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Published 12 February 2017
Growing your own fruit is incredibly rewarding but there are plenty of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about how to grow them properly in your garden. Whether your trees aren’t growing, look dead, are deformed or discoloured or have spots on the leaves, we can help you get them right as rain again.
Fruit production is dependent on a few factors, such as the weather and pollination by insects. Some trees are self-fertile, whilst others will require a pollinator in order to produce fruit. As your trees establish your crops will improve. It is quite common for stone fruits such as plums, cherries and peaches to only produce flowers and fruit every two or three years.
Even if you have lots of flowers, you still need them to be pollinated by insects before the fruit can be produced. You can "cheat" by using an artist's paintbrush to brush from flower to flower when they are produced in spring, mimicking a pollinating insect. You may just prefer to let nature take its course though.
Pruning in summer after the fruit has set will encourage more fruit growth the following year. If you want to encourage your tree to grow, the best time to prune is autumn/winter. It is advisable to prune stone fruits (such as plums, cherries, apricots and peaches) only when they are in leaf, to avoid a condition called "Silver Leaf".
By the end of May it should have started to grow. It's most probable that the trees just need another few weeks to come out of dormancy. Please perform this BARK TEST to determine whether your tree is dead:
Scratch back a small section of the branch with a thumbnail or sharp knife. It comes away easily. If underneath it is green, the tree is fine, and just needs more time and warmer weather. If it is brown, the tree is dead at that point. Sometimes the tips of smaller branches will die back, but the tree is OK. If you find a brown branch, move closer to the main trunk and repeat, and check the trunk itself. If you find green lower down, prune back to where you find green, and it will shoot from there. If it is still brown, or the main trunk is brown, the tree is unfortunately dead.
It is perfectly normal for stone fruits (plum, apricot, cherry, etc.) to take longer to burst back into life than other fruits like apples and pears; this is because they need warmer weather.
It is almost certain to be Peach Leaf Curl, which is caused by airborne bacteria. It affects peaches, causing the leaves to roll up with red/orange coloured blisters. It is prevalent in wet springs and the last few years we have had have been classics for it.
It is cosmetic, so will not kill the tree, but affected leaves will slow growth. Remove any affected leaves and destroy them. Keep your tree well-watered as they can use a lot of water - especially in warm breezy weather. Cover the tree with Bordeaux Mixture periodically throughout the year, to protect new buds that grow. The tree should be fine.
A classic example of Pear Tree Rust - a fairly common fungal infection.
It is rarely fatal to trees, though it can reduce fruit yield. What is unusual about Pear Rust is that the fungus attacks both Pears and Junipers. It actually needs both plants in order to complete its life cycle. Does the customer have infected Juniper conifers nearby?
It is advisable to remove and destroy infected leaves.