Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Tag Archives: tree care

Restoring a problematic apple tree to health

We received an enquiry from a reader who has an apple tree with a double trunk. This is how she described the problem.

Apple tree requiring treatment

“I inherited a badly pruned apple tree that has been left with two equal large trunks. I have reduced its size over a four year period, but now I am stuck with one trunk that has only two fruiting branches above ladder height. I would like to remove that trunk and would be left with a more graceful single trunk with multiple fruiting branches. Would it be so detrimental to remove the less producing trunk which be probably reducing its size by 4-45%?”


Dan Neuteboom’s first answer:

1) Remove the second trunk. Timing is important! Remove it during the 2nd or 3rd week of August and not before.
2) Seal the wound with Arbrex or Heal and Seal , obtainable on line or from a good garden centre.
3) The trunk which is left with the good branches should not be pruned in winter 2017. The tree will then be resettled.

The owner provided further information:

“I would like to ask your father for further clarification. The tree and the others have experienced the stress of reduction of size (no more than a third each year for four years) plus a recent drought and one season of a severe infestation of tent caterpillars. This tree is unfortunately placed in front of my house, so the appearance is a priority with this specific tree.

“Second, I need to be able to prune these trees myself, and am trying to take this tree permanently lower over all by about 12-18 inches. I could reach the top then with less risk that I will fall off the ladder. Another reason the tree is oddly shaped is because the deer raid this tree from both levels.

“Your suggestions make good sense to me, but I would like to ask if because the tree has been stressed four years in a row, would it be less traumatic if I took off only part of the selected trunk, plus one top branch of the preferred trunk this year, and then remove the full selected trunk (as instructed by your father) one year later?” This possible gentler approach is shown in the diagram below.


Dan Neuteboom replies:

Certainly the gentler approach is fine. However now I have seen the state of the tree, I am quite sure the tree is suffering of malnutrition! Ideally it would need, on a 2 square metre area around the trunk, the application of quality manure, ideally organic chicken manure (such as Super Dug), dried and stabilized. This will feed the tree over a 6-month period. Secondly WATER on a weekly basis as soon as rain fall is lacking. Extra feeding without watering is useless!! Finally the lower part of the trunk looks in a poor state. The vascular system has been damaged. To help the tree to overcome this problem, it will need to make new cambium cells in the outer layers of the trunk. Wrapping the lower part of the trunk with a wide enough black plastic “waste bag” will do the trick.



Top ten fruit growing tips for July

Bumble bee

Bumble bee

1. It is very important for the health and welfare of bees to grow the right type of flowering plants favoured by bees for pollen and honey gathering, throughout the summer months. I t doesn’t need to be complicated. At this time of the year Angelica and red clover are definite favourites. Bumble bees are always on the look out for disused mice tracks in the soil. That’s where it likes to build its nest for the queen.

2. Red currants, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are now beginning to ripen. Late-picked gooseberries are sweeter than the ones picked in June.

3. Support heavily cropping branches of plums, apples and pears. However, overcropping will greatly reduce next year’s crop. To reduce the threat of the silver leaf fungus entering via broken branches of too heavy-cropping plum trees , drastically reduce the number of fruits now and space the fruits 6 inches apart, leaving the best sized fruits.

4. Space the apples six inches apart, after the middle of July.

5. Check weeds around trees and bushes. Tie in the newly-forming shoots of loganberries, blackberries and tayberries.

6. Tie in the replacement shoots of peaches. Check the fruit cage for holes in the netting. Birds are good at finding the holes and eating your cherries, redcurrants, blueberries and raspberries.

7. Check tree ties. Too many trees are severely damaged due to ingrowing ties.

8. Place the pheromone traps to reduce the damage caused by caterpillars of the codling moth and plum sawfly now.

9. All fruits need a steady supply of moisture. Check the soil. If too dry, apply water at 10 day intervals.

10. If apple and pear shoots are growing too strongly, remove the growing tips of the new growth. Carry out summer pruning where trees are becoming too dense and light is excluded.

Click here for more growing tips

Laxton Superb

Fruitset May 2012

Fruit set

This season the long, wet and cold period we all experienced before the current hot spell, has had a major influence on this year’s crop prospects. Some trees have set reasonably well while other trees only show a light crop. Apart from the weather, it has shown again that trees which had a grass and weed free area, of one square metre around the trunks of the trees, have been able to set a much better crop on most varieties of fruit. Just think back to the sequence of events, weatherwise, to date: many of us experienced the driest winter on record. Then it started to rain and it didn’t want to stop. The wind stayed in the North and it was very cold at the same time. As a result during the blossoming of the trees, there was very little insect activity in the orchard. The bumble bees were the only ones around. Pollination was largely achieved by wind-blown pollen. It is this sort of situation where orchard design, variety choice and micro climate will have a major impact on crop prospects.

Summarising, pollination, variety choice and soil management and to a lesser extent the choice of rootstock, can still achieve a good crop of fruit, in spite of very unfavourable weather conditions during the blossom period. Therefore it pays to get the best advice applicable to your particular orchard site. Blossom periods are never alike. Some years the early varieties do best, other years the late flowering varieties excel. Therefore the best assurance of regular cropping of the orchard as a whole can be achieved by planting different types of fruit, as well as different and compatible varieties.

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,