How to look after fruit trees in the month of April. Read our tips on the work to be performed on fruit trees in a garden or orchard in order to keep them in good health. The blossoms of some types of fruit trees are particularly vulnerable to frost. Watch out for the onset of fungal diseases. There are methods of improving pollination.

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Fruit tree management in April

  1. 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. Watch a video on how to improve cherry tree pollination.
  3. Keep 1 square metre totally clear of all weeds and grass around the trunks of the trees.
  4. Mow the grass around the trees, at a higher setting to start off with.
  5. On light sandy soils start watering the trees on a weekly basis.
  6. Check that tree ties are not too tight.
  7. Cut out dead branches and paint the wounds with a sealing compound.

How to control pests and diseases on fruit trees in April

  1. Deal with fungal wood diseases such as canker, collar rot, bootlace fungus.
  2. Do not let damaging insects get out of control. Stay on the lookout for various types of aphids.
  3. Look at your trees at weekly intervals in order to detect possible damage by mice, muntjacks, deer, rabbit and hare.
  4. Several diseases may become visible in April. Fruit trees are site sensitive. Climatic conditions in the UK vary considerably from north to south and/or east to west. Diseases such as canker, scab and mildew in apple trees, and silver leaf and bacterial canker in plum trees, are closely linked to the different climatic conditions in various parts of the country. Canker and scab are particularly troublesome in the high rainfall areas of the west country and the more northerly areas where fruit is grown. In low-rainfall areas such as East Anglia, apple trees tend to be affected particularly by mildew under dry soil conditions and warm/humid growing conditions. Silver leaf and bacterial canker in plums and cherry trees and brown rot may occur at this time of year anywhere in the country and are therefore not directly connected to climatic conditions. A great deal can be done to control these fruit tree afflictions without the use of chemicals:
    – Choose resistant varieties;
    – Maintain an open tree structure at all times;
    Cut out diseased branches or shoots when pruning, and remove all prunings from the orchard or garden. Seal the pruning wounds.
    – Practice tree hygiene and remove all mummified fruits from the ground or still in the tree.
    Seaweed sprays and garlic mixtures all help to increase resistance against fungal diseases.
    – Make sure the trees never suffer from drought or conditions of waterlogged soil.
    – Finally, stay in touch with your trees on a weekly basis and the trees will show you when help is needed in the early stages, to avoid major problems from developing.

Read our fruit tree care tips for successive months:

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