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16 October 2014
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Winter 2007
John Cushnie On...

Fruit For The Future
14th October 2004

Those of us who grow apples and pears are happy this autumn. It may not have been a great summer for some crops but fruit trees have excelled themselves. Bumper crops of large fruit have weighed down the branches to the extent that commercial growers are having difficulty meeting E.U. standards for size.

I’m sure this year has been a one-off but with all the talk of climate change this could be a good time to consider growing more fruit.

ApplesThere is a better chance of success with trained trees grown against a South or West facing wall. Extra effort at planting time will pay off later on. Excavate a large planting hole and incorporate lots of old, well rotted, farmyard manure. Plant at the same depth as before with the graft union above soil level. Water and mulch with more farmyard manure or compost to help retain moisture. There are now apple, plum, cherry and pear varieties that are self fertile. Where space is limited one of each variety will still crop. Some of those available include ‘Red Falstaff’ apple, ‘Conference’pear, ‘Victoria’ plum, and ‘Lapins’cherry. Where pollinating varieties are required select those that are compatible.

victoria plumsWall trained trees will only fruit well when there are lots of suitable branches with fruit buds. With cherries and plums, two year old branches are best and pruning should be carried out in summer to encourage a build up of strong new growths which will crop the following year. Apples and pears form fruiting spurs on branches two years old and older. A spur is a collection of fruit buds that is retained for several years. Young growths are shortened in summer and further reduced in winter to leave short lengths of well ripened branches which will produce fruit buds.

Late frosts play havoc with fruit trees as they come into flower and are the most common cause of a failure to fruit. Avoid planting in areas prone to spring frosts and protect early flowering trees with a sheet of horticultural fleece.

pearsRemove the newly formed fruit from young trees to allow them to grow strongly for the first two years. Training the branches to wires secured to the wall will allow you to shape the tree and support the weight of fruit on each branch.

There is nothing nicer than picking and eating your own fruit straight from the tree. If you tire of eating fresh fruit, think of all that home made jam.

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