Dan Neuteboom demonstrate how to tie down apple tree branches, a method of forming the tree’s structure and encouraging growth of new shoots along the branches. This is a one-year old tree, with branches growing diagonally upwards and rather bare. Simply tie a few lengths of string at the base of the stake, and then wind the string around the branch and hold it in place with a clothes peg. Stronger branches can be tied down a little lower. When you bend the branch, twist it slightly. This will prevent it from breaking. Trees don’t crop because of pruning, but in spite of pruning: tying apple trees in this way will help the tree to start cropping.. Dan also points out that it is important to have mulch on the soil around the tree. This keeps the soil moist so that the root system can develop sufficiently to feed the part of the tree above ground level.
Narration: Dan Neuteboom
Camera: John Paddy
Dan shows us a morello cherry tree that has been planted on the north side of a building in a garden orchard. The fruit set is very good. In fact the morello cherry is the only fruit tree that does very well on the north side of a building. The morello sets best on one-year-old wood. Last year, Dan cut back the one-year-old wood to shorter lengths, from which this year new branches have grown, on which the fruit has now set. This tree has been trained in a fan shape, but the really important thing in ensuring good cropping is to cut it back in November.
Narration by Dan Neuteboom, camera John Paddy
It is a good idea to delay pruning until you can see the difference between wood bud and fruit bud. In January, the fruit bud is totally closed, and this stage is called the Dormant Stage. Then comes the swelling stage, and at this stage you can already see the way in which fruit bud becomes much larger than wood bud. This is the time at which you can adjust the pruning and ensure that you don’t cut off what will become blossom and thus fruit. After this, fruit bud begins to break – the Breaking Stage – and then it opens, at the Burst Stage, followed by the Green Cluster stage in which the first leaves start to form around the bud. After another week or ten days, according to the weather, the bud reaches the so-called White Bud Stage. This eventually develops to the Fruitlet Stage. Dan shows us a peach tree on which he delayed pruning to ensure that there would be sufficient fruit. This tree is now at the Early Fruit Set Stage.
Peach-leaf curl is a disease, caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans, that can be recognized because the leaves of the tree curl up and take on a reddish colour. It is very damaging to the tree and so steps should be taken to avoid it. The best system would be to grow peaches in a glasshouse, but when the trees are outside, ideally against a wall on the south side, what is really important is to ensure that during winter and spring, the buds and the wood remain dry. Here you can see that Dan has built a simple frame around the tree so that he can cover it with tarpaulin or some other type of waterproof sheet. Openings at the side encourage the wind to blow through the tree, helping to keep it dry. Once the flowering is over, at the end of May, you can safely remove the cover. If your trees suffered peach leaf curl last year, you have to ensure that all the affected leaves have been removed, because the spores on affected leaves are still very infective even after the leaves have been cut away from the tree and could easily affect it again. More information on peach leaf curl here.
Dan Neuteboom shows us a 15-year old pear tree that was cropping irregularly. To improve the situation, he grafted a second pear variety onto the main variety, right at the centre of the tree, choosing a variety that flowers slightly earlier, so that the pollen of the grafted variety is ready as soon as the flowers of the main variety are opening. The system helps ensure good cross-pollination, encouraging fruit set, and therefore a good crop. An easier way to obtain the same effect is to place some flowering branches in a bottle and hang it in the tree. The graft is a permanent solution. See this video for more details on how to perform the graft. Click to watch.