Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Monthly Archives: September 2014

Dormant period this year

Suffolk Pink

Suffolk Pink

This is a good time of year to plan the position of new fruit trees, and order trees. Stocks are often limited at nurseries, and they have to be prepared so that they are ready for delivery in their dormant period, generally from late November or early December to late March/early April.

A tree is different from a conventional product that you can buy say at a supermarket because it follows the rhythms of nature. From late October a tree begins to prepare for the winter shut-down. Carbohydrate reserves built up in the leaves are sent down to the root system for storage. The tree then sends all the substances it wants to get rid of to the leaves (contributing to their autumn colours) so that leaf drop is like a purification process. By late November or early December, metabolism has reached its minimum throughout the tree. As the spring approaches, the root system uses some of its reserves to rejuvenate its micro-feeding roots, tiny, microscopic rootlets invisible to the naked eye, the structures that do the job of absorbing water and nutrients from the soil. And so by the start of April the tree is ready to start its new season.

This is why we recommend planting from late November to late March. 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.

What happens if you plant a tree at other times of year? However gently you transplant, the micro-feeding rootlets are all destroyed. For about a month, 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 starves, and will look miserable for the rest of the season.

More information on tree planting here.

A reader writes about Suntan

A message from Mrs. T:

“I have just read your blog about “Suntan” and I have to agree with you that it the best tasting apple ever: crisp, juicy and sweet with a touch of clean sharpness. For some years my late husband and I would travel to an Crapes Orchard at Marks Tey, Essex, to collect two boxes. They were stored in my Hertfordshire garden shed and enjoyed over Christmas and well into the New Year. I have never seen this variety sold in any supermarket or shop. Sadly, I only have a small garden so I am unable to grow it for myself. However, for anyone who has space this is a wonderful apple worthy of all discerning apple lovers. Long may it survive!”

Thank you for your feedback.  Click here to read the original blog post about Suntan.

And this is another post on the same apple.

Suntan, photo courtesy of

Suntan, photo courtesy of

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Top ten tips for garden fruit trees in September

Points to remember in September:
1) Remove all fallen fruits form under the fruit trees. These harbour the rot spores of different fungi and will affect next year’s crop of fruit.
2) Once harvesting of plums and cherries is completed, apply winter wash, obtainable from any good garden centre.
3) It is more effective to ripen pears in the fridge. Therefore pick the pears as soon as the abscission layer at the end of the fruit stalk gives way.
4) Mow the grass and the tall weeds in the fruit area. Mice are preparing for the winter. Make sure there is no hiding place close to the trunk of the trees.
5) Now is the time to plan and order the fruit trees that you would like to plant, so that the nursery can deliver them ready for planting in the December to the end of March period.
6) Start setting out the proposed planting spots with tall bamboo canes.
7) Obtain the right advice regarding pollination.
8) Cut back overhanging branches of hedges/trees which will reduce the light in the fruit area.
9) From time to time, fruit trees need an extra water supply. Make sure a tap connection is not far away
10) If garden compost or manure is available, it is a good idea to mix it into the soil where the trees are going to be planted.

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

Rootstocks for apples

2014-08-19 15.37.50-1200Apple trees are the fruit type for which there are most rootstocks. We can safely say that MM106 is by far the best and most robust stock for a mini-orchard. In addition, MM106 is suitable for all soils.

We don’t recommend the use of the dwarfing rootstocks M27 and M9 for several reasons. Firstly, for the average garden, M27 and M9 create a root system that is too weak to keep the tree upright in later years, when it is in full production. Secondly, the correct type of stakes necessary to stop the trees from blowing over are often unobtainable in garden centres. Third, M27 and M9 trees tend to over-produce fruit in one year, with no, or very little, fruit the following year. Lastly, the bark of M27 and M9 apple trees are the most appetizing to mice, rabbits, hare and deer, which nibble the bark in winter, leaving sick trees with too small fruit.

And so to summarize, the best rootstocks to use for apple trees are MM106 for semi-vigorous trees and M26 for semi-dwarfing trees, as well as for fan, espalier and stepover trees. We do not recommend the use of M27 and M9, because they require a regime of detailed care that is generally not possible in the usual garden or allotment situation.

For successful apple tree growing, MM106 is the best choice. It has proved itself over many years; it forms a healthy tree which fruits at a young age. MM106 is suitable for all soils, including heavy clay soils, provided the soil is not waterlogged.

Browse our list of fruit tree varieties