The Fruit Garden in Late Autumn
Clear weeds from the soil around established fruit trees and bushes. On heavy soils, complete all work that involves treading on the ground.
Late autumn is the best time to plant fruit because the soil is still workable and is warm enough for the roots to establish themselves before winter. However, it is possible for fruit trees to be planted out at any time between autumn and spring during suitable, still weather, providing the soil is neither waterlogged nor frozen below the surface.
If planting cannot be done immediately, store the trees in a frost-free shed, covering the roots with sacks to prevent drying out or frosting. Alternatively, heel them in with the tops leaning over at an angle and tread the soil down firmly.
Prepare the holes immediately before planting. If the roots are dry, soak them for a few hours before planting. Cut off any broken roots with secateurs.
Provide vertical support for dwarfing rootstocks — many of which are poorly anchored — and for trained trees and bushes. Drive the stakes into the ground before planting to prevent damage to the roots. With short-stemmed trees, insert the stake at a slant to the trunk with its top towards the prevailing wind.
Plant fruit trees and bushes at the same depth as they were in the nursery. Spread out the roots in the prepared planting hole and refill with layers of topsoil, firming in each layer with your heel. Repeat until the level of the surrounding soil has been reached. Firm in thoroughly, unless the soil is wet and sticky, and then water in well to settle the soil.
Tie all trees and bushes firmly to stakes, using plastic ties. When planting trees on windy sites, set them with their best shoots growing into the prevailing wind to help the formation of a well balanced tree.
Prune fruit trees after planting: this can be done at any time from now until spring, except during hard frost. Prune only enough to shape the tree and form the framework. Cut just above a bud which points in the direction that a shoot is required to grow. With old trees which have been transplanted, remove part of the top to make up for the loss of roots.
Start winter pruning established trees, but do not prune cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums or damsons. If it is necessary to prune these fruits, for example to remove damaged branches,the ragged wounds with a pruning knife and protect them with butuminous paint.
When winter-pruning fruit trees, cut off the tips of leaders, or shoots which have been selected to extend the branch framework, and remove badly placed shoots. Thin out spur systems on older trees. Stop tip-pruning the leaders after four or five years. After this, restrict winter pruning to cutting out crossing and rubbing branches and dead or diseased wood.
If birds are attacking the fruit buds, do not prune until the spring. Check that ties are not cutting or chafing the bark. Scrape and cut out cankers and treat woolly aphid colonies with malathion if they cannot be removed by pruning.
With raspberries, cut out all fruiting shoots which have carried this season’s crop as soon as possible. Tie new canes to the supporting framework. On windy sites, tie in growth above the top wire. Remove weak and surplus shoots at ground level.
Complete as soon as possible the pruning of blackberries, loganberries and hybrid berries. Train new growths on to the supporting framework.
Prune established back currant bushes by removing some of the old wood — leave in as much new growth as possible. Do not prune bushes at the end of their first season of growth after planting.
With established gooseberry, red currant and white currant bushes, shorten the leaders by a half and shorten the laterals to 5cm (2in). Prune cordons by shortening the leader by one-third and the laterals by a half. Remove all weak growth.
Plant strawberries so that the flowers will all face south — the end of the runner should point away from the sun.