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Fruitiers Conseils / Fruit Trees Advice

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Fruit Trees Planting and Care Guide
Siting
All fruit will grow better when planted out of the cold westerly winds.  Whilst all on offer here are completely cold hardy, many blossom very early so can easily be damaged by cold winter winds.  Try to find a position somewhat protected.  If you have an open garden, consider planting a hedge or using ornamental trees to help filter the wind.  If your garden remains windy, then consider planting stronger trees like Apples and Plums and perhaps Pears, but remember the colder and stronger the winds are on the fruit trees, the lower the yield will be.
In a more sheltered part of the garden, planted correctly and with reasonable maintenance, you can expect some fruit the first year and heavier cropping in the 2nd and 3rd years after planting.
Allow 6 – 10m spacing depending on the variety and vigour of the tree.
 
Optional Pre-Planting Preparation
A few months before planting (preferably during the spring if planning to plant in the autumn), prepare the ground if possible.  This is simply a case of placing lots of organic matter (approximately 1 wheelbarrow of a product like horse manure, compost etc) over the area designated for the tree.  Even better would be to cover the organic matter with a weed suppressant fabric such as geotextile to stop weeds.  If carried out in the spring, you will find that by autumn the soil under the sheet will be much easier to dig and darker in colour.
 
Planting
To give your tree the best possible start, it’s very important to plant it correctly.  Here are some tips on how to do this:
  1. Clear the ground of weeds and dig a large hole, which should be deeper and wider than your tree roots, never force roots into a small hole, particularly in heavy clays.
  2. Break up the soil in the bottom of the hole to about 20cms deep and incorporate compost, so that the soil now appears to be about ½ and ½.
  3. Place a stake on the west side of the planting hole (the windy side) to stop the tree blowing onto the stake and damaging the stem.  Make sure the stake is firm in the hole.
  4.  Mix in a general purpose fertiliser. 
  5. Place the tree in the hole and ensure that it will be planted to the correct depth, no deeper than the original planting depth, which will usually be visible on the stem.  There is no advantage to planting too deep, and in fact his can even kill a young tree.
  6. When you are happy that the depth of the tree in the hole is correct, attach the tree loosely to the stake with a tree tie.
  7. Return the soil, mixed with approximately ½ compost around the tree.  Ensure that all the roots are covered and that there are no large air pockets.
  8. Firm the soil around the tree, but don’t heal in too hard, remember that all plants need air to the roots.
  9. Adjust the tree tie to hold the tree firmly against the stake.
  10. Water well and apply a layer of compost around the surface of the tree.
  11. If your compost did not contain any feed, top dress the surface of the tree with a general purpose feed, making sure that it does not touch the stem of the young tree.
  12. Place a rabbit guard or tree cone over the base of the tree for extra protection (see note in Tips on Maintaining Health).
 
Tips on Maintaining Health
It’s recommended that a spiral tree guard is placed around the base of the newly planted tree.  This not only offers protection from rabbits and other animals, but can also help protect against lawnmower nicks!  Once the stem of a young tree is damaged it will heal over but can remain a source of future infection.
For the first year or two after planting, by far the most important operation is watering.  For the first year, try to keep the roots regularly watered as the small white hairs develop.  The ideal scenario is a simple irrigation system, which can be manually operated, or have a battery or electric timer.  Drippers at the base of each tree are very effective and run for just a few minutes each day will keep your tree healthy.  If you decide to use a hose, then it is better to run it at very low pressure (little more than a drip) for 15 minutes or so every other day in dry weather.  Autumn planted trees will sometimes survive the first year, but will be quick to pick up diseases and will never grow as they should if they are not watered.
If fruit trees have been planted correctly, in a good position and are watered regularly, then there is much less chance of disease occurring. 
If you do spot any leaf problems, quick treatment will avoid permanent damage.
Watch out for insects, particularly aphids, in early summer as these can devastate a young tree if not treated quickly.
Mulch with organic matter and feed each spring to promote new vigour and fruit each season.
Check the tree tie is not too tight each year as your tree develops.
 
How to Prune a Young tree:
When your tree arrives, it will be a maiden, that is to say a tall single stem, grafted onto a root stock to control its growth.  There are many ways to train your new tree (Espalier, Cordon, Step over etc).  However the most popular and simple methods are:
Bush Tree
After planting, it is possible to create a lower growing bush tree.  These would be typically cut down to a height of just under a metre after planting.  The following season allow about 4-6 strong branches to develop from high up on the stem, leaving a clear stem of 90-100cms.  By developing a tree in this way, and maintaining an open centre, fruit will be produced low down making them easy to pick and yet the root base can be easily maintained.
Half Standard Tree
You may wish to develop a half standard tree, which is a tree with a clear stem of approx 1.2m.  Your tree has been supplied pruned to approximately 1.2m so will need no further pruning until next year.  Allow the head to develop 4-6 strong branches, cutting back any unwanted branches next winter when the tree is dormant.
A half standard fruit tree is ideal for picking, but also allows easy access for ride on mowers and maintenance around the base.
 
General Pruning
If you want to encourage heavy cropping and keep your tree in good health, then it is important to prune each year during the winter months when the tree is dormant.  Here are a few pruning tips to help  you:
  1. Always use sharp bypass secateurs for young trees
  2. Remove any dead, diseased or damaged wood.
  3. Cut just above an outward facing bud (approximately 1cm clear)
  4. Remove all branches in the centre to allow light to enter the tree
  5. Remove any crossing branches.
  6. Remove any odd or unbalanced growth.
 
It is difficult to provide precise information for each variety of tree as they are all different in some way.  There are many good books that can help you and give very accurate information.
If you have any further queries, please contact us on info@kingdomvegetal.com or post a question on our facebook page www.facebook.com/KingdomVegetal  and we will be happy to advise.