Speaker: Paul Templeton
Date: 25th January
Liam Hutchings introduced our speaker who gained his horticultural experience in a wide range of practical situations throughout the UK. His highest Qualification is an MSc in Crop and Soil Science. He has taught in further and higher education for 20 years and still lectures up to 100 times a year privately including at West Dean College.
Paul believes that no garden is too small to have fruit trees as long as their growth is restricted by proper management and dwarf root stock is chosen for the trees.
Young plants are slow growing at first, then put on a lot of new growth and produce fruit. He told us that pruning encourages growth and secateurs, loppers and saws can all spread diseases. Root pruning is preferable. Paul described several ways to restrict growth while still getting fruit:
- Pulling branches down that are growing upwards slows growth and makes the branches produce fruit
- Leaning the whole tree at a 45 degree angle – a cordon will improve fruit yield
- Tying the branches at a 45 degree angle – a fan will have the same effect
- Training all branches horizontally – an espalier.
We were encouraged not to prune in winter or if the tree is diseased and no pruning before June. Use a blade that is large enough and make straight cuts which dry quicker and there will be less infection.
Once the tree have established roots, set wires at 45 degree angles and train the shoots along them. Restrict the growth of the shoots by removing buds in summer using thumbs.
The buds grow in bunches at the ends of new branches, rub off all but one that is growing the correct way and keep doing this every year to make the right shape. Tie branches to the wires carefully and remove all but 2/3 fruits for the first 2/3 years as this will increase the yield in the long term.
Paul finished off with a few words on soft fruit. He told us always to buy elite/certified plants as these are virus free and mildew resistant. Buy bare root plants and root prune to restrict growth. Prune bushes after picking the fruit and before the leaves fall off.
Top tip – Blackberries can be made easier to pick by winding the shoots round a pole.
Paul’s talk gave us a lot of unusual ideas and much to think about.