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Growing fruit trees successfully

Published: 26th September, 2018

Successful fruit tree growingImagine growing and picking your very own delicious fruit. Well why not?

Autumn is the ideal time to plant fruit trees as they are available as dormant bare rooted plants which makes handling them exceptionally easy.  You don’t necessarily need huge amounts of space to create your own little orchard – there are plenty of dwarf varieties of fruit trees available and even ones that can be kept in pots for their lifetime, so everyone can have a go at growing their very own fruit.

A little bit of preparation before planting any fruit trees will make a big difference to the health of your plants and the quality of the fruit that they will produce. They’ll need to be planted into an airy sunny position where they’ll get 5 -6 hours of sunshine a day. Before planting any fruit trees, get familiar with your soil. Different varieties and species have different tastes. It’s important to know what balance of nutrients and trace minerals is best for each plant. Soil PH will also play a large part in maximising fruit yields. If you aren’t sure what type of soil you have, test a small sample. If needed you can amend the soil to boost future fruit production. Your local garden centre will be able to help you with selecting the correct products to perfectly balance your soil to suit your choice of tree.

Many people are inclined to buy as large a tree as possible to save time before generating a large harvest. In the case of fruit trees however, younger is better. They don’t particularly like being transplanted, but the younger they are, the more readily they will cope with being moved and get off to a great new start without any shock. You can also establish the way the branches are going to grow from a very young age. Bare toot trees are ideal. Typically, they are 1 – 3 years old and have been growing in the ground at the nursery. As they enter dormancy they are dug out of the ground and the roots and top are cut back. This may sound destructive but once you have planted the tree in its new location and the growing season returns, its roots are all set to spread out and establish the tree quickly as opposed to a container-grown tree which could have become root bound. Once planted bare-root trees generally do not need quite so much attention in their first year as container-grown trees.

If you don’t want to wait several years before getting fruit from your garden, consider planting dwarf varieties of trees. They don’t grow as tall or as wide as a full-size tree so begin to bear fruit within the first 3 – 4 years. Though compact the fruit is full sized and packed with flavour. Their size obviously makes them a perfect choice for gardeners who want to grow their own fruit but don’t have a lot of land.

To grow against a wall or fence, a fan or espalier fruit tree is a great and attractive option. Espalier trees, used for apple and pear trees, have their growth trained and restricted to two or three orderly ‘tiers’. A ‘fan’ shaped tree with multiple branches from near the base, can be used for apples, pears, plums, cherries and damsons, as well as peaches, nectarines and apricots.

Deciduous fruit trees will be bare in winter but as spring approaches and the weather warms up they will burst into life. All this growth and production of fruit requires lots of nutrients. Liquid fertilisers are a perfect way to feed fruit trees as they contain a range of fact acting nutrients such as nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. Potassium is the key nutrient to encourage fruit growth so, come spring, feed with a potassium rich food regularly during the growing season.

Mulch is one of the most important elements for taking your fruit growing to the next level. Not only is an organic mulch incredibly beneficial, creating beautiful rich soil as it naturally breaks down, but it prevents grass from growing underneath the tree which can be detrimental to its health. A layer of mulch will also help retain the moisture which is particularly important with young fruit trees.

Don’t be afraid to prune your fruit trees as it can increase the growth and overall health of the tree.  Pruning will open up the tree to light and air flow preventing the growth of fungi and boosting fruit production. Don’t be afraid to prune all year on an ‘as needed’ basis either. When watershoots appear heading skywards, just remove them by peeling them back to the trunk rather than letting them shoot up tall and sap the energy from the tree. Watershoots are thin shoots that arise from the trunk or branches. They serve no useful purpose and will never produce much fruit. Rootsuckers should also be removed as they will also waste the energy and nutrients that the tree could otherwise put into useful growth and fruit production. Rootsuckers are the springs that appear at the base of the tree.

Staking of trees should really only be done if essential. Look at it as tough love. A bit of wind will help strengthen the tree in the long run as it grows to withstand that wind.

The final tip for successful growing of fruit is to harvest EVERYTHING. Unharvested fruit left on the branches at the end of the season signal to the tree that it produced too much that year. During the next growing season the plant will actually produce less as a result.

Why not have a go at growing fruit in your garden? The new crop has just arrived at Henry Street Garden Centre and we have a great range including trained fruit espalier and fan trained fruit trees.

Read our full guide to planting fruit trees

 

 

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