Growing fruit trees successfully requires an open situation with plenty of light, shelter from prevailing winds and permiable soil. Good light ensures good growth and ripening of fruit. Shelter warms the site improving pollination, growth and fruit production. The ideal soil for fruit trees is a well-drained loam that is slightly acid. Avoid sites susceptible to waterlogging.
When selecting the site make allowances for the future growth of the tree and ensure good air circulation to encourage the growth of fruit by regular pruning. Trees should not be planted too close to each other. The following distances should serve as a guide.
MM106 moderately vigorous – 5-5.5m (15-18ft)
M26 semi dwarfing – 3-4.5m (10-15ft)
M9 dwarfing – 2.4-3m (8-10ft)
M111 vigorous – 8-9m (25-30ft)
M25 very vigorous – 9-12m (30-40ft)
Espaliers – Apples M26/MM106 (use ‘maidens’) – 3.6-5m (12-15ft)
Cordons – Apples (use ‘maidens’) – 60-90cm (2-3ft)
St Julien A moderately vigorous – 3.6-5.5m (12-18ft)
Fans – Plums (use ‘maidens’) – 3.6-5m (12-15ft)
Bare-root trees are usually supplied from early November until late March. For your tree to get away to agood start a little preparation is advisable. Dig the planting hole a little larger than the root system. Fork over the bottom of the hole. Back-fill ensuring no air pockets are left between the roots consolidating the soil as you go along. If a stake is required, make sure the root-ball is not damaged.
You should aim to plant your tree at the same height as it was planted in the nursery with the graft union clear of soil level. Tie tree to stake. Do not allow the tree’s roots to dry out during the planting process. Water if necessary.
During the first season ensure the tree is well watered during dry spells, and remove any weed competition. Training your tree The early years of your tree’s life should be used to build up a framework. This depends on your aims. Remove any fruit in the first year and for the first five years do not let it overfruit. Let the tree concentrate on vegetative growth.
To produce a bush apple tree, top it at 75 cms just above a bud after planting. Allow three strong evenly spaced shoots near the top of the stem to grow. These will form the basis of your branching. In the winter after planting cut the shoots back half to two-thirds. From each of these pruned shoots two or more will develop. Prune these shoots back halfway in the winter two years after planting. After four years of healthy growth a framework should be established for future years. When training your trees try to keep the centre of the trees open and goblet-shaped.
If producing half standard or standard trees of the varieties on the vigorous rootstocks train the stem to above 135cm or 180cm before topping at these heights. Then follow the same principles as above. If more information is required on pruning or producing different forms ie Cordon, espalier please contact us. Picking time In deciding which trees to plant you should consider when you would like to pick the fruit. It could be that you decide to plant a number of trees which could give you apples for picking from early in September to late in October. In the tree variety charts you will see a column indicating the normal picking times. Storage Certain varieties of apples can be stored longer than others. We have given you the typical time that each apple variety can be kept providing they are kept in good condition. Apples are best stored in a dark, cool but frost-free place with some ventilation and humidity. Store different varieties separately and check regularly.
(Information supplied by Walcot Organic Nursery)