Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Monthly Archives: November 2014

Recommended preparations for the arrival of the fruit trees that you ordered

young-fruit-trees-c-keepps-flickrBareroot trees should be ordered for delivery during the dormant period, from December to early April.

Weather conditions at this time of the year will vary greatly. Once you have received the trees, of course the best thing is to plant the trees within a couple of days of arrival. If that is possible, just put the roots of the trees in a bucket of water overnight before you plant the trees. This will restore the optimum moisture content of the tree roots. If no planting can be done for 5 to 7 days then do the following. Open the top of the orchard pack to allow fresh air to enter and keep the trees in the pack, in a cold but frost-free place.

If you cannot plant the trees within 7 days after arrival, then dig a trench 10 inches deep and 24 inches wide. Heel the trees into the soil and cover the roots well with soil. Surround the trees with wire netting so that no rabbits or cats can do damage to the bark of the trees. If you have a half-size oak barrel or similar container, take the trees out of the pack, put some soil onto the bottom of the barrel, place the trees into the barrel, and cover the roots totally with soil. Make sure the soil is moist. Do not heel in the trees close to a hedge as mice damage may occur.

Read more about planting trees here.

Traditional large bush trees

Malus John Downie, photo courtesy of Andy/Andrew Fogg/

Malus John Downie, photo courtesy of Andy/Andrew Fogg/

Modern fruit trees are generally grown on a dwarfing or semi-dwarfing rootstock that keeps their size down to manageable levels and can be grown to produce a fairly flat table at a height convenient for picking without ladders. But you may be interested in growing a traditional old English fruit tree, the sort that grows to an appreciable size and ends up with knarled branches that young children can even climb. An ideal tree for a village green with a good space around the tree to do Maypole-type dancing is the Granny Smith. The fruit hangs on the tree until Christmas without dropping and looks spectacular. However somewhere in a garden nearby there has to be a pollinator… otherwise no fruit!

A much better tree for a very large lawn or a village green is a John Downie crab apple. The fruit looks good and makes wonderful crab apple jelly.

Whatever your tree requirements, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information and on any special needs you have. And, as they say, the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, but the next best time is now, so don’t delay!

Renovating old fruit trees

An old apple tree, photo courtesy of Chris Moore/

An old apple tree, photo courtesy of Chris Moore/

Fruit trees are a wonderful investment. If looked after well, trees will continue to crop year after year, even when the trees are 30 to 40 years old.

But what about a situation in which you have just moved house and you’ve found a totally neglected fruit tree in the new garden? What should be done?

If it turns out that the tree is cropping well, restrict the pruning to cutting out dead wood and crossing branches in the first year. The next year do a little more and improve the light entrance into the centre of the tree. Without good light the fruit tree is unable to make good fruit bud.

On no account try to remodel the tree all in one year. Old fruit trees do best when you bring on improvements gradually. In my experience an old tree reacts very favourably if 4 or 5 large branches are taken out rather than lots of little snips here and there.

Neglected trees usually will show lots of dense drooping fruiting wood totally overgrown by younger wood, which makes it all very dark and overcrowded. Over a number of years, gradually take out all wood which creates layer upon layer, in and around the canopy. The timing to do this job is also important. In order to reduce fungal infections to a minimum, choose a nice warm day in the July/August period rather than a period when the tree is without leaves and the healing of the wounds takes a long time.

You can bring the height of the tree down, provided this is done gradually over a number of years. This operation should be carried out any time in August towards the end of the summer. NEVER during the winter months. Always seal large wounds with either Arbrex or Heal and Seal or similar wood healing compounds.

If after 3 or 4 years you can throw your hat through the trees without the hat getting hooked up any where you will have done a great job. The old fruit tree will start a new lease in life and will thank you for it by producing wonderful fruits.

Check now for honey fungus

Inspect your fruit tree area now for the appearance of the toadstools of aggressive fungi, such as Armillaria which can cause death to fruit trees. It is also called the honey fungus due to its warm brown colouring. If the toadstool has a collar it is most likely the honey fungus. There is no known cure. The only thing you can do is to remove the tree completely, including as many thick roots as possible. Do not plant a fruit tree in the same hole.

Armillaria toadstools, photo courtesy of Tatiana Bulyonkova/

Armillaria toadstools, photo courtesy of Tatiana Bulyonkova/

This late, late season, and how it can be useful for planting new trees

As you will have noticed, many trees that would normally have lost their leaves are still photosynthesizing, and roots are still fully active. This situation was caused by the relatively high air and soil temperatures at crucial stages of the year, and it has both positive and negative effects.

The negative effect is the increased amounts of fungal spores in the garden or orchard. It is important to collect leaves as they fall, remove them from the area, and burn them (or dispose of them in your food and garden waste bin if you are in a city). Don’t compost them, because this just gives the fungal spores another chance to infect your plants and trees.

The positive effect is that the tree is able to store resources in its root system, which will give it a better start next year and improve crops.

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


Photo courtesy of Maja Dumat/