Dwarf Fruit Tree Care

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Daamoot

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Dwarf Fruit Tree Care
« on: January 07, 2013, 10:16 »
Hey all,

I have several questions about the best means of caring for the 5 dwarf fruit trees (2 apples, 1 pear, 1 plum and 1 cherry) I have potted on the patio.  They are in large plastic pots of general compost and have had a straw mulch since I potted them in spring '12.  Questions are:

 - when should I prune them?  All the leaves have fallen from most of them, think it's only the cherry tree that has a couple leaves right at the top.
 - I'm not fussed about fruit this year (or next) so are there methods to encourage growth and save energy for following years?  I don't want to cause harm/issues to the trees so if leaving it to fruit is advised I'll happilly follow that advice.
 - should I store them in the garage to avoid frost?  I'm assuming they don't need light since the leaves are gone.
 - is it wise to renew soil and add in perlite/sand to aid drainage before new growth starts in spring?  I didn't understand the need for drainage when I potted them so they are currently in very dense (probably quite wet) compost.
 - is manure/fertilizer recommended for the new season?

Apologies to ask so many questions but if you know about tree care I'd really appreciate the help or point in the right direction.
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stompy

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Re: Dwarf Fruit Tree Care
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2013, 13:15 »
The apple and pear trees can be pruned anytime from the end of November through until around the beginning of March, basically when they are not growing!

The plum and cherry should only be pruned in the growing season usually from the end of March until the end of september!

The medium you grow them in can be purely compost or soil but idealy it would be a 45/45 of soil and compost and 10% sharp sand or pearlite to help with drainage, the soil helps the water retention and the compost also helps with drainage and feed.

Im not entirely sure but i think i read somewhere that the trees need a cold spell to awaiken them from dormancy and i believe it also helps get the tree to give a better crop, also leaving them out in the cold will help kill off any bugs from last season.
To be on the safe side you could insulate the pots to stop the roots form freezing as this will kill the tree.

If your purely after geting structure and top growth then feed them with a high nitrogen feed, but beware as you wil get lots of lushh growth and this will attract afids!!!

Hope this helps and im sure someone will come along and put you/me right  :ohmy:  :lol:

Andy
« Last Edit: January 08, 2013, 11:08 by stompy »

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SG6

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Re: Dwarf Fruit Tree Care
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2013, 13:42 »
Don't prune them now, you have plum and cherry and being stone fruit they can be susceptable to silver leaf which will kill them. Late summer is I think best.

Pots and compost:
Really as big as reasonable for pot size, I have potatoes in 18" dia by 18" deep pots for fruit trees I would be aiming for something similar.

I have for next years potatoes some tubs that are 20" diameter and 15" deep, I would think that those would be better for fruit trees. The container should have a couple of drainage holes in them - 2 or 3 1cm holes in the base.

The compost - if it was general purpose compost you need something more solid/heavy. General purpose compost tends to be something that has nutrients added which are soon used up or washed out.

Many will suggest John Innes No3. I bought some once tried it and found it fairly poor, rock hard and generally not what I had expected to find. I wanted it for a lime and have ended up with a mix of compost, some of the JI No3 and well rotted manure and some sand.

They are a tree so being outside should not be a problem, may be necessary they are triggered by light and specifically lengthening hours of daylight.

Biggest risk is them drying out in the summer, so a layer of mulch to protect against this would useful, the drainage holes should allow excess to escape.

Will they fruit (thinking apples here), difficult to say, usually the dwarfing varieties fruit early on in their lives. So in a good sized container and with good soil I could expect something fairly early as in year 2 or 3. But expect just a small crop at any time and in the first year just 1 maybe 2. You want 1 to try it out.

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Daamoot

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Re: Dwarf Fruit Tree Care
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2013, 14:48 »
Thanks for the advice Andy and SG6!  I'll sort out the soil mixture before spring and maybe upgrade to larger pots if the roots look at all strangled (16" diameter and 13" deep pots just now).  For insulation, would a few wraps of fleece be enough or should I double insulate with bubble wrap, cardboard or something?  This winters been quite tame so far but I could be in sub zero temps for weeks at a time when it does hit us.

Cheers  8)

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stompy

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Re: Dwarf Fruit Tree Care
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2013, 15:34 »
I would use bubble wrap or cardboard in a couple of layers around the pot.
The other thing to remember is not to pot them on into too big a pot!
You should increase the pot size every 2 to 3 years or as neccesary and remove the top 2 to 3 inchs of compost each spring and replace with new this will keep it fresh.

I used to remove the trees (Apple/Pear) root ball from the pot when dormant and chop the root ball back in size with an old carving knife.
The following year the tree would put out new fresh roots in the same size pots and they looked much better for it.
This has worked for me and my dad for years, just make sure you use a thoroughly cleaned and sterilised (milton fluid) knife for each tree so as not to spread disease  ;)

Andy

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Yorkie

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Re: Dwarf Fruit Tree Care
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2013, 19:00 »
I know that our local horticultural college would recommend John Innes No.3 as the compost.  It is a formulation, rather than a brand, so I guess you might occasionally get a bad one.

However, it has the maximum amount of soil % in it, which will retain moisture and nutrients best.  General multi-purpose compost is difficult to re-wet if it gets dry, and gets exhausted of nutrients within weeks.

By all means incorporate added organic matter though.

I agree with the others' views about pruning.  The RHS site has great pruning advice too.
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sunshineband

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Re: Dwarf Fruit Tree Care
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2013, 19:11 »
Damoot, just to add to what others have already said, and answer your query re feeding the trees:

I use either potassium sulphate, wood ash or rose fertiliser (depending on what I have at the time) and incorporate it into the top inch of soil in the pot during late January, early February ie before growth begins for this year.

I pruned apples and one pear this weekend just gone, but prune the cherries and(one) plum and (one) apricot after fruiting.

The potted trees stay out in all weathers, although they are in a sheltered south facing spot in the garden, and we are in the south here too remember.

Hope that all helps  :D

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Daamoot

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Re: Dwarf Fruit Tree Care
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2013, 08:00 »
Thanks everyone, all your information is very helpful!  I'll hopefully have time to service the trees this weekend (while referencing this thread ofc) so they're ready for harsher winter conditions but have all the nutrients and soil they need for growing in the spring.



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