Winter is a time of planting and housekeeping in the home orchard.
As most fruit trees are field grown in nurseries, and are lifted and despatched when the trees are dormant, the main availability in retail stores is from June to August. So stores will now be fully stocked with a huge range of varieties and fruit types. Check out your nearest store ASAP as the favourite varieties are selling out fast from what we've heard. Have a look at our new planting videos for tips on how to plant bare-root and bagged/potted trees.
Pruning fruit trees is generally considered a winter task (though summer pruning is a useful way to keep fruit trees to a smaller, more manageable size). It's much easier to prune a young tree, so spend the first few years getting the size and shape right - then you shouldn't have a big tangled mess to deal with as the tree grows bigger (and uglier!). Check out our new pruning videos with how to get started with pruning fruit trees.
For older trees it's important to not prune too much off all at once, as this can create a lot of unwanted, vigorous, vegetative growth. The recommendation is to only remove 20-30% of the tree each year. So a wild old tree may need several attempts at getting the growth under control. Start off pruning with the 'Three D's' - which is Dead, Diseased and Damaged. Add a C in there as well for 'Crossing' branches - ones that are growing across another branch, or growing into the centre of a vase shaped tree. Then move onto tree form and shortening branches.
We highly recommend using a pruning paste to seal all pruning wounds. Yates Bacseal is an excellent product which we use in the nursery on all pruning wounds - which helps to prevent problems like silverleaf and bacterial blast (which love to enter the tree through unsealed cuts).
If fungal or bacterial diseases, or pests have been a problem in the past, it's a good idea to prevent future infections with a winter copper spray, followed by an insecticidal oil.