Dan Neuteboom shows us two mature plum trees, one of which has been pruned badly, while the other has been pruned well. One will produce little fruit, the other will set a good crop. The first tree was pruned with a chain saw, removing large branches, creating large wounds, leaving branches that are at the wrong angles, without consideration of the overall structure. The tree will react by throwing out a lot of new wood which will produce shade and stop light reaching the centre. The second tree shows a good structure, with a strong central leader, large horizontal branches well furnished with two and three-year-old shoots which are the best for fruiting. A tree that has a lot of two to three-year-old wood well positioned to receive light is a tree that will crop well. This tree will produce masses of flowers, bees will pollinate it, cross-pollination is ensured by the other plum tree, and all being well, there will be a good crop.
A reader writes: “We moved house in August last year, a beautiful garden with a plum tree which gave us lots of plums. It’s very old I think! I’m wondering how to prune, some of the branches are just snapping off! I need to ruin it I think! Can you help and give me some advice?”
Old plum trees very easily fall prey to two specific diseases; Bacterial Canker, and Silver Leaf.
Therefore, special attention needs to be given to the following points:
1) only carry out pruning operations when the tree is in FULL LEAF stage
2) reduce the weight of the total number of branches. Remove those which are old and broken and leave the well-illuminated branches
3) remove the too-dominant near-vertical branches
4) always immediately seal the wounds with Arbrex, obtainable from garden centres.
5) do not let the tree cope with droughty conditions during the summer months – ensure it gets enough water
6) do not over-crop the tree. Thin the fruitlets during June and July.
Which type of tree fruit carries the least risk and is successful on most soils in the UK? Undoubtedly this is apple. Choice of variety is important, as normally it is colder in the north of England. Temperature during blossom time is of great importance in order to secure a good fruit set. Also in the northerly counties the type of pollinator will have to be chosen carefully. If you would like to plant some fruit trees, in any particular area of the UK, then we are happy to advise which varieties are most suitable.
A second question of importance is this; which type of fruit is more able to cope with areas of high rain fall? Plums and pears, provided the soil is not too acid, usually do well in the higher rainfall areas. Pears in particular are very sensitive to droughty conditions and thin soils. Cherries love deep soils. Greengages need the right companion in order to crop well. Cherries and greengages are more suited to central and southern counties. This does not apply to Morello cherries as these trees flower later.
What about peaches, nectarines and apricots? These fruits have a much higher demand of warmth and hours of sunshine during the growing season. However, if grown on the right rootstock and placed against a wall facing south, with sufficient t.l.c. and regular watering during dry and warm periods, during the summer months, the net result often is excellent. Click here to see a list of varieties with links for further information.
The Mirabelle de Nancy plum, peaches, nectarines and apricots are coming close to the pink bud stage. If the trees are outside and not under cover, they should be covered using a double layer of garden fleece, to stop the frost destroying the blossom buds/flowers. When it is a nice sunny day and the flowers have opened, don’t forget to uncover the trees for pollination to take place unhindered.
If, when in blossom, there are no insects about, use a soft brush to gently stroke the blossoms to trigger the various natural hormones/growth processes, which will hopefully lead to fruitset.
Do not carry out any form of pruning on these trees at this time of the year, as it may result in an infection of “peach leaf curl,” a fungal disease. If you had trouble with this disease last year, make sure no old leaves are still underneath the trees, as these will produce the spores which may initiate another infection. If you can stop the leaves from becoming damp or wet, that will further reduce the chances of infection.
Just leave a comment if you need more information on these topics!