As new fruit growers get to know their fruit trees, they’re often unsure what’s ‘normal’ in the different seasons – that was certainly the case for us as we learned our trade! Even experienced fruit growers will learn something new every single year, if they’re paying close attention to their trees.
Gradually we’ve learned by experience what to look for at different seasons to tell us what’s going on in the trees and the soil, so we know whether we’re on the right track.
The early flowering varieties (like Anzac peaches) are good indicator varieties. If they flower well and then the leaves start growing strongly in early spring, this is one the main signs we look for to tell us that the tree is happy and the soil is doing its job. If they’re also free from Leaf curl, that’s an added bonus!
If you’re looking at your fruit tree and wondering if it’s looking the way it should, firstly look at the leaves – they should be big, a bright green colour (though the growing tips will often be orange, red or pink), and nice and shiny, like the healthy looking leaves on this plum tree.
Early in the season there shouldn’t been too many holes or blemishes on the leaves (though they often accumulate a lot of damage by the end of summer) and they should be looking pretty sparkly.
Once the flowers finish you should be able to see small fruit forming, like this Bramley apple tree.
The other main thing to look for early in spring is whether any of the leaf buds are starting to extend into new shoots. The ability of the tree to grow this new wood each year is key to the ongoing health of the tree and good crops of fruit.
Here’s a few examples of new shoots on different types of fruit trees:
By mid to late spring you should start to get an idea of how much fruit your trees will bear this year (we call this the ‘crop load’).
The other thing to keep an eye out for in spring are some of the main pests and diseases which might already have made their presence felt.
Here’s some tips for the types of problems to look for:
Aphids: Are you seeing any on your trees? Which trees, and what type of aphids? How many are there? Can you spot any predators?
Phytophthora: In spring this root rot disease will show up as “dieback” (though dieback can also be caused by other diseases).
Earwigs: Are there any earwigs in your fruit trees? Which type of tree, how many, and can you see any damage they’ve caused already (e.g. to leaves or small fruit)?
Blossom blight: This disease causes flowers to rot, mainly on apricot trees but also peaches and nectarines, and even plums on occasion.
Leaf curl: You’ll only find this disease on peach and nectarine trees, where it shows up as red deformed leaves.
So there you have it, that’s how to do a spring reiew!
You can find out more about monitoring your trees in Learn to Diagnose Your Fruit Trees – it’s a key skill for home fruit growers that will help you get to know your trees, and nip problems in the bud (pun intended).
Hope your fruit trees are bringing you lots of joy.