Choosing the right fruit tree

Fruit Trees

What are the points you should take into account when it comes to choosing fruit trees? It is a question we are often asked, and here are just some of the factors you might want to consider:

Final Height of the Tree

The final height of the tree is often determined by the rootstock that it has been grafted onto. Varieties are available that range from very dwarf (between 1.5 and 2.0 metres in final height) up to vigorous (3.5 to 4.0 metres), depending upon the category of fruit.

Pollination

Peaches, nectarines and apricots are all self-fertile, as are many varieties of plum, damson and cherry, so pollination and fruiting will not normally pose a problem.

On the other hand, apples and pears often need a pollinator to encourage fruiting. Most suburban situations offer generous supplies of pollen due to the close proximity of other gardens, but if the fruit tree you select does need a pollinator, you should choose to plant a partner for it nearby that belongs to the same or neighbouring flowering group.

Soil and Site Conditions

Fruit trees will tolerate most types of soil, but a deep, loamy, well-drained soil is best. They will rarely thrive in heavy clay, rocky soil or soil with low levels of fertility.

Cherries perform particularly well on chalky soils but most fruit trees prefer a neutral soil. Some varieties, such as apricots, peaches and nectarines, require some shelter from frost and thrive best when grown under cover or on a warm south-facing wall.

A very open, windy site is not ideal because the blossom can be blown off before pollination occurs.

Feeding

Fruit trees need feeding at the end of February in order to crop well.

  • Nitrogen promotes foliage and vigorous growth; dessert apples need less than cooking apples and pears, while plums and cherries appreciate more.
  • Phosphorus promotes healthy growth and fruit.
  • Potassium is necessary for good fruit colour, flavour, hardiness and fruit bud development.

How much feeding fruit trees need depends on the soil and can be adjusted depending on growth, cropping and soil analysis. An annual mulch of bulky organic matter after applying the fertiliser will benefit trees by reducing water loss and suppressing weeds, as well as providing some nutrients. Bulky organic materials include well rotted stable or farmyard manure, leaf mould and garden compost.

Pruning

Most fruit trees benefit from regular light pruning. Little and often is the rule of thumb to keep in mind. Some varieties of apple and all medlars and quinces are “tip bearers” and should not be pruned except to remove whole branches which are very old, damaged or diseased.

Apples and pears can be pruned at any time of the year.This is generally done in the late autumn or winter but summer pruning is particularly effective in controlling growth and containing the tree size. Cherry trees along with apricot, damson, gage, nectarine, peach and plum should only be pruned lightly i