When is the best time to plant a fruit tree?

when is the best time to plant a tree

When is the best time to plant a fruit tree?

I recently met up with Kevin O’Neill from Walcot Organic Nurseries, who are based locally in Drakes Broughton, near Pershore, who specialise in fruit trees and I asked him for some simple advice on planting, varieties and care.

The winter is the best time for planting bare root fruit trees when they are dormant – ideally between end of November and end of March. So now is a good time to be deciding what to plant and ordering. By planting before the winter’s end, the trees will be ready for a good start in the spring.

Alternatively, you can buy pot grown trees, these are usually more expensive than bare roots and the choice of trees may be limited. But they can be planted throughout the year which may be more convenient.

Bare roots are more suitable if you want to train the fruit tree into a fan or espalier or cordon, or some other format, a 1-year bare-root tree is usually the best way to start.

What are the tastiest fruit trees to grow?

This depends on what you want the fruit for ie cooking or eating straight from the tree. Walcot grow around 80 varieties of apple tree, and 30 varieties of plums plus cherries, damsons, pears and many more fruits. They include a mix of traditional and modern such as Lord Lambourne, Egremont Russet, Sunset and Lord Derby. More modern varieties – Red Falstaff, Herefordshire Russet and Rajka. So, there is an apple for every sized garden and taste.

Cherries are the first to ripen with their red fruits that can turn almost black if you can resist picking them! Next to ripen are Plums – Victoria is a superb variety but there are many other excellent plums to choose from that extend the season. Then there are Pears, Damsons, Quinces and Crab Apples.

In my humble opinion Cox apples make great eaters and Bramley apples make a fabulous crumble!

How big will the fruit tree grow?

You may have read about root stocks and seen ‘M’ numbers on plant labels and wondered what it refers to. It’s important to understand this to ensure you buy the right sized tree for your plot. Here’s a chart to explain it easily

tree sizes walcot nursery

Pollination

Bear in mind that Apples pollinate apples and no other fruit trees species ie Pears. The same goes for Plums, etc. So, for successful pollination if no other fruit trees are in the vicinity select two or more of the same species to ensure fruiting. Also make sure the trees you buy flower at the same time – this will allow bees and other pollinators to move from tree to tree.

Where should you plant fruit trees?

Growing fruit trees successfully requires an open situation with plenty of light and shelter from prevailing winds. Good light ensures good growth and ripening of fruit. Shelter warms the site and improves pollination (bees don’t like wind and rain), which leads to better growth and fruit production. The ideal soil for fruit trees is a well-drained loam that is slightly acid. Avoid sites susceptible to waterlogging.

How to care for your trees

Ideally stake and tie at planting time, this will stop the tree from rocking in the wind and support the tree whilst growing. Remove all vegetation from around the base of the tree and add mulch to retain water and keep weed free.

Watch out for pests, especially aphids. There are other pests usually around when the tree is fruiting such as Codling Moth (their larvae feeds on fruit rather than leaves) – pheromone traps will help a little. Winter Moth caterpillars can eat early spring growth – wingless female winter moths emerge from pupae in the soil during November to April and crawl up trunks to lay eggs on the branches. To help reduce this happening, apply grease bands around the trunk in the autumn which is a pesticide-free way of keeping winter moth caterpillars away from your pear and apple trees in the spring. Although birds like the aphids and caterpillars and they help feed their babies.

Pruning

Pruning is really important and essentially there are three stages to pruning:

  • Early hard pruning to develop the shape of the tree
  • Lighter pruning to encourage fruiting
  • Once fruiting, pruning to maintain a balance between growth and fruiting.

It’s best to read the article on pruning on Walcot Nursery’s website for detailed information as it depends on the age and type of tree you have.

More detailed information and a catalogue is available from www.walcotnursery.co.uk 

 

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Toyah Willcox and her beloved trees

Toyah Willcox medlar tree

I had the pleasure of chatting with Toyah Willcox the fabulous singer/songwriter. Her biggest hits include “It’s a Mystery”, “Thunder in the Mountains” and “I Want to Be Free”. We have a mutual love of gardening and so I asked her what her favourite flowers are and she told me all about her garden and her beloved trees.

“Our garden is not only a sanctuary of peace and quiet, a respite from the awful world of mobile phones, a place where Mother Nature still holds court; it is a place of constant rejuvenation.

At my grand age of 61 I am still surprised by the seasons and how a garden has so much to offer even in the short daylight hours of the winter. I often walk in my garden thinking “so little time so much to learn!”

Latin names will always escape me but I have huge respect for plants and how they fill their space, names aside I love the benign presence of all plants.

Living in a place where gardens in the past 100 years have evolved from allotments, to orchards to places of leisure I am keenly aware how non local plants have found their way into our lives.

I adore our neighbours Magnolia sitting within the same space as many pear trees. So we are about to install three mature Magnolia, which will probably have to be delivered from the river at the bottom of our garden.

In our garden are many varieties of apple, pears, peaches but also old traditional trees such as our Medlar. I am hugely protective of it. The Medlar fruit was a medieval delicacy and it conjures images of servant maids gathering the fruit as it becomes over ripe to turn into a sweet jelly not dissimilar to Quince.

Another outstanding tree in our garden is a Mulberry that must be about 300 years of age. Again I feel like a temporary guardian watching over it, knowing that when this tree was planted, all that time ago, the journey it had made as a sapling was from far afield as France…at least….might even have been farther.

But the crown in our garden is a triple plane. This huge magnificent tree is given regular health checks by our tree specialist, to the point we could be called over protective.

Large trees are part of my childhood and as someone who travels the world I am keenly aware that large trees are getting rare. I am hugely grateful for the trees in my garden that are so much older than me…. I love them in spring, when their foliage is bright; I love to draw them in winter when they are dormant.

They majestically watch us and I enthusiastically watch them!”

I would like to thank Toyah for sharing the story of her beloved trees. If you would like to know more about Toyah, she has a great monthly blog on her website –https://toyahwillcox.com/

If you would like to include these trees in your garden, here is more information:

Mespilus germanica – Common Medlar

Medlar fruit tree

Medlars are ornamental, flowering trees with a good autumn colour and edible fruits – although very tart.  They can grow to a height and spread of 6m x 8m. They prefer full sun or light shade away from strong winds.

The best time to plant a new tree is between November and March. The fruits are ready to pick in late October or early November when they are about 2.5-5cm across, although they are not fully ripe. You can leave fruit on the tree well into autumn to develop flavour provided there is no danger of frosts.

Morus nigra – commonly known as Mulberry

mulberry tree fruits

The mulberry tree is deciduous and has a spreading habit. It grows to around 8m x 10m and becomes crooked and gnarled with time, making an architectural feature. It tolerates a range of soils and can be grown against walls too.

It’s good to note that fruiting may not begin until eight or nine years after planting, so you will need some patience! The Morus alba is the tree loved by silk worms.

Magnolia

Magnolia stellata white flower

There are around 200 different types of Magnolia – with different growing habits and flowers, so you should be able to find a suitable tree regardless of your size of garden.

I like the Magnolia stellata, with its striking white flowers in the spring. You can keep it as a bushy shrub or let it grow in to a tree – its ultimate height and spread is 3m x 4m.

Platanus × acerifolia – commonly known as London Plane

This tree is ideal for urban environments as it is resistance to pollution. It has 3-5 lobed leathery leaves which turn orangey-yellow in autumn. It grows to 35m tall and can live for hundreds of years.

London plane tree

London Plane tree leaf

 

 

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Trees suitable for a small garden

cherry blossom tree

 

When I’m designing a garden, I like to include a tree or large shrub in every plan as I love how it gives height, adds colour, texture and interest to any garden and the birds love them too! In built up areas they can also provide privacy and help enclose your garden.

These days many new homes have small gardens and homeowners I’ve chatted with assume there are no trees that would be suitable for their space – however with a bit of planning you can add a tree to your plot and it will look fabulous!  Here are three ideas for you:

Cornus kousa var. chinensis

Cornus Kousa blossom

this can be classed as a tree or shrub and is deciduous.  I love this plant as it has year round interest.  In the spring it has showy bracts (as per the photograph) and then in autumn it has strawberry type fruits/berries and the leaves turn a lovely shade of orange/red. If you prefer a tree shape, just prune the lower branches off when it is dormant i.e. late autumn to early spring.  It grows to around 4-8m tall and wide, but you can prune it to keep it in shape if needed. You can grow it in full sun or part shade and likes a neutral to acid soil.

Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum Atropurpureum’

acer palmatum

 

commonly known as a Japanese Maple.  These trees are great for adding texture to a garden border and are a brilliant backdrop to a pond and are also great for a container garden too.  They only grow to around 2m tall by 2m wide so they don’t take over your garden! They are happy in most environments – sunny and part shade in a neutral to acid soil. They are deciduous and their leaves turn a beautiful orange colour in the autumn.

Amelanchier lamarckii

amelanchier blossom

this is also a deciduous tree and can grow up to 12m tall, although it has an ‘open & upright’ habit which makes it a suitable tree if you want more light in your garden. It has pretty white blossom in the spring with purple-black berries in the autumn which the birds love! The leaves turn orange in the autumn which makes it another lovely tree for year round interest.

If you would prefer an apple or pear tree, these are also great for the patio or border and here’s a guide to tree sizes (courtesy of Blackmoor).  I’ve used dwarf apples in my garden as per the photo below

When buying them make sure the root stock is either M27 Very Dwarf (the smallest), M9 Dwarf or M26 Semi Dwarf.  The M27 is perfect for a container garden and the M9 and M26 are suitable for staking such as cordons which can grow against a sunny wall or between two posts with wires in-between.

pink tulips & apple tree

If you need any further assistance with regards to choosing a tree for your garden, just ask! www.borderinabox.com.

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