Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Tag Archives: orchard planning

Top ten fruit tree tips for September

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!

A good crop on a well-tended apple tree

A good crop on a well-tended apple tree

Planning a new orchard

Well-rotted manure

Well-rotted manure. Photo courtesy The Word Factory Ltd/

To create a successful multi fruit orchard, it is very important to carry out the various soil preparations during this time of the year. The winter months, the correct time to plant fruit trees, are often not good for soil preparation, as the soil is already too cold and handles badly. The quality of the soil in the planting hole will determine how quickly and how well the newly-planted tree settles down in its new home.

The rootstocks that you will be using depends on the space available for planting fruit trees. Dwarf rootstocks are recommended when limited space is available. If a good deal of space is available, then the trees would do best if planted on semi-vigorous stock such as MM106, Quince A and St Julien A. These trees need to be planted approximately 3.5 to 4 metres apart. The exact number of trees needed also depends on the proximity of other large trees, such as hedgerow trees, oak, ash and sycamore. Fruit trees do badly when planted on the live roots of other trees. Follow this link to find out more about tree size and rootstocks.

I think that it is a good idea to set out the orchard at this time of year, initially using 6-foot tall bamboo canes. This way you can mark the planting spots of your new trees, in relation to hedgerows, buildings etc.; it gives you an idea of how the new multi-fruit orchard will look. Variety choices can only be made once you have decided which type of fruit you want to plant. Follow this link to view a list of fruit tree varieties.

The ideal pH of the soil is 6.3 to 6.8. Outside those limits, nutritional deficiencies will occur when the trees get older. Fruit trees love well-rotted good organic stable manure, provided straw is used as a base material and not sawdust or wood chips. The more manure you can work into the ground during the summer months, the better the trees will perform in years to come.

Orchard work in early November

A mature orchard, photo courtesy of AllieOooster/Allison/

Today is a beautiful day, ideal to start preparing the planting positions for the new trees. At the same time we will carry out a check to make sure the water is not becoming stagnant in the root range of the trees. Tree roots need lots of oxygen and if the roots of the trees stand in water during the winter months, then the roots will die.

It is now too late to prune apricots, peaches, nectarines, cherries and plums. To invigorate growth, apple and pear trees can now be pruned any time from now on until the end of March.

Fruit trees and the soil – case history

A good crop on a well-tended apple tree

A good crop on a well-tended apple tree

Here is an example of the sort of request that we get as part of our everyday tree sales business.

Dear Mr. Neuteboom,

Is it too late in the year to order fruit trees from you? I am looking to plant 12 trees in a space I have been opening out, but I am unsure of whether the trees will survive in the existing soil there. The soil on most of the site is a light coloured dense clay, and although your website states that the M106 rootstock can normally survive, I wonder how well I might expect the trees to cope with it?

The site is on an east-facing slope which gets lots of sunlight until late afternoon – though I may remove some of the trees which start to shade it then.

Although I am not certain about the cherries (I am looking for two sweet varieties with different fruiting periods), I think I would be looking at getting the following trees, but would apprieciate your opinions as to whether they would survive in the soil and whether the fruiting times of the apples which do not store well are at all separated:

Apples: Adams Pearmain
James Grieve
Annie Elizabeth
Bramley’s Seedling (x2)
Dr. Harvey
Cherry: Van
Merchant Lapins
Pear: Concorde
Plum: Denniston Gage
If it is indeed too late in the year to be considering planting these trees, we would still be looking at putting them in next year.

Many thanks,
P., Sussex,
Dear Mr. P,
To answer your questions calls for a look at the physiology of the fruit tree. Putting it another way; it is a help to have an understanding of “the way the tree ticks”.

The soil
Fruit trees can be grown successfully in any soil. As long as it is possible for the roots to take up water and the basic nutritional elements such as N, P and K, plus the trace elements, then the fruit tree can establish itself. Therefore a permanent SOIL MULCH in your particular case is of great importance. This needs to consist of old disintegrating materials such as old wet hay or straw. Or better still, farm yard manure. This will have to be topped up on an annual basis and to have a minimum thickness of 4 to 5 inches. To be applied around the trunk of each tree covering a soil area of a minimum of 1.5 square yards. It is of great importance that the mulch remains largely weed free and therefore is of 100% benefit to the tree and not the weeds.Leave a small ring around the trunk free from mulch as the trunk must remain dry and not permanently damp. This to stop fungi infections of the trunk.

Secondly, roots cannot grow without energy. This energy is provided by the 21% oxygen in the air. From this it follows that it is essential that the drainage of the soil is working reasonably well, particularly during the winter months. Roots standing permanently in water, as a result of impeded drainage, are death to a fruit tree. Particularly during the winter
months, roots have to grow significantly. This can only happen when sufficient oxygen is available in the rooting area. Therefore in your case, improve the drainage if it is suspect.

Lastly you will have to stake each tree. This because in your case surface rooting of the trees is very important due to the nature of the soil. Now if you take these basic principles in consideration you can grow fruit trees successfully.

What I would do in your situation is to plant now 2 apples, 2 plums, 2 pears. Definitely no cherries as these require more soil depth than any other fruit tree. This coming growing season you will then have the opportunity to observe the behaviour of these trees. Then on the knowledge gained, you can the plan next year’s plantings.

Provided you let me know within the next few days how many trees you will need, we will be able to supply the trees within a matter of days before the trees break into growth.

I hope this answers some of your questions. If you let me have your phone number and your full address we can always discuss further details by phone.

With kind regards,