How to tend to your fruit trees in March
Apple picking, branch cutting and the secret to sweet peaches. Add Ben Gaia’s seven tips to March your to-do list.
Words: Ben Gaia
1. Many apple varieties will be bearing ripe fruit now – they should easily pull off with a slight twist if ripe. Don’t pull on an apple because if it is not ripe, you can damage the fruit-forming spurs for next year.
2. Resist the urge to pick apples too early – unripe ones won’t store well, will shrivel and lose flavour quickly.
3. Later varieties of apple tend to store better than early ones. Your storage area should be cool (2-4°C), dark and away from strong flavours/scents, with fruit sitting on paper or hay, and not touching each other. Don’t try to store bruised or damaged apples as they will spoil all your fruit.
4. Many varieties of peach ripen about now, but if you’re new to growing peaches and want to get them when they’re perfectly ripe, look for a fruit that has a very definite cleft in it, that is firm in the hand but will yield under gentle pressure. It won’t get sweeter if picked early, so check fruit daily.
5. Specialist nurseries will already be taking orders for fruit varieties by now, especially the more hard-to-find heritage varieties. It’s time to plan now for what you want and get your order in or you may miss out when the trees are ready for pick-up (June, July).
6. Remove fruit showing signs of brown rot (brown spots that take over, then mummify the whole fruit), including old fruit and any small branches – brown spot is contagious and can over-winter to re-infect your trees.
7. Cut out any branches or shoots that look infected (canker, powdery mildew etc), although try to wait until stone fruit have dropped their leaves before doing this, to avoid the fungus silverleaf (Chondrostereum purpureum, where leaves take on a silver sheen), which can lead to the decline of infected trees.