Picking and eating garden fruit is one of the most pleasant summer jobs. Three garden jobs this month will help you maximise production and flavour in summer and autumn.

garden fruit

Enjoy more and tastier raspberries by pruning, feeding and mulching now. Sarah Buchanan

Pruning garden fruit trees and bushes

Autumn fruiting raspberries must be pruned before canes start to produce new leaves in spring. Cut each cane that fruited last year down to just above ground level. To work out which is which, start at the top and follow the dry calyx down to the ground. Don’t put the canes on your compost heap or shred them for mulch. They can carry infection so it's best to burn them or put them in the Council compost bins.

Gooseberries and currants need pruning to remove old wood, which doesn’t produce much fruit, and keep them in the shape you want them.

Apple trees must be pruned before new leaves shoot. First completely remove branches and twigs that are damaged or diseased. Next, shorten the growth from last year's growth you can see on each main branch by cutting it back to about one third and to a bud that faces out away from the tree. This encourages new branches and spurs and maintains a good shape. Leave side-shoots unpruned so they can develop fruit buds in their second year. If young twigs are crossing each other or aiming for the centre of the tree, prune them to within 10-15cm of their base.

 

garden fruit

Learn to identify fruit and wood or leaf buds to be sure you prune apple trees correctly. This image of buds by Jonathan Billinger was made in April so the buds are further on than our February gardens, the larger fruit buds are clear to see.

The hardest part of pruning is recognising which buds are going to bear fruit, and which leaves. Simply - fruit buds are fatter than wood or leaf buds and fruit buds are often covered in a soft downy finish. You want to keep as many of the fruit buds as the tree can bear, so it's important to know the difference.  This RHS advice guide may help – if you are not sure ask your garden centre or local apple orchard for advice.

On older trees, prune out congested twigs and branches to create a more open tree.

If your apple tree is a variety that is known as a ‘tip- or partial tip-bearer’ (including 'Blenheim Orange', 'Bramley's Seedling', 'Discovery', 'Lord Lambourne', 'Worcester Pearmain'), cut back some of the older branches that have carried fruit in order to encourage a strong younger shoot closer to the trunk or higher up the branch.

Feeding garden fruit trees and bushes

Plants need nitrogen for good growth, phosphorus for root growth and potassium for fruit and flowers. Most fruit trees and bushes need a lot of potassium and some need added nitrogen for growth. There are many commercial feeds (fertilizers) with different amounts of different elements. As ever - the RHS offers good guidance to help you find the one you need.

Whatever you use, make sure:

  • the soil is moist – late winter or early spring is best
  • there is no grass or weeds in about a metre ring around the tree or bush
  • to sprinkle the fertiliser over the rooting area – which will be the area just beyond the longest branch.

Mulching garden fruit trees and bushes

Mulch helps most fruit bushes and trees by holding water in the ground and reducing weeds. Spread a layer (10-15cm) of well rotted garden compost, leaf mould or well rotted manure around the tree or bush making sure the trunks and bark are not swamped by generous helpings.

Protecting fruit buds

At this time of year fruit buds are at risk from frost. Cover apricots, nectarines and peach trees from the dangers of frost on their buds. Wrap horticultural fleece loosely over the branches but make sure it doesn't blow away! And while you are out there - give strawberries a head start by covering them with cloches or horticultural fleece.

And having done all that - look forward to bowls of fresh and juicy produce at your garden barbecues!