Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

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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.

Video: Pruning a 10-year-old apple tree

Dan Neuteboom prunes a 10-year-old apple tree. The principle that he follows in pruning is to improve the entry of light into the centre of the tree, by making as few cuts as possible, removing branches that are at the wrong angle, or reducing multiple branches in the same position, and removing vertical branches. He bears in mind the shading effect of the branches when they will have leaves on them, and is careful to maintain a sufficient quantity of fruit bud, so ensuring a good crop. Click to watch.

Watering update for newly-planted trees in the UK

Young trees and newly planted trees are now at a critical stage of their development. Rainfall in the UK is very erratic at this time of the year. These young trees are now very much depending on local showers which may not come in time. Therefore supply these trees with help, when they need it most; SUPPLY EACH TREE WITH A FULL WATERING CAN OF 5 TO 10 LITRES OF WATER, DEPENDING ON THE SIZE AND AGE OF THE TREE, NOW. In that way new roots can be formed and at the same time plenty of moisture will be available for the rapidly increasing canopy of foliage.


A reflection on flood conditions in the UK

We have heard and seen so much about the dreadful floods all over the country. Nothing is worse than having your house and home standing in water, due to rivers bursting their banks, due to vast amounts of unprecedented volumes of rain. This made me think how people had to cope in Holland with rising water levels of the North Sea after violent storms from the north-west, some 800 years ago. Their main concern and top priority was to safeguard the home and the shed for the domestic animals, a few cows, pigs and chickens. These small farm steads were situated as totally isolated buildings in the middle of lots of low-lying surrounding fields. The surrounding fields were mainly grassland for their cattle. What they did was to build terps (artificial mound), by hand and a wheelbarrow. They built their home on top of this mound. Obviously in most cases today this is not possible due to a host of environmental regulations. However it is still possible, under similar threatening conditions, to surround your home and garden, with the aid of a JCB, with a dike, wide enough and high enough, to keep the water out. The surrounding dike can be stabilized further by planting fruit trees on the top of the dike and a mixed hedge at the bottom. These will help keep the soil together. Cover the soil with deep-rooting grass to anchor the soil all over the area. Keep some sheep to utilize the grass and there is your personalized flood defense.


How to keep a fruit tree in check and maintain its fruitfulness

This is a fundamental question for anyone growing fruit in the garden: how do you keep the trees in check, while at the same time keeping them fruitful?

The first thing is to protect the trees from spring frosts. As soon as the first flowers are open, it is very important that whenever a spring frost is forecast, the trees are covered before you go to bed with a double layer of garden fleece or the equivalent. By 9 o’clock in the morning, when the temperature has risen above 0 degrees Celsius, the fleece will have to be removed for pollination purposes. The point of all this is that temperatures below 0°C kill the flowers, which in turn prevents fruit from being formed.

This may sound like quite a lot of work to incorporate into your busy daily schedule. In actual fact it doesn’t take long and it can be quite easily done, on one condition: as long the trees are of a size not much taller than say approximately 8 feet. THIS CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED IF SUMMER PRUNING IS CARRIED OUT. Winter pruning increases tree size, summer pruning maintains tree size to the height and width you like it to be, without the tree losing its ability to crop the following year.

The important point to remember is that timing is of critical importance. As a general guide, summer pruning should be done as soon as the tree has been picked. Definitely no later than the end of September. Once leaf quality is starting to deteriorate, it is too late. Remove the older wood. Retain the fruiting spurs and the younger wood, and the two-year-old short darts. Always seal the wounds with “Heal and Seal”, obtainable from garden centres.

Not all varieties can be summer pruned in this way. Considering pear trees, the variety range suitable for this treatment is Concorde, Conference, Onward, Williams and Beth.

Quite a lot of apple varieties are suitable, but only diploid varieties. such as James Grieve, Red Windsor, Egremont Russet, Katy and Sunset. Triploids are usually too vigorous to be kept in control in this way. With tip bearers such as Worcester Pearmain, keeping size under control by summer pruning is possible but tricky, and with shy-bearing varieties such as Cox Orange Pippin, it is an uphill struggle. Therefore always seek advice. After all, fruit trees, all being well, should be a satisfying long-term investment. Similarly seek advice when you are considering cherries and plum varieties.

A dwarf stock is a help in controlling tree size, on good soils. On shallow soils, this is often not the case. A raised bed is a better alternative than planting in a poor soil.

Lastly, never let your trees dry out. Water weekly during the growing season. Do not flood the trees; one full watering can per week for each tree is enough. Do not starve your trees by planting in a bed of grass and weeds. The trees will dry out in no time!!

Watch a video on the subject of summer pruning:


Site maintenance

Dear subscribers,

We’ll be doing some technical work on this blog and on the website over the next couple of days. As a result, you may receive a number of blog posts by email, with descriptions of fruit tree varieties. We apologize for any inconvenience, and we would like to reassure you that it is not spam!

Thank you and all best wishes for 2014.

Top ten fruit tree tips for October

Now the leaves are beginning to drop, this is a good time to carry out a detailed inspection of each fruit tree.
1. Ttree ties. Check that they are not too tight. Adjust or renew.
2. Take the tree guards off the trunk. Look for canker. Clean the trunk of any accumulated debris, such as moss and weed remains, grass cuttings etc. If there is canker, cut it out with a sharp knife. Seal the wound with “Heal and Seal”. Put the tree guard back on.
3. Check the stake. If broken or rotted off at ground level, replace the stake before the winter gales cause damage to the root system of the tree.
4. Remove all dropped or rotten fruit under the tree. This to avoid a build-up of the brown rot fungus. If scab or mildew did occur during the season, remove all leaves from the ground to avoid a build-up of the spores of the damaging fungi. Apply an approved winter wash to the tree, if pest or disease have been a serious problem.
5. This is the right time to cut out any broken branches. Seal the wounds with “Heal and Seal”.
6. If the top of the trees has extended beyond your reach, causing you problems during picking time, cut the top out now and seal the wound. It is best to do it now and not during the winter time.
7. If lots of new shoots and branches have darkened the centre of the tree, cut these shoots and branches out. You can do this now, while the tree is semi-dormant.
8. If the tree carried a very heavy crop, rebuild the tree’s nutritional reserve by applying half a wheelbarrow of well rotted straw-based farmyard manure, spread out underneath the tree’s canopy.
9. Mulch the tree, if you can, with old and decomposing straw or hay, at a thickness of around 3 inches. Leave a clear ring around the trunk without any mulch to avoid mice damage during the winter time.
10. Order the new trees for your orchard now!

Cherry trees, tips for September

Apply treatment to cherry trees to reduce the risk of bacterial canker. Apply Winter Tree Wash by the end of September. This is to control greenfly/aphids eggs.

Just testing something….

Ignore me!

Growing tips for July

Woolly aphid on apple tree

Woolly aphid on apple tree

A new generation of aphids and caterpillars has appeared, mainly on apple trees. It is particularly the new tender shoot extensions they are after. On the smaller trees a lot can be achieved by cutting out the affected shoots with a secateur. Do not drop the cut-out shoots on the orchard floor, as the offenders might find their way back into the trees again. This doesn’t apply to Woolly Aphids. This particular type of aphids lives on old wounds and in cracks anywhere in the stem of the tree. It protects itself with white woolly fluff. With a stiff brush and a powerful hose pipe you will be able to remove most of them. Repeat this method of control after 14 days.

At all times of the year orchard hygiene is the basis of good natural pest  and disease control. Mildew fungus can now also be found on many extension shoots. Due to the very wet summer, in many gardens, scab and mildew can become a problem, if nothing is done about it. Just cut off all infected shoots and fruits and remove out of the orchard .

This is also the time to carry out the first summer pruning on apples and pears. Shorten back the long extension shoots to 5 leaves and the shorter side shoots to three leaves.Another summer pruning session is needed by late August. The same summer pruning technique can be carried out with damsons, greengages and plums. With apricots and peaches, cut out the shoots not wanted. If the current growth is very strong, then reduce the number of shoots. Having done that, cut back the remaining shoots to 5 leaves.

Fruit trees will be in short supply this year. It pays therefore to order early, if specific varieties are wanted. Just let us know your requirements and we will respond to your questions and reserve the trees for orders that you wish to place for delivery this coming late autumnn/early winter, when the trees transplant best and are most likely to be in the best position to grow well in the following spring time.