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Tis the season….to be planting & pruning an orchard

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Tis the season….to be planting & pruning an orchard

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Drawing back the curtains to find a carpet of glittering frost might seem like an unusual time to head into the boot room to pull on your wellies and start planting, but what better time to prepare for a fruitful harvest from your orchard next summer? 

The anticipation of what’s to come makes these chilly chores completely worthwhile, and as spring looms into view, so will branches covered with an abundance of delicate blossoms, to be followed by homegrown produce to enjoy straight from the tree. 

Bare-Root Beauties:

There are a number of advantages to planting fruit trees in winter when they’re dormant, not least price and quality. Planting bare-root stock is not only a more affordable option, but they will also grow stronger. Unlike their potted counterparts they don’t suffer from their roots growing in a circular manner following the shape of the pot or even risk becoming becoming pot bound, thus giving them a better start for long-term healthy growth. 

A beautiful espalier apple tree in the Garden Barn orchard

The simple pleasure of feasting on your very own homegrown fruit, plucked directly from the tree is hard to beat. But not only will you enjoy your bounty, you’ll also be helping the local wildlife, who will relish the chance to forage through autumn’s fallen fruits. Solitary bees, fungi, woodpeckers, thrushes, squirrels, deer and badgers, to name a few, all benefit from the windfall that your orchard provides. 

Perfectly Positioned:

Choosing the ideal location for your trees is essential for a successful crop for years to come. 

Contrary to popular belief you don’t need a huge garden to enjoy the rewards of a successful orchard. By carefully choosing a variety that suits your needs it is possible to grow your own in even the smallest of spaces. Training your fruit trees into a suitable shape will help you to use the space available to its full potential. With espaliers, cordons, stepovers and many more options there is something for everyone.

A tree burgeoning with fruit in the orchard

Growing fruit trees against the wall of your house will help not only provide year-round interest but some varieties positively thrive, whilst nestled up in this unlikely spot. An example of this is fig trees, they prefer a south-facing aspect preferably against a stone wall, so that they can not only benefit from maximum sunlight but also use the heat from the sun-soaked stone to help perfectly ripen their sumptuous fruit. 

Pruning for Good Growth:

Carefully planned aftercare for your fruit trees is imperative to ensure that they live up to their full potential and provide you with a bountiful crop for years to come. This can be a little daunting as every species has its own care needs, for example apples, pears, quince and medlars require winter-pruning, whereas stone fruit trees benefit from a summer prune. 

Pruning fruit trees from an early age promotes healthy growth and helps to shape trees into an aesthetically pleasing form. The aim being to maintain an open and balanced structure, which encourages an abundance of high-quality fruit. Removing suckers, rubbing branches and congested areas helps with air flow, promoting a bounty of healthy fruit to tantalise your taste buds each year. 

A delicious pile of opal plums straight from the orchard

While the weather is cold and the trees are dormant it’s the ideal time to give your fruit trees a thorough health check. Most importantly check for any dead, diseased and damaged wood. 

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Dead wood is often easily recognisable as it may be hollow, missing bark or brittle, but don’t take care not to mistake dormant for dead! Damaged areas of bark require careful management to reduce the chance of disease getting into these weak areas and disease can occur for a number of reasons, but most often it is bacteria, fungus, viruses or an infestation of insects. When signs of disease are spotted it’s important to fully remove the affected area and to burn or destroy any debris. Leaving the remnants of infected limbs will leave the tree, as well as its neighbours, open to being reinfected. 

A pair of green apples on still on the tree in the office garden

Planting your very own productive orchard may seem daunting, but our fruit tree specialists take the hard work out of creating and maintaining orchards and fruit gardens all over Oxfordshire and beyond. 

Not only will our plant specialists source the perfect varieties for your garden, but our team of talented horticulturalists will ensure that they are planted with care and precision. 

Tell us about your favourite orchard or kitchen garden fruits and we’ll show you how to bring them into your garden. 

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