Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Tag Archives: canker

Video: Tree bark, tree health, and canker treatment

It is a good idea to take a look at your tree at regular intervals and assess its overall health. The colour of the bark provides a good indication of health. If the colour of the trunk and main limbs is a bright grey shade, you can be sure that there are no drainage problems, and the root system is happy. If on the other hand the colour of the main trunk is reddish, this is an indication that the tree has been waterlogged, and the root system has suffered. In this case the only solution is to try to improve the drainage.

At this time of the year, April, you can check for other diseases that are easier to locate when there are still no leaves on the tree, such as bacterial canker and ordinary tree canker which is caused by a fungus. If you find canker, use a special curved canker knife to cut it out. Cut away the brownish, canker-affected parts until the wound is entirely green. Then coat the wound with anti-fungal paint. The tree will heal the wound itself.

Garden orchard maintenance tasks, early December

Planting new trees

Soon we will have arrived at the beginning of a new tree planting season. Now is the time to prepare the spot where the tree is going to be planted. Just make sure that no grass or weeds will stop the young fruit tree roots developing properly. Remove any grass in the area around the tree, for about 1 square metre around the trunk. Later, once the tree has been planted, it will be good to apply an organic mulch on the same 1 square metre area around the tree trunk, but without the mulch touching the trunk. Provide a stake next to the tree and tie the tree to the stake with a FLEXIBLE tie. Protect the trunk of the tree with a proper guard. If deer are present a tall guard is essential. Here is a link to our main website where you can order trees.

Woolly aphids

This year a lot of woolly aphid are making their present felt. Effective insecticides are no longer available to the gardener or the allotment holder. Using luke-warm water and some detergent, brushing the affected branches will reduce the problem. Repeat the same treatment a month later.

Woolly aphid


Now the leaves have fallen, canker infections are clear to see. To stop winter spores from developing , cut out all surrounding wood and the wound itself, until no brown markings can be seen in the healthy green surrounding bark and cambium layer. Then paint the treated area with a wood sealing compound.


Overwintering aphids eggs

Spray the trees with a “winter wash” obtainable from any good garden centre.

Fruit tree maintenance in May and early June

Frequent visits to the trees at this time of year will prevent problems later.


Fruit trees are now well into the various stages of flowering and or growth. Lots of new green leaves are forming. These are very important for the trees’ wellbeing. At the same time, the leaves are excellent indicators as to how the trees are coping with various pests and diseases, which are also making their presence felt. Look at the growing points of the rapidly expanding twigs and shoots. If green fly or aphids are in the process of curling up the newly developing leaves it is important to remove the aphids with the use of non toxic fatty acid sprays or horticultural soap mixture. The garden centre stock various brands to deal with these problems.

If there are lots of ladybirds, make sure you choose a method of control which does not kill them. Ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies are all very active predators of aphids. Caterpillar damage will be very easy to see this time of year. Remove if excessive numbers are present.

This time of the year the small song birds such as bluetits are consuming a large number of small caterpillars and feeding their young with them. These little birds are therefore a great asset to have aroud. Small nest boxes in the vicinity of the fruit trees encourage them to stay in the trees, just when you need them most.

Disease control

It is a very good routine to cut out and burn any foliage affected by peach leaf curl disease, apple mildew and scab. Do not leave it around on the ground as it will cause you even more trouble next year.

Tree canker must be cut out now, as at the moment you can still see it clearly. The same applies to silver leaf. Affected branches in plums need to be cut out and the wounds painted to prevent new infections.


Various moths that cause damage to fruit trees are becoming active from about now over the next couple of weeks. For example the plum fruit moth, whose grubs will live in the plum and greengage fruits, will cause a lot of damage. Now is the time to hang a pheromone trap in the tree. The lure will need to be replaced by early July to make sure the plums stay grub-free.

Fruit set and thinning

In spite of some earlier spring frosts, fruit set looks good in apples. It is variable in the earlier flowering trees such as plum, cherry, peach, apricot and pears. Trees of these varieties on frost-free sites, or that were adequately protected with garden fleece, may even have an excessive fruit set. Thinning should be carried out over the next 3 weeks to be effective. For example, apricots have set quite heavily and thinning is strongly recommended: it should be done now if you would like a good crop next year. The set on plums is variable. It would be best to wait a little longer before thinning, performing the operation once the level of fruit set is clearer. The same applies to peaches and nectarines.

After natural drop, in June it is advisable to reduce the number of fruitlets in a group like this

Later on, after natural drop in June, it would be advisable to reduce the number of fruitlets in a group like this

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

Top ten fruit tree tips for October

1) Finish picking the late maturing apple and pear varieties.
2) Only the best and undamaged fruits will store well. Juice the remainder.
3) The best storage regime is fruit in single layer trays and kept in the coolest condition, in the dark. Inspect the fruit every 10 days and remove fruits that are going off.
4) Cut out and treat any tree canker. Garden centres stock sealing compounds such as Heal and Seal and Arbrex.
5) Remove all bad and dropped fruit away from the orchard area. If not, it will affect next year’s crop, due to spores growing on rotten fruits and fallen leaves; scab infections.
6) Stock up on John Innes compost number 3, ready for planting newly-ordered trees.
7) If your quince tree was affected by leaf blight, spray with winter wash.
8) Apply grease bands if winter moth caterpillars have been a problem.
9) Mow the grass once more between the rows.
10) Remove all weeds and hiding places near the trunks of the trees to avoid mice damage to the bark of the trees.

Fruit almost ready for harvest

Fruit almost ready for harvest

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

Fruit growing tips – top ten tips for December

Stake, rabbit guard, the area around the tree cleared of weeds

Stake, rabbit guard, the area around the tree cleared of weeds

Some important points for December:
1) Check apple trees for canker on the stem and branches
2) Check that rabbit guards are in place
3) Check fruit held in store; remove rots
4) Do not prune plums, gages and cherries in winter
5) Prune apples and pears. Improve light entry
6) Plant replacement trees. Winter is the ideal time for that.
7) Check for grown-in or restricting ties around tree trunks
8) Replace broken stakes
9) Apply farmyard manure around the trees
10) Remove stinging nettle and perennial weeds.

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

Apple canker

Canker on Golden Delicious, courtesy of Alan Biggs/

Canker on Golden Delicious, courtesy of Alan Biggs/

This a serious disease which needs to be identified, and, if present, it has to be eliminated from young trees. The roots of the trees are not affected. Canker is a fungal infection, and and it used to be treated with copper-based sprays. These have been withdrawn from the market, under EU regulations. Therefore the only means to eradicate this fungus is to cut out all diseased wood. It must be removed from the orchard and burned. Spores continue to be released from wood on the orchard floor, particularly during the dormant period of the fruit trees. That’s why as a matter of urgency, all cankers on the tree trunks, whether large or small infections, have to be exposed, by removing the tree guards, and then cut out. The wound should be painted with “heal and seal,” with at least a 1-inch overlap, right around the trunk if necessary. This method of control has to be completed by no later than the end of October. A second check of the treated wounds should be carried by the end of March, before the trees get into leaf.

If you find a lot of canker infection, it may be necessary to adjust the nutritional programme of the trees. Nitrogen and high humidity make the ideal conditions for rapid growth of the canker fungus. Therefore, if your trees are suffering from canker, it is wrong to apply any nitrogen from September to the end of February. If nitrogen has to be applied, it is best to do it during the first week of March.

October fruit tree tips – tree maintenance

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.
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.

Good crops of fruit and orchard hygiene go together

Orchard hygiene

After harvest, there are still lots of tasks to perform to ensure hygiene and reduce the chance of fungal infection

A very good gardening friend of mine, who lives in one of the surrounding villages, has demonstrated in practice, year after year, how it is possible to grow all types of fruit without the intensive use of manufactured chemicals, irrespective of variety, pests or diseases, or bad weather conditions, such as low temperatures at blossom time. He takes great care to ensure that his trees grow in an environment in which the chances of infection have been reduced to a minimum, by practicing the elementary principles of good orchard hygiene.

Once he has picked the fruit and removed non-productive branches from the tree canopy, he makes a special job of removing any fruit left on the ground underneath the tree crown. He picks up all deteriorating fruit, however bruised or rotten it may be, and puts it all in the non recycling bin. The net effect of this action is that there are less spores floating around his fruit trees next year, and so there is less chance of fungi finding a spot to infect  his fruit. Another benefit of this is that his fruit is of better keeping quality. In addition, he removes any wood affected by mildew. This is easy to spot as it has a silvery appearance. If brown irregular growths are appearing on some of the branches, he makes sure it is cut out at exactly this time of year (early October). Likewise, he cuts out wood infections such as tree canker or bacterial canker, and he ensures that any ingrowing tree ties on the branches are removed. The wounds are then covered with a sealing compound such as “Heal and Seal” using a smallish paint brush. This is very effective and stops new infection occurring this or next season..

During the winter months he will further attend to his trees and remove lichen and tree moss which are reducing the young branches’ ability to produce good strong fruit buds. But I will discuss this during the winter.

A quick reminder: if you’re interested in planting a few trees, this is the best time to plan the site and order the trees, so that you can plant from December to March. Take a look at our list of varieties, and our Orchard Packs that make everything simple!

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