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As experienced fruit growers, we know all too well the importance of planning when it comes to avoiding depressing mistakes with your fruit trees.

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But even the most experienced growers can make mistakes, and we’ve made plenty. We’ve learned much of what we know the hard way, and it’s equipped us very well to help home fruit growers (like you) avoid the same depressing mistakes.

One of our depressing mistakes - the apricot harvest on the ground
One of our depressing mistakes – the apricot harvest on the ground

The great fruit drop fiasco

Some of the most depressing mistakes we’ve made along the way happened before we had a robust picking calendar.

One early occasion was particularly memorable. It was a beautiful summer day near the start of the picking season. We’d been busy with the cherry harvest, and were excited for the apricots to get started.

We had a great crop that year, after a disastrous season the year before. One of the first apricots to ripen in our orchard is the delicious Poppicot variety.

To be fair, we’d checked a couple of trees at the top of the row, and decided that they were at least a week from being ripe.

What we didn’t do was walk to the bottom of the row to check the fruit there. If we had, we would have noticed a few ripe fruit already lying on the ground.

A week later we went to pick, and our hearts sank as we saw a sea of ripe fruit lying on the ground, wasted and ruined.

We realized that we had made two rookie mistakes. The first was that we didn’t have a Fruit Tree Action Plan or an accurate picking diary to remind us of when it was time to harvest. And the second was that we didn’t realise the impact that microclimate can have on fruit ripening (that is, trees can ripen unevenly, even when they are close together).

Bottom line? Our lack of planning led to the waste of all the hard work, pruning, thinning, watering, and feeding that we’d done up to that point!

Lesson learned: write an Action Plan including a picking calendar, folks! It’s an easy way to make sure you don’t miss out on the fruits of your labour.

A tractor load of ex-winery nets
A tractor load of ex-winery nets

Big, depressing mistake #2

When we first moved home to the orchard and started growing fruit, we didn’t have any nets at all to protect the fruit trees. We regularly lost fruit to birds and dreamed of being able to protect our precious crops.

Then we got a great deal on a job lot of ex-winery netting. We snapped it up and imagined that our bird woes were over.

Ah, such innocent, naive thoughts.

The thing about bird netting is that it works really well – as long as you put it on early enough!

One of the remarkable things about this mistake is how often we made it! You’d think that learning fruit to birds would only need to happen once for us to learn the lesson.


Eventually (and by this time we were well on the way to developing a robust annual plan for our trees) we realised that we needed to plan to do this activity well before the birds were likely to start eating the fruit.

Apricots ruined by birds (or was it by our lack of planning?)
Apricots ruined by birds (or was it by our lack of planning?)

Seems obvious now, right?

These days this job is firmly on our calendar just after fruit thinning has finished, while the fruit is still unripe and unpalatable.

Don’t take your planning mistakes out on your fruit trees!

The risk of not recognising that the error lies in a lack of planning (and lack of correct information) can sometimes lead gardeners to decide that the fruit tree is at fault.

Don't use your lack of planning as a reason to turn your fruit trees into garden furniture!
Don’t use your lack of planning as a reason to turn your fruit trees into garden furniture!

We get it. If you feel like you’ve “tried everything” and are still getting rotten results, it’s easy to think the problem is with the fruit tree.

Actually, the problem is not having a good and accurate plan in place.

We’re often contacted by frustrated gardeners at the end of their tether. In the worst cases (like this one below), they’re so fed up that they see no option but to get rid of their trees.

What they clearly don’t know is that the frustration could be avoided by (a) knowing the right time to spray for black spot prevention and having that noted in your Fruit Tree Action Plan, (b) knowing which sprays are both safe and effective, and (c) actually using your calendar!

Neither of the solutions tried, in this case, are appropriate for black spot, so it’s not surprising that they didn’t help. It’s definitely not the tree’s fault!

And please, please don’t use toxic sprays like malathion!!!! Not only is it totally the wrong spray for the job (malathion is an insecticide and black spot is caused by a fungus, not an insect) but it’s also an organophosphate, which is one of the most toxic classes of agrochemical.

Planning can help every fruit grower avoid depressing mistakes

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, planning is a vital aspect of growing fruit trees.

It will help you to take into account all the factors that can affect the growth and productivity of your fruit trees.

Most importantly, it will make sure that you’ll have an ample harvest every year, and are not just feeding the birds!

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