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Suntan, candidate for the best eating apple ever

Suntan, photo courtesy of

Suntan, photo courtesy of

We have been growing fruit and trees in this country since 1960, and I have been able to taste a huge range of varieties over the years. If you asked me which are the best eating apples ever raised and produced in this country, I would say Ashmead Kernel and Suntan. Both varieties have supreme eating qualities and good keeping qualities. But why, you may say, are these varieties so neglected, and never recommended by gardening magazines and the like?

The problem with Ashmead Kernel and Suntan is pollination. Without correct pollinators, these varieties will not be able to produce regular crops. Chivers Delight and Grenadier are both self-fertile, and they are good companions for Suntan.

Strangely, Suntan runs the risk of disappearing from many nurseries. Today there are only two tree propagators who list Suntan, and this is due to the variety gradually disappearing from public view. But it is truly a superb apple, and I would place it in number one position, for its great flavour, its crispness, and the fact that after picking in late October, it keeps easily until after Christmas.

Suntan does best on M26 rootstock. It should never be planted on its own: the best companion varieties are Royal Gala, Egremont Russet, Chiver’s Delight, Annie Elisabeth, and Claygate Pearmain.

Of course, new varieties are appearing all the time. Scrumptious is a very new variety, very promising, with a great future. But it’ll take something else to knock Suntan off that number one pedestal!

Browse our list of fruit tree varieties

Top twenty fruit tips for September – complete list

1. Start preparing the ground where you are intending to plant your new orchard, cordons, fans or espalier-trained fruit trees. Check the pH of the soil which needs to be between 6.3 and 6.8. If the pH of the soil is below 6.3, apply some lime and work into the soil.

2. Make sure the site and position is right; not in a frost pocket or on the northerly and shady sites of buildings, walls or hedges.

3. Apply plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure and work into the soil up to a depth of 15 inches.

4. Remove and kill perennial weeds such as bramble, stinging nettle and couch grass.

5. Eliminate wasps nests and remove rotting fruits, which will hide the wasps, from the orchard floor.

6. Remove any rotting or damaged fruits from the trees. Pick the fruit that is ready to eat. Do not store early-maturing fruits such as Discovery and Grenadier apples. Fruit for storage needs to be slightly immature. Fruit that is too ripe will not store.

7. Finish the summer pruning programmes as mentioned in the August tips.

8. Check the storage space for your fruit; it needs to be clean, cool and free from vermin such as flies and mice.

9. Check that the thermometer in the store is in good working order.

10. Start discussing which varieties would be suitable for your location with a knowledgeable and experienced fruit specialist. All types of fruit are site sensitive!

11. Blackcurrant bushes: remove the wood which has carried this year’s crop.

12. Raspberry canes. For the summer-cropping raspberries such as Glen Ample, Tullameen and Leo, cut out all the old canes to make room for the new canes. After the autumn-cropping raspberries such as Autumn Bliss and All Gold have all been picked and have finished cropping, cut ALL the canes back to ground level. Remove/treat strongly-growing weeds.

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

14. Peaches, plums, greengages: as soon as picking has been completed, complete the last pruning. Do not forget to seal the wounds with “Heal and Seal”.

15. Put grease bands onto fruit trees.

16. Fig. Continue to water the fig if planted in a container. Protect the fruit, which is close to ripening, from birds.

17. If you are intending to plant trees to be trained as espalier or fan, now is the time to install the horizontal wires.

18. Apples and pears which have been damaged by hail or insects, or have simply split due to weather conditions, will not store. Use them for processing into apple juice or cider.

19. Once peaches and nectarines have been picked, complete the summer pruning programme.

20. Apply farmyard manure or home-made compost around the trees, if the soil is in need of it. Remove perennial weeds before applying farmyard manure.

And if you’re thinking of planting a few more trees this winter, now is the time to contact RealEnglishFruit to select your varieties and place your order!

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: