace guards that are too tight ones or broken.
If you have ordered new trees, mark out the planting positions with tall bamboo canes.

Read our month-by-month fruit tree care calendar.

Medlars

Medlars, Photo courtesy of Michael Kirtley/flickr.com

Medlars, Photo courtesy of Michael Kirtley/flickr.com

Medlars are beautiful, but unfortunately largely forgotten trees. This is such a pity as these trees are so easy to grow and totally undemanding. The big white flowers are very eye-catching in the early spring. The tree itself is of moderate size and very easy to grow. Apart from keeping an area of about 1 square yard around the base of the trees free from grass and weeds during the first two years, after that you do not need to do anything, as the tree is then totally capable of looking after itself.

But then the fruit! People say to me… what do you do with it? Well this is the story.

When everything else  in the fruit line has been gathered up, stored or eaten, it is then that you should to go to your medlar tree and see if the fruits are ready to pick. The biggest mistake with medlars is that the fruits are picked TOO EARLY. In general, this time of the year, towards the end of November, is the right time to pick the medlars. If you pick medlars too early, the taste and soft texture does not develop properly. You will know when the fruits are ready to pick, when a brown spot appears on some of the fruits, and gradually gets bigger, while the fruits are still on the tree. Then test the flavour of the Nottingham Medlar: squeeze the fruit, suck it, and a soft texture of the fruit means that it is ready to pick. If the texture is still dry it is not ready yet . Do not pick all the fruits in one go, as the fruits ripen over a period of approximately 14 days. When lovely and soft, it is ready for the preparation of various Medlar dishes in the kitchen.

My grandfather had a tree in his garden. While he was digging his garden, as a little boy I kept out of harm’s way by eating his medlars. Delicious they were too!!

Click here to visit the Tree Varieties page.

Maiden and Bush trees

Planting a tree. Photo courtesy of FO Littleover Parks/flickr.com

Planting a tree. Photo courtesy of FO Littleover Parks/flickr.com

One particularly important factor in a fruit tree from a supplier is whether it is a Maiden or a Bush tree.

A Maiden is generally a tree in its first year, consisting of a single stem. For a few varieties, this may have a few initial side branches, but most will not. The buds on a maiden are mainly wood buds. So there is no chance of any fruit crop in the year after planting.

A Bush tree is a 2 to 3 year-old tree, ususally with several side branches, usually with a good number of fruit buds. Fruit buds are essential for early cropping. A bush tree is also helpful because the side branches are ready to develop into the main framework of the tree, with a “fruit table” positioned for comfortable picking. Not all fruit trees form side branches in the second year, but, if it is an apple, in any case the tree will start to produce fruit on the central stem. By nature, pears, plums and greengages always take longer to come into production . Therefore in particular with these fruit types it is wiser to start with a 2 to 3 year old tree.

The height of the tree is not a feature which encourages early cropping.

Rootstocks and tree size

How to buy fruit trees

Fruit growing tips for November – hygiene

Remove all rotten fruit and scabby leaves as these diseases will overwinter and will affect next year’s crop.

Scab on an apple leaf. Photo courtesy of keystonetree.com

Scab on an apple leaf. Photo courtesy of keystonetree.com

Read more about orchard hygiene and disease control

Quince – Cydonia vulgaris

Quince tree, photo courtesy of rmtw/flickr.com

Quince tree, photo courtesy of rmtw/flickr.com

Quinces are beautiful trees and live to a great age. These trees love to grow in fertile and moist soil. They love an open and sunny position. They are ideal near a stream. They have beautiful large blossoms, fairly late in the spring. A very hardy tree. They usually do best with a companion. I recommend Vranja and Meeches EarlyProlific. This last tree is smaller and more suitable for the smaller garden. The trees, once established need no further attention as they are very capable of looking after themselves. However in the early years it is important to remove crossing branches and any other branches which reduce the entry of light into the tree. The black marking that can occur on the fruits is caused by crossing branches that scar the quinces. As for all fruit trees, in the early years, it is important to give the quince trees water in very dry summer periods.
The fruits are very aromatic and should be stored by themselves, as the quince scent will adversely affect  the flavour of other fruits. Store them in a cool, frost-free place. The fruits are superb for the preparation of a large range of dishes either as an addition or by themselves.

There are several ways of preparing quinces for jams, chutneys, jellies etc. It is the initial preparation which is important to get right. The fruits are rock-hard and therefore need to be softened up before peeling and coring them:
1) wash the quinces,
2) wrap each one in foil,
3) bake in the oven until soft, for up to 1 hour.
4) unwrap when cool and remove cores and any skin,
5) use for recipes as required.

Browse our list of fruit tree varieties

November fruit growing tips

Waterlogged. Photo courtesy of Karen Martin/BIPAP/flickr.com

Waterlogged. Photo courtesy of Karen Martin/BIPAP/flickr.com

Check the gutters of any building for blockages near your mini orchard. A leaking gutter that causes soil to become waterlogged is death to the fruit tree.

Read our month-by-month fruit tree care calendar.

Victoria

Shropshire Prune