Make the most of your orchard trees with these simple tips
Growing your own fruit in your garden is a really rewarding way to enjoy home-grown crops! If you’ve got young or established fruit trees growing in your plot and are keen to make the most of the crop this year, here are some summer fruit tree maintenance tips.
Plenty of water
It takes a LOT of water to create tasty fruits, so don’t skimp on the watering! Particularly in dry spells, it’s important to water well and regularly to stop the developing fruit dropping prematurely. Read this article for tips on saving and using water economically in your garden.
Thin out very heavy crops
Apples, pears and plums tend to drop smaller fruits of their own accord in June, so that nutrients can be redistributed to a thinner crop. Don’t be alarmed if you notice lots of small fruits have fallen to the ground!
After the ‘June drop’, you can thin again up until mid-July if it seems necessary, using secateurs or your fingers to remove blemished, misshapen or poorly-positioned fruit as well as the ‘king’ fruit which grows in the centre of a cluster, sometimes a bit of an odd shape. Apples, pears and plums are most prone to over-bearing, with apricots less so.
Pheromone traps for codling moths
Codling moths can be a real pest when you’re trying to grow tasty fruit, as their cheeky caterpillars burrow through apple and pear skin to the core. Pheromone traps release a scent produced by female moths, attracting the males and trapping them. If you notice codling moths on your plot, it’s worth investing in one of these traps to enable you to see how serious the infestation is, and assess whether a pesticide spray is needed.
Gentle summer pruning is essential for apple and pear trees that have been trained to a restricted form (cordon, fan, pyramid). This allows sunlight to reach the fruits and ripen them, and helps to encourage a healthy crop for the next year. From mid-July to late August depending on your tree, cut back new shoots (woody around the base, with darker leaves) that are over 20cm long.
You’ll need to take off the top section back to around the third set of leaves from the base. You can also remove any vigorous upright growth completely. Later summer pruning helps to reduce to likelihood of secondary growth – but if you miss the boat, don’t worry – new growth can be cut back in mid-to-late September.
Give them a good feed
Fruit trees benefit from annual fertilising and mulching, which should be done in late winter or spring. There are lots of different types of fertiliser available, but for your fruit trees, you should opt for an organic type that includes nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Choose a good mulch that’s made of organic matter in order to improve soil structure and fertility, and help the plant to take in plenty of that precious water. Make sure to apply both when the soil is nice and moist.
Happy fruit growing! If you’re blessed with a smaller plot, some good news is that you still have plenty of options for growing fruit-bearing trees in pots. Read my article here.