century old bramley tree
A Bramley tree at least a century old

January is a good time to reflect on events of importance that occurred to your trees. And in a way, the trees themselves are wondering what is going to happen to them next. They have been affected by the weather, or by pests and diseases, and had to cope with the situation. We may think, “Oh the trees? Well, they’ll be all right”. But often, due to neglect or lack of time, the trees are not all right. To keep them in good shape, we have to take the time to observe them. It is amazing how much the trees can tell us about themselves, if only we are willing to look and listen.

Fruit trees, if well looked after, can live to a ripe old age, surviving for longer than we do. But this varies according to variety. The quality and depth of the soil are of great importance. For example, a Bramley apple tree on the right type of soil can easily live for 200 years. The same applies to a pear tree and a walnut tree.  Plum trees and peach trees are shorter lived.

So, try to examine the various factors involved, when the trees were evidently feeling fine and when they were struggling. The problems could have been due to bad drainage, or too little water in the height of summer. Or perhaps, a certain pest was strongly present. This is the time of the year to make a note in your diary, so that the same adverse circumstances don’t happen again, if they are things that we as humans can improve. Over-cropping can be as troublesome as under-cropping. In 2021, many trees were damaged by several night frosts when the trees were in full bloom.

The other point that we should remember is that not all flowers set fruit at the same time. It is a well-known fact that small, well-ripened fruit, particularly in apples and pears, has a longer storage life and keeps its flavour longer when compared with large fruit. At this time of the year, small fruit is crisper than large fruit.

Taking all these various points into consideration, there is no reason whatsoever why your fruit tree should not supply your fruit needs for six months of the year. All it needs is some TLC and good light around and inside its canopy, and the tree will look after you in full measure, when the crop has matured to full flavour.