Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

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Video: An insect hotel and fruit tree pollination

Dan Neuteboom shows us an insect hotel. The problem with the pollination of early-flowering fruit trees, such as cherries, plums, greengages, apricots and peaches, is that often it is so cold, there are hardly any insects around. But when the sun does come out in those early months, it can quickly get very warm and the insects will come out. In this sort of insect hotel, which should be placed facing south, insects like hoverflies and lacewings can spend the winter. These are the insects that can help with pollination after just a few hours of sunshine. Dan shows us an open-centre greengage tree in which there is good air circulation. The basic requirements for good fruit set, in a location where there are other varieties all around, are there. The other important thing is that frost is a real danger with early-flowering fruit. The trees least at risk from spring frosts are apple trees. All the other trees flower earlier. There are various ways of avoiding the risk of frost and stopping the trees from getting hurt by frost. One technique is shown right here: the chickens keep the grass cropped right down, so that the sun can heat up the ground which can then radiate the heat back into the air at night, helping protect the trees from frost. Another useful technique is to use nets, ensuring that air circulation is not obstructed. Mulch also requires care. It is great for late-flowering fruits such as raspberries and apples, but if you put mulch around the trees early in the season, thinking particularly of frost-sensitive trees such as pears, peaches and apricots, you have to bear in mind that the mulch worsens the frost situation because it doesn’t allow the ground to absorb heat from the sun during the day. Lastly, the position of the trees should be considered when planting new trees. If you plant them in a valley where cold air can accumulate, this increases the risk of frost damage. In this case it can be useful to ensure that there is an opening in a hedge so that cold air can flow away.

Video: the open-centre tree

In this type of tree structure, the light pours in through the centre, and there are no vertical branches to create shade or obstruction. The open-centre tree could also be described as an open bowl-shaped tree. For light entry, it is excellent. Light is essential as the tree’s source of energy for growing and cropping, and it is also important in the development of fruit, bringing it to its optimum size, quality, taste and colour.

As you can see, in this tree there is a main framework that is beautifully furnished with smaller branches on which new shoots are developing, ready for cropping. This is a wonderful shape for positions where there is plenty of room, where trees can be spaced quite widely apart. The shape is very good for plums and damson, perhaps not so much for pears which prefer a vertical structure.

Video: principles of pruning applicable to all free-standing trees

Light is the source of energy for all trees. For this reason, the shape of the mature free-standing tree should be a pyramid.
Secondly, it is important to remember that trees do not crop because of pruning. Trees crop in spite of pruning. This applies in particular to all young fruit trees.
So in the early years of the tree’s development, we should use the secateurs only as a last resort. We can correct shape using spacers, clothes pegs and string.
Once the trees start to crop, aim at achieving the pyramid shape, and start using your secateurs in a moderate fashion. Think LIGHT, not fancy shape.
By year five, the tree has reached its cropping mode.
At this stage, the pyramid shape should be preserved by removing surplus branches with a sharp pruning saw or sharp secateurs.
Gradually start replacing the older cropping branches with younger cropping branches, in order to maintain the quality of the fruit grown.
By now the fruit tree will have reached its mature height. At this stage, pruning becomes very important in order to maintain the pyramid shape.
The principles which now apply are as follows;
1) Remove excessively vigorous branches, back to the main trunk
2) Try to maintain the pyramid shape without shortening back the branches
3) Stand back from your tree and look to see whether light is dominant in the tree structure.

In our next video we will discuss trees planted along walls and/or fencing panels or trained along wire structures such as fan shaped or espalier trees.

Video on the development of an apple tree

Dan Neuteboom from Suffolk Fruit and Trees illustrates the development of an apple tree, from its first year, right through until it has reached the age of 30 years. Dan provides some tips on what to watch out for – aphis, greenfly, deteriorating leaf colour – and how to correct the problems. He also describes the most important factor of all: ensuring that the tree is always in a pyramidal shape, so that light can penetrate into the centre of the tree, providing the energy necessary for growth and good fruit production. To attain trees of this quality and achieve rapid fruit production, it is important to purchase trees with a good structure: as supplied by RealEnglishFruit. Further information from
Click on the thumbnail below to watch the video: