Fruit Growers Treasure Trove

December-January
February
Late March
April
May
May-early June
June
July
Mid-July
August
First week of August
Second week of August
Third week of August
Late August
September
Early October
October
November
December

December-January

1) Check stakes and ties. Make sure the supporting stakes have not rotted off at ground level. Loosen ties where needed, if too tight.

2) Start pruning apple, pear and mulberry trees that have reached regular cropping.

3) Check that rabbit and deer guards are in good working order.

4) Check fruit in store. Remove rotten fruits

5) Apply farmyard manure where trees have been struggling

6) Cut out dead branches and canker wounds. Paint wounds with Arbrex or similar.

7) Apply winter wash if greenfly/aphids were a source of trouble last year.

8) Protect fruit buds of plums and pears. Bullfinches can cause serious damage during the winter months.

9) We are now in the dormant period. Trees can be planted.

February

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.

Late March

Frosty nights may occur quite frequently. It is therefore essential to protect the blossoms of early flowering fruit trees such as apricots, peaches and fruit trees planted on south-facing walls. The best way to do this is to use a double layer of garden fleece firmly secured to branches with strong cloth pegs. If the trees are too big to protect as a whole, then protect branches that are well-laden with blossom on their own. After all, it is better to have some fruit, compared with none at all. Make sure the bees and pollinating insects can find entry routes on the side, so that they can visit the flowers. If insects are absent, aid pollination with a soft haired paint brush, when the flowers are fully open. Gently stroking will do the trick.

Secondly, if you want to graft over some poorly cropping trees, now is the time to do it. Use fully dormant, one year old grafting wood. This is fully matured wood which was grown last year. Use 6-inch pieces of wood and make sure that cambium is fitted to cambium. Secure with raffia or strong tape. Make sure all air is excluded, so that the wounds in contact can grow together. To ensure this, use grafting wax or strong adhesive tape.

Lastly, all planting of bare root fruit trees has now come to an end. It is essential to make sure that late-planted fruit trees do not dry out. Around the tree trunks, place mulch mats of at least 3 foot square. Use a mulch of wet straw, hay or well-rotted compost or manure, to fully cover the mulch mats. Keep the tree roots well watered on a weekly basis.

If you haven’t done it already, do make sure that autumn-cropping raspberries are cut back to ground level. Summer-cropping raspberries need to be pruned differently. Cut out all last year’s cropping wood, but leave in last year’s newly-formed shoots. Space the shoots 3 to 4 inches apart and securely tie them along a wire strained between posts along the row. Dig out docks and stinging nettles along the row, before these weeds become too powerful. Having done that, apply a 4-inches-deep mulch of wet hay or straw along the row, if the soil is drought-sensitive. Water frequently during long dry/warm spells in order to keep the root systems fully active.

April

apple blossom1) This month there may be sharp ground frost and air frosts in the UK. The blossoms of most cherry, plum and greengage are fully out and therefore very vulnerable to being killed off by the cold snap. If you would like a crop on those trees, cover the blossoms with a double layer of garden fleece. Even if you cannot cover up all the flowering branches, try to do some. If a sunny day follows, make sure the bees and various pollinating insects are able to crawl over the blossoms in order to bring about fruit set. Use clothes pegs to fasten the fleece. By 9am undo some clothes pegs thereby creating a gap for the bees to visit the blossoms. Fasten the clothes pegs again by 6pm if another frost is expected.

2) Check if the flowering fruit trees are well served by pollinators, which need to be in flower at the same time. If this is not the case, locate a tree of the same species (e.g. apple) but of a different variety, cut about three feet of branch (to ensure that it includes both one and two-year-old wood), place it in a bottle of water and hang it in the tree. This will enable cross fertilization and encourage a good fruit set. The cut branches should be in place before the flowers open completely.

3) Keep 1 square metre totally clear of all weeds and grass around the trunks of the trees.

4) On light sandy soils start watering the trees on a weekly basis.

5) Check that tree ties are not too tight.

6) Deal with fungal wood diseases such as canker, collar rot, bootlace fungus

7) Cut out dead branches and paint the wounds with a sealing compound

8) Mow the grass at a higher setting to start off with

9) Do not let damaging insects get out of control. Stay on the lookout for various types of aphids

10) Look at your trees at weekly intervals in order to detect possible damage by mice, muntjacks, deer, rabbit and hare.

May

Young trees and newly planted trees are now at a critical stage of their development. Rainfall in the UK is very erratic at this time of the year. These young trees are now very much depending on local showers which may not come in time. Therefore supply these trees with help, when they need it most; supply each tree with a full watering can of 5 to 10 litres of water, depending on the size and age of the tree, now. In that way new roots can be formed and at the same time plenty of moisture will be available for the rapidly increasing canopy of foliage.

If last year you found grubs in your plums or apples, now is the time to do something about it. Depending on the severity of the problem, the correct pheromone trap will reduce or eliminate the damage.

If you have plum trees, please make sure a pheromone trap is placed in the tree. This will reduce or eliminate damage by the plum moth. The same principle applies to apple trees, but in this case the trap to be hung in the tree is the codling moth pheromone trap.

Continue to water young fruit trees. Make sure that the one square metre of clean soil around the trunk of the fruit trees stays without grass and/or weeds. This is to ensure that your watering is to the benefit of the young fruit trees, and not the weeds and grass.

If you have recently planted some trees, they need special care, particularly now as we are moving towards summer. Here are some tips for newly-planted trees:

1) Trees should be watered regularly. Do not be deceived by the odd shower. Young trees need readily-available moisture in the rooting zone, to be able to establish a strong healthy root system.

2) Weeds and grass around the trunk of the trees are a real setback for the trees at this stage.

3) Greenfly and caterpillar are munching away on the young newly formed leaves. Do not let this situation get out of hand.

4) Young trees will do well with extra foliar feed during the period May to August.

5) This is also the time to reduce the number of fruitlets on freshly planted trees. Too many fruitlets will take away the energy needed to create healthy shoot growth and root growth.

May-early June

Pests

Fruit trees are now well into the various stages of flowering and or growth. Lots of new green leaves are forming. These are very important for the trees’ wellbeing. At the same time, the leaves are excellent indicators as to how the trees are coping with various pests and diseases, which are also making their presence felt. Look at the growing points of the rapidly expanding twigs and shoots. If greenfly or aphids are in the process of curling up the newly developing leaves it is important to remove the aphids with the use of non toxic fatty acid sprays or horticultural soap mixture. The garden centre stock various brands to deal with these problems.

If there are lots of ladybirds, make sure you choose a method of control which does not kill them. Ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies are all very active predators of aphids. Caterpillar damage will be very easy to see this time of year. Remove if excessive numbers are present.

This time of the year the small song birds such as bluetits are consuming a large number of small caterpillars and feeding their young with them. These little birds are therefore a great asset to have around. Small nest boxes in the vicinity of the fruit trees encourage them to stay in the trees, just when you need them most.

Disease control

It is a very good routine to cut out and burn any foliage affected by peach leaf curl disease, apple mildew and scab. Do not leave it around on the ground as it will cause you even more trouble next year.

Tree canker must be cut out now, as at the moment you can still see it clearly. The same applies to silver leaf. Affected branches in plums need to be cut out and the wounds painted to prevent new infections.

Moths

Various moths that cause damage to fruit trees are becoming active from about now over the next couple of weeks. For example the plum fruit moth, whose grubs will live in the plum and greengage fruits, will cause a lot of damage. Now is the time to hang a pheromone trap in the tree. The lure will need to be replaced by early July to make sure the plums stay grub-free.

Fruit set and thinning

If fruit set is excessive, thinning should be carried out. It is important to ensure that you get a good crop next year. For plums, peaches and nectarines, it would be best to wait a little longer before thinning, performing the operation once the level of fruit set is clear.

Controlling strong growth in trained trees

If your trees are growing in a limited space and are showing strong extension growth and producing numerous shoots surplus to requirement, it may be just as well to slow the growth down now, rather than having to carry out a laborious amount of winter pruning. This will suit the trees well, because in the summer there is less risk of the trees catching infections from different fungi such as silver leaf and various forms of tree canker.

The particular method of containing surplus growth that I describe here is nothing new. It has been well documented and carried out by tree specialists already a long time ago in many countries all over the world.

If your trees are growing in pots or containers or are being trained along a fence or wall and are tending to outgrow the allotted space, then it is worth considering to perform summer pruning now. Perhaps it would be better to refer to this particular form of tree training as young shoot pinching. Regrowth will occur, but the time needed to do this job is minimal. All that is involved is the cutting or pinching back of young forming shoots to the 3 or 5 leaf stage depending on variety, fruit type and strength of shoot growth. If carried out well, it may increase fruit bud formation on the 2 year old wood in the space available. However to achieve this effect, make sure lots of light is available. Strong shade will reduce fruit bud formation and therefore surplus shoot growth reduction may not be fully attained.

June

1) In general trees which are 4 years or older have shown a good deal of blossom. If this is not the case then bullfinches may have been at work in February. Or if there are plenty of pigeons around, these birds can strip the majority of the early developing leaf as well as the developing blossom.

If the trees show a very heavy set of young fruitlets, fruitlet thinning will have to be carried out in June, after the natural drop has finished. Two fruits per cluster well spaced out is a good measure to take. Space the clusters from 4 to 6 inches apart. The reason for this is because for each fruit to be able mature properly, it will need the help of 20 fully grown leaves. If fruitset looks good then wait until early July before thinning the fruit. This is to ensure that the natural thinning has finished before you start thinning yourself. Thinning is important, because if the trees are having to mature too many fruits, then blossom next season will be sparse and very weak.

3) Fruit trees: if you see shoots which are showing damage caused by mildew, these need to be cut out.

Leaf curling4) Aphids and various caterpillars are becoming more active. If young leaves are beginning to curl up and leaves are being punctured with holes or leaves being eaten, it is a good idea to visit your garden centre. These places usually stock a wide choice of ways of dealing with such problems.

 

5) Shoots which are being damaged by canker need to be cut out using secateurs and removed from the site. The wounds need to be sealed to prevent new infection. “Heal and Seal” or similar products are the correct compounds to use.

6) Your young fruit trees are now at top activity; new roots and shoots are being formed and young fruitlets are appearing. Therefore additional water, one full watering can a week, will help the tree very much. Any tree planted in a pot or a container, whose roots are therefore restricted, will need extra moisture in particular.

7) If the growth of the trees is stunted, weekly foliar feeding can be a real help for the trees to get over the problem.

8) Leaves which have been damaged by the fungus called Peach Leaf Curl, need to be cut off and disposed of in the non-recycling bin.

9) A couple of pruning tips: if the trees are growing too strongly, it is advisable to remove the growing tips of the strongest shoots. Do not prune any espalier, fan or cordon trees until later in the season.

10) For all types of fruit, organic matter and a good soil structure is vital for good growing. This is the perfect time of the year to get your plot well dug, drainage improved and plenty of organic matter added to the soil.

11) If you are growing some strawberries, now is the time to place the straw underneath the trusses of fruit. This will stop the mud splashing on the fruit. Also make sure the blackbirds don’t eat the fruit before you do. Netting is essential.

12) Gooseberries and morello cherries are two of the few fruits which do well on the northerly side of a building, shed or fence.

13) Now is the optimum time to place your pheromone traps. Check your pheromone traps for codling and plum moths. Renew the lure if necessary.

14) Start spraying the apple varieties which have a tendency towards bitterpit in the fruits.

15) Apply fruit nets where bird trouble might occur, cherries in particular.

16) Remove scabby fruits at the same time.

17) Start the summer pruning programmes of plums, cherries and greengages. The same applies to nectarines, peaches and apricots.

18) Hang rolled up corrugated cardboard in the trees to attract the caterpillars which would otherwise damage foliage and fruits. Regularly inspect and renew when caterpillars are caught.

19) Deal with aphids if present in too large a number in folded-up shoot tips.

20) Make a start on preparing the ground where new trees will be planted in the autumn.

July

1) A new generation of aphids and caterpillars has appeared, mainly on apple trees. It is particularly the new tender shoot extensions they are after. On the smaller trees a lot can be achieved by cutting out the affected shoots with a secateur. Do not drop the cut-out shoots on the orchard floor, as the offenders might find their way back into the trees again. This doesn’t apply to Woolly Aphids. This particular type of aphids lives on old wounds and in cracks anywhere in the stem of the tree. It protects itself with white woolly fluff. With a stiff brush and a powerful hose pipe you will be able to remove most of them. Repeat this method of control after 14 days.

2) At all times of the year orchard hygiene is the basis of good natural pest and disease control. Mildew fungus can now also be found on many extension shoots. If the summer is particularly wet, in many gardens, scab and mildew can become a problem, if nothing is done about it. Just cut off all infected shoots and fruits and remove from the garden or orchard .

3) This is also the time to carry out the first summer pruning on apples and pears. Shorten back the long extension shoots to 5 leaves and the shorter side shoots to three leaves. Another summer pruning session is needed by late August. The same summer pruning technique can be carried out on damsons, greengages and plums. With apricots and peaches, cut out the shoots not wanted. If the current growth is very strong, then reduce the number of shoots. Having done that, cut back the remaining shoots to 5 leaves.

4) 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. It 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 they like to build their nest for the queen.

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

6) 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.

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

8) Check weeds around trees and bushes.

9) Tie in the newly-forming shoots of loganberries, blackberries and tayberries.

10) Tie in the replacement shoots of peaches.

11) Check the fruit cage for holes in the netting. Birds are good at finding the holes and eating your cherries, redcurrants, blueberries and raspberries.

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

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

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

15) 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.

16) At this time of the year, many fruit crops are ripening and will soon be ready to harvest. This is also the reason why many birds are showing increased interest in our gardens. If you have a fruit cage without holes in the netting, you are doing well. If you are not in such a privileged position, it is important to cover the ripening top fruit such as cherry and all the soft fruits with netting to stop the birds doing major damage to the fruit, just before picking is imminent. Scaring devices are far less satisfactory at this time of the year.

17) Also at this time of the year, start removing the eating apples which are hidden underneath dense foliage. These apples usually lack flavour and tend to keep less well compared with the ones growing in full sunlight. If there are too many apples on the tree this year, the tree will be off next year.

18) The other point of importance is to check the trees for developing stem and main branch cankers. These cankers need to be cut out now and painted with an anti fungal paint such as Heal and Seal.

19) If you like to keep the trees free from pests and diseases, without the use of chemicals, you could consider using the organic-based products that were originally made by Aston Horticulture and are now part of the solufeed.co.uk range. These products need to be used throughout the growing season for full effect. Follow instructions on the packaging of these garlic based products. (solufeed.co.uk)

20) Regarding pests active on the fruit crops at this time of year, there are various pests depending on the crop. Some can be very destructive such as gooseberry sawfly, apple sawfly and codling moth; a range of aphids such as black aphids on cherry, rosy apple aphids, woolly aphids, leaf curling midge and various other weevils. The overall strategy should be to stop these pests building up in excessive numbers. We mustn’t forget that what we call pests are food to other creatures living in the garden. So therefore total elimination should not be our goal. A balanced approach is the best long term objective.

Mid-July

In some areas, fruit trees are short of water. Wherever the trees are planted, make sure that the square yard area of soil around each fruit tree is totally free from grass and weeds. Keep this area well watered on a weekly basis with 5 to 10 litres of water depending on the age of the tree and the crop load.

If leaf quality is doubtful, apply foliar feed every 10 days, using Maxicrop, Miracle Grow or Tomorite.

Pests to keep under control at this stage are principally the plum moth and the codling moth. It is easy to do this biologically by using pheromone traps. Ideally these traps should have been in position since early June.

Thin the number of fruitlets if the crop load looks too heavy. This will improve fruit quality this harvest, and ensure a good crop load for next year.

August

1) Keep watering your fruit trees, particularly if they are carrying a crop .

2) Look at the trunk of the trees to ensure that the bark is not damaged by lawn mowers or strimmers.

3) Mice are increasing in numbers, particularly around fruit trees. Keep the area around the trunk, grass and weed-free, as this is the sort of shelter that mice like.

4) Fruits which will store, after harvesting, for use at a later date: raspberries, black currants, red currants, blue berries and gooseberries freeze beautifully, without loss of quality. Check to make sure you have enough space in your freezer.

5) Keep a diary of your growing experiences, particularly if something went wrong during the growing season.

6) Do not pick fruit too early in the ripening process, otherwise the fruit will shrivel and will lack flavour.

7) Carry out summer pruning where necessary. Plums, cherries, greengages, peaches, nectarines and apricots must not be pruned after the end of August in order to avoid infections by various tree diseases. Apples and pears can be pruned at any time during the winter months

8) August is an ideal month to improve drainage in areas where you intend to plant trees, and loosen the soil to a two-spade depth. This is particularly true if a hard layer of soil is found within the first 60 cm of the soil profile.

9) Label your anti bird nets. This makes it is easier to use the right nets in the right place next season.

First week of August

Cherries: now that the cherry crops have been picked, that is if spring frosts and birds did not do any major damage to your crop prospects, it is a good time to consider the size of the trees. This is the right time now to summer prune your tree(s), bringing them back to a size you can cope with. DO NOT LEAVE IT TO THE WINTER TIME. Summer pruning means cutting out surplus older wood and creating more sun and room for younger 1 to 3-year-old wood.

At this time of the year, wasps and flies can be a great problem with plums and cherries and later on with apples and pears. These insects are particularly interested when fruits are becoming OVER-RIPE. Therefore do not delay in picking the fruits when ripe. Secondly, make sure local wasps’ nests are dealt with. Wasp traps are only partially effective. Clearing the nests in the vicinity is the best solution.

Second week of August

All fruit trees: net the trees if birds are pecking the fruits. If not, wasps will hollow out the fruits, such as apples, pears, plums and greengages.

Apples: if your apple trees are carrying too much fruit, remove surplus fruit from the tree this week in order to ensure that you have a crop next year. Concentrate particularly on damaged, small and green fruit in the centre of the tree.

Do not let the trees go short of water, while the fruits are swelling.

Cane fruits: cut out the old canes of summer fruiting raspberries. Finish picking the red and black currants.

Gooseberries: watch out for gooseberry sawfly. These caterpillars can defoliate your gooseberry bushes within a week. Organic materials are available in the garden centres to prevent this menace.

Third week of August

Depending on the weather conditions of the season, a variety like Discovery apples may be ready to pick.

Never store early fruit with long term storage fruit. Early varieties produce lots of ethylene and therefore reduce the storage life of all the surrounding fruits.

Make a regular check and remove any fruits showing brown rot. Do not drop this fruit on the orchard floor. Spores easily spread and will infect other fruits still on the trees.

Continue regular picking of the autumn–fruiting raspberries. Cut out the old canes of the summer fruiting raspberries. Tie in the new shoots.

Late August

Wasps now tend to be a real hindrance, due to changes in weather patterns. As a result, fruit which has been damaged by wasps or birds is now showing the usual signs of brown rot developing. It is very important to remove this fruit and dispose of it. Irrespective of whether the fruit still is hanging on in the trees or has already fallen on the ground, if it is left there, the spores of the fungus may be developing on the remaining fruits. Orchard hygiene at this stage needs to be taken seriously.

If the trees have been growing strongly, this is the right time to carry out summer pruning.

This is also the right time to prune away surplus growth on trees which are being trained as cordons, fan or espaliers or step-over trees.

September

1) It is more effective to ripen pears in the fridge. Therefore pick the pears as soon as the abscission layer at the end of the fruit stalk gives way.

2) Remove all fallen fruits from under the fruit trees. These harbour the rot spores of different fungi and will affect next year’s crop of fruit. Eliminate wasps nests and remove rotting fruits, which will hide the wasps, from the orchard floor.

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

4) Once harvesting of plums and cherries is completed, apply Bordeaux mixture, obtainable from any good garden centre.

5) 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.

6) Mow the grass and the tall weeds in the fruit area. Mice are preparing for the winter. Make sure there is no hiding place close to the trunk of the trees.

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. They prevent caterpillars from climbing from the soil, up the trunk and stake, and into the tree. If they reach the tree, next spring they will start eating the foliage and fruitlets.

16) Fig trees. 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.

Preparations for planting new trees

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) Start setting out the proposed planting spots with tall bamboo canes.

4) Obtain the right advice regarding pollination.

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

6) Cut back overhanging branches of hedges/trees which will reduce the light in the fruit area.

7) If garden compost or manure is available, it is a good idea to mix it into the soil where the trees are going to be planted.

Early October

Apples ready for harvestIt is now getting close to picking time for late varieties such as Tydeman’s Late Orange, Winter Wonder, Suntan, Crawley Beauty, Court Pendu Plat, Winston, Newton Wonder, Jonagold, Laxton Superb, Lord Derby and Lane Prince Albert. Always treat late storage apples with the respect they deserve. That means storing them in single layers, in the coolest room or in the cellar in the dark. The closer the fruit is kept to 4 degrees Celsius, the longer the shelf life. Look at the fruit once a fortnight and remove any rotten apples.

You can also hang the fruit in slices on a piece of string, out to dry. This of course needs to be done in a warm and dark cupboard. This was often done during the Second World War, in order to have some fresh dried fruit during the cold winter months.

Don’t forget to put the grease bands on the trunks of the trees. Garden centres stock those items.

It is still not too late to spray trees with Bordeaux mixture to stop nasty fungi developing during the winter months. This applies particularly applies to plums, greengages and cherry trees while still in leaf.

October

Dan Neuteboom1) Check that tree ties are not too tight. Adjust or renew.

2) Finish picking the late maturing apple and pear varieties.

3) Only the best and undamaged fruits will store well. Juice the remainder.

4) The best storage regime is fruit in single layer trays and kept in the coolest condition, in the dark. Inspect the fruit every 10 days and remove fruits that are going off.

5) This is the right time to cut out any broken branches. Seal the wounds with “Heal and Seal”.

6) If the top of the trees has extended beyond your reach, causing you problems during picking time, cut the top out now and seal the wound. It is best to do it now and not during the winter time.

7) If lots of new shoots and branches have darkened the centre of the tree, cut these shoots and branches out. You can do this now, while the tree is semi-dormant.

8) Tree hygiene this time of the year is very important. Many spores of diseases are carried over by fallen leaves. Remove all dropped or rotten fruit under the tree. This to avoid a build-up of the brown rot fungus. If scab or mildew did occur during the season, remove all leaves from the ground to avoid a build-up of the spores of the damaging fungi. Apply an approved winter wash to the tree, if pest or disease have been a serious problem.

9) Take the tree guards off the trunk. Look for canker. Clean the trunk of any accumulated debris, such as moss and weed remains, grass cuttings etc. Cut out and treat any tree canker. If there is canker, cut it out with a sharp knife. Seal the wound with a sealing compounds such as Heal and Seal and Arbrex. Put the tree guard back on.

10) Check the stake. If broken or rotted off at ground level, replace the stake before the winter gales cause damage to the root system of the tree.

11) Now that the leaves are beginning to drop, this is a good time to carry out a detailed inspection of each fruit tree.

12) If your quince tree was affected by leaf blight, spray with Bordeaux mixture.

13) Apply grease bands if winter moth caterpillars have been a problem.

14) In an orchard, mow the grass once more between the rows.

15) Remove all weeds and hiding places near the trunks of the trees to avoid mice damage to the bark of the trees.

16) If the tree carried a very heavy crop, rebuild the tree’s nutritional reserve by applying half a wheelbarrow of well-rotted straw-based farmyard manure, spread out underneath the tree’s canopy. Leave a clear ring around the trunk without any mulch to avoid mice damage during the winter time.

17) It is now too late to prune apricot, peach, nectarine, plum and cherry. Bacterial canker and the silver leaf fungus are looking for open wounds on any live woody tissue in order to start a new infection.

18) If the autumn is mild, you will begin to see toadstools of the Honey fungus amongst trees in the countryside. If your fruit tree has been affected by this fungus, consider removing the tree as there is no cure known to man.

19) This is a good time to repair or replace rabbit guards, check wire netting fences, repair holes and broken stakes, check gateways, as rabbits are getting hungry and the bark of fruit trees is on their wish list.

20) Cherry trees and plums need to be treated with Bordeaux mixture, after the pruning session, to reduce the effect of bacterial canker and/or silver leaf. Follow instructions on the packaging obtained at the garden centre.

21) If the growing season was been cold and wet, particularly during blossom time in the early part of the season, fruit set may have been light, because it was too cold for the honey bees to come out of the hives or out of the hollows of old trees such as oaks and willows. As a result of that, many fruit trees may have had a light to very light crop due to the lack of pollination. As a result, most fruit trees will have put on too much shoot growth, which make the tree canopy too dense. If your fruit trees are as described, then my advice is as follows. Taste your fruits and when they taste nice and are ready to eat, then pick them carefully and make use of them the best way possible. Follow this up by sharpening your pruning saw and secateurs and prune your trees NOW and not during the winter time. Open up the trees to make plenty of room for the light to get right into the middle of the trees. Light is the most important source of energy for trees. A well thinned-out tree canopy is the best way to produce a quality crop next season. Totally remove dead wood from underneath the canopy. Take out half a dozen crossing branches as thick as your wrist, to lighten the canopy. Seal all the larger wounds with “Heal and Seal” obtainable from your garden centre. Loosen your tree ties as these may be too tight now.

November

1) Check the gutters of any building for blockages near your mini orchard. A leaking gutter that causes soil to become waterlogged is death to the fruit tree.

2) Taking in consideration the time of year and the current weather conditions, it is now that you can help the trees, in order to improve the crop for next year. Many fungal diseases have been more trouble than usual this season. The problem can be seen, for example, from black spots appearing on the leaves and on the fruit, or premature leaf drop or fruitlets not having made size and stopped growing, or that have dropped on the ground. I am referring to the serious effects of different fungi causing peach leaf curl, canker, scab, mildew, quince blight, walnut blight, coral spot, silver leaf and brown rot of fruit, just to mention the more common troubles. To eliminate or reduce the effect of these fungal diseases next season, the following measures should be taken within the next 10 days. Remove all rotten fruit and scabby leaves as these diseases will overwinter and will affect next year’s crop. Use a good rake or a vacuum blower, which sucks up all the fallen leaves, affected by any of the fungal diseases. Destroy or remove the leaves from the fruit tree area, as fungal spores will overwinter on those leaves and will attack the tree and its fruit next year. Close mowing will pulverize the leaves. Provided the grass clippings and the shredded leaves are removed from the area, well away from the trees, this will also help. Remove leaves from the orchard floor as they fall. It is important to collect leaves as they fall, remove them from the area, and burn them (or dispose of them in your food and garden waste bin if you are in a city). Don’t compost them, because this just gives the fungal spores another chance to infect your plants and trees.

3) Any dead wood in the trees needs to be removed and will have to be burned or shredded.

4) Dense tree canopies need to be opened up now by taking out large branches. This will improve the air flow through the tree canopy and reduce the incidence of fungal diseases. If you cannot throw your hat through the tree canopy then there is too much wood in the tree. Any sizeable pruning cuts will have to be sealed with a sealing compound.

5) Check your tree guards, replace guards that are too tight or broken.

6) If you have ordered new trees, mark out the planting positions with tall bamboo canes.

7) If fungi have been a problem, spray the trees with Bordeaux mixture now and follow the instructions as stated on the container. Every good garden centre will stock Bordeaux mixture and is totally safe, if used correctly. The copper in the mixture will stop the damaging spores of these fungi from getting a hold in your trees. Bacterial canker is not a fungus. However if the cherry and plum trees are not protected now by applying Bordeaux mixture, the health status of the trees will seriously decline. When leaf fall is complete, say in about 10 to 14 days, repeat the application of the Bordeaux mixture on all the trees.

8) If you have had trouble with fireblight on pear trees, now is the time to cut out all infected branches cutting well back into healthy tissue, until there is no sign of staining. Burn the wood and seal the wounds.

9) If your peach trees have had serious trouble with the fungus called Peach leaf curl, apart from the measures as stated above, protect the tree with a plastic cover from late January until the middle of May. This will stop the spores already present in the trees from germinating. It is the rain that causes the spores to become active during the winter months.

10) Even though the trees will be looking bare, it’s important to apply cotton threads to pear and plum trees as soon as the leaves have fallen. This is a good method of deterring pigeons and bullfinches who otherwise will eat the fruit buds, essential for next year’s crop, in pears and plums. Ordinary cotton is fine, just wind it around the tree (slip the spool onto a rod or dowel to make things simpler) so that the threads are about six inches apart. What happens is that the bird flies towards the tree, doesn’t see the thread, touches it with its wing, gets a fright, and flies off. No damage to the bird is done, and it helps your tree!

11) Cut out any tree cankers and paint the wounds with Arbrex or “Heal and Seal.”

12) Replace broken stakes; renew broken tree ties

13) It is a good idea to keep a fruit diary, in which you can record the cropping and flowering record of the different trees. If trees did not crop well, they were probably short of water, food or light. Otherwise, the problem may be connected to cross-fertilization or pollination.

14) If you noticed some dead wood in your trees during the season, check now for canker, or for waterlogged soil. Canker has to be cut out: waterlogged soil has to be improved by means of effective drainage.

15) Inspect your fruit tree area now for the appearance of the toadstools of aggressive fungi, such as Armillaria which can cause death to fruit trees. It is also called the honey fungus due to its warm brown colouring. If the toadstool has a collar it is most likely the honey fungus. There is no known cure. The only thing you can do is to remove the tree completely, including as many thick roots as possible. Do not plant a fruit tree in the same hole.

16) November is the ideal time 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.

17) 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.

December

1) Check apple trees for canker on the stem and branches

2) Check that rabbit guards are in place

3) Check fruit held in store; remove rots

4) Do not prune plums, greengages and cherries in winter

5) Prune apples and pears. Improve light entry

6) Plant replacement trees. Winter is the ideal time for that.

7) Check for grown-in or restricting ties around tree trunks

8) Replace broken stakes

9) Apply farmyard manure around the trees

10) Remove stinging nettle and perennial weeds.

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