If your fruit trees are growing properly this spring, you should be seeing growth like this (above) on your trees.
This time of year you should expect to see a flush of strong, healthy new growth in your trees, particularly on young trees.
Successful fruit growing is all about helping the tree to balance its energy between growing new wood and growing fruit. If it grows too much of one, it tends not to grow much of the other.
Why is healthy new wood important?
Your tree needs the new wood so that new buds are continually being formed to produce next year’s fruit. In some types of trees, the buds will also form on older wood.
But you don’t want the tree to put too much energy into growing wood at the expense of putting its energy into growing fruit. Like so many things to do with fruit growing, it’s a balancing act.
Shoot length is one of the best indicators of the overall health of your tree, and spring is the time to monitor it, so visit your trees and have a look.
If you see plenty of young vigorous shoots (anything from a few cm to 1 metre long) you know the tree’s pretty happy. Shoot growth in spring will often depending on the type and age of the tree.
And if you’ve done a great job with your pruning, you’ll also notice that the new shoots are growing in the right place in the tree to make future fruit picking easy and manageable.
Here’s what healthy spring growth looks like in cherries:
On a young plum tree…
On a mature plum tree…
and finally, a mature apricot tree that’s growing beautifully (note the beautiful red colour of the fresh new growth, which will gradually fade through orange to green).
What if my trees don’t look so good?
Sometimes, for various reasons, the leaves on your trees will not look healthy and glowing. They may have holes, diseases or mysterious and curious markings on them.
Many times, there’s nothing to worry about. Occasionally however unhealthy looking leaves can be symptomatic of a nutritional problem, which may need diagnosis (this short course can help with that), and maybe some remedial action.